In the original Star Wars trilogy, Han Solo is an outlaw—an archetypal figure recognizable by his rejection of societal norms and a willingness to break the rules to suit his needs. His actions fit a familiar pattern, and the audience understands why he behaves the way he does.
Just as storytellers use archetypes to help audiences understand characters’ identities, companies rely on archetypes to establish brand identities. Learn more about the 12 different brand archetypes and the role they play in marketing.
What is a brand archetype?
A brand archetype is a recognizable representation of your brand, defined by a specific set of human character traits. Marketing teams use these familiar traits to help establish brand identity and create a connection with their target audiences.
Renowned psychiatrist Carl Jung laid the groundwork for the development of brand archetypes. Jung sought to understand the psyche and the elements of human personality. He put forward the idea that you can combine certain personality traits into universally recognizable and agreed-upon archetypes.
What is the role of brand archetypes in marketing?
Choosing an archetype helps clarify your brand personality both internally and externally. With an archetype in mind, your marketing team can craft emotionally appealing messaging and a strong brand voice, which may help build a loyal following. If a consumer identifies with your brand’s personality, they are more likely to develop a meaningful relationship with your company.
Brand archetypes influence multiple aspects of your marketing efforts, including your visual brand identity and campaign messaging. Keeping an archetype in mind can help your team develop consistent messaging across platforms.
The 12 brand archetypes
- The Explorer
- The Outlaw
- The Magician
- The Hero
- The Lover
- The Jester
- The Everyman
- The Caregiver
- The Ruler
- The Creator
- The Innocent
- The Sage
Brands typically align with one of 12 brand archetypes. Learn more about each type:
1. The Explorer
The explorer archetype rejects limits. Explorers are bold, brave, and curious. Messaging for these brands encourages consumers to seek new challenges and reject norms. The North Face embodies this sentiment with its slogan, “Never stop exploring.” Other brands in this category include Jeep and National Geographic.
2. The Outlaw
Outlaws thrive on rebellion. Brands following this archetype position themselves as edgy and revolutionary. Outlaws often promise to do things differently and are not afraid of industry disruption. The outlaw archetype is popular in film and television as well as in marketing. Brands like Doc Martens and Levi’s belong to this group.
3. The Magician
Magicians live in a world of wonder and awe. These brands are visionary and imaginative. They often promise creative problem-solving with an optimistic touch. Disney and Dyson are examples of this archetype. Disney’s products are designed to elicit a sense of wonder, and Dyson’s messaging often focuses on the ways it uses technology and creativity to reimagine appliances and improve customers’ lives.
4. The Hero
Hero brands aim to make a positive impact. These brands see themselves as courageous and honorable. Their dominant personality traits may include hard work, bravery, and strength. Messaging often focuses on how the brand has overcome challenges or how it can empower customers to do so. Consider Nike’s slogan: “Just Do It.” It’s a succinct piece of encouragement pushing customers to take on obstacles.
5. The Lover
The lover archetype can be soft and romantic or bold and sensual. Brand messaging often encourages consumers to pursue their passionate desires. This is a common choice for luxury or beauty brands. Victoria’s Secret and Godiva Chocolatier both fall under this umbrella.
6. The Jester
The jester archetype is about enjoying life and having fun. Jester brands have a playful and entertaining spirit. Examples include Skittles, Doritos, and Geico. These brands use positive communication and humor to express their identity and connect with customers.
7. The Everyman
The everyman archetype is down-to-earth and unpretentious. Everyman brands strive to create strong emotional connections with customers using folksy or populist messaging. They aim to be accessible, relatable, and dependable. This category includes brands like Ford, Budweiser, and Walmart.
8. The Caregiver
Caregiver brands have a selfless personality. These brands aim to make customers feel comfortable and safe. Health care and cosmetics companies, including Johnson & Johnson, often fall into this category. Messaging points include health, comfort, and support.
The shoe company Toms also fits this archetype perfectly. Toms donates a portion of its profits to charitable causes. With its simple slogan “Wear good,” Toms emphasizes doing good and taking care of the global community.
9. The Ruler
The ruler desires control and order. Ruler brands are at the top of the food chain. They want customers to see them as authoritative, educated, and powerful. Their brand messaging often emphasizes power and technical prowess, implying that customers can join an exclusive club for high-powered leaders. Companies like BMW and Rolex, which highlight precision engineering as a main selling point, fit into this archetype.
10. The Creator
The creator archetype has artistic vision and imagination. Creator brands strive to inspire creativity in others and invite participation in their creative process. Common messaging points include variety, possibility, and inspiration. Apple and Crayola both follow this archetype.
11. The Innocent
The innocent archetype leans into optimism, virtue, and inner beauty. These brands often communicate a desire for happiness and simplicity. Aveeno displays these values by emphasizing the purity of its ingredients with the phrase “Better ingredients. Better skincare: Aveeno.” Other examples include Dove and Chobani.
12. The Sage
Intelligence and wisdom are the defining characteristics of the sage—a wise figure like Dumbledore. Sage brands aim to be a trusted authority, often promising to help consumers understand the world and navigate problems. Media brands like the BBC and CNN fall into this category.
How to choose your brand archetype
Choosing the right archetype is a key step toward building an extraordinary brand. Follow these steps to identify the best fit for your company:
1. Revisit your mission
Start by revisiting your mission statement and core values. Evaluate your brand’s existing communications—it’s possible that one archetype will naturally align with the positions you’ve taken already. Consider what you want to achieve as a company and what role your product plays in a consumer’s life.
2. Consider your customer
Who is your target audience? Creating buyer personas may help you understand who you want to reach, what interests them, and how to connect with them on an emotional level. View your company through your ideal consumer’s eyes: Do they see you as an authority? An entertainer? A trusted friend? By narrowing down how you want to be perceived by your customers, you can better understand which archetype your brand aligns with.
3. Assess your competitors
Archetypes can be an important part of differentiation strategies. Research your competitors and analyze their brand identities. Decide how you want to position yourself relative to the market. If many of your competitors fall into the same archetype, you might consider adopting a different archetype to stand out from the pack and appeal to a slightly different audience.
4. Choose an archetype
Finally, select an identity that accurately reflects your goals and appeals to your customer base. You can now use this archetype to guide your marketing efforts and brand positioning. Set guidelines in place to help your team create messaging that accurately reflects your chosen archetype.
For example, a Sage brand might focus on creating valuable informational resources for its audience—how-to videos, enlightening articles, and partnerships with respected public intellectuals. A Jester brand, on the other hand, might post clever memes on social media, produce amusing YouTube ads, and partner with influencers known for harmless pranks.
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Brand archetypes FAQ
How are brand archetypes used?
Companies use archetypes to provide a framework for brand strategy and communications. They can inform multiple aspects of marketing, including ad copy and visual content.
Why are brand archetypes important?
Brand archetypes enable strong communication strategies. They can set your business apart from competitors and help your team find a marketing niche.
Are brand archetypes still relevant?
Yes. Defining your brand’s personality is still a powerful tool that can help your team develop consistent messaging and connect with your target market.
Can I choose multiple brand archetypes?
Instead of choosing a single archetype, some brands choose primary and secondary archetypes. Working with multiple archetypes can allow for flexibility when executing specific campaigns or creating content for informal communications, such as on social media channels.
Can I change my brand archetype?
It is possible to rebrand your company and change your brand archetype. Changing your brand archetype is a transformational journey. It takes time to get your brand messaging to align with your new brand identity.