BRAND ARCHETYPES 101:
PURPOSE, POSITIONING, AND PEOPLE-WATCHING
October 8, 2019
When brands tell a clear, focused and consistent story, they stick with us. They become relatable, memorable and even admirable – just like characters from our favorite films, books or everyday lives. Too often brands lack this sense of humanity and fail to create meaningful connections with their intended audiences. Archetypes are one way to help us bridge this gap.
First developed by behavioral psychologist Carl Jung, the idea is simple: There are 12 core human constructs, or archetypes, that transcend gender, culture, language and time. Comprised of our behaviors, motivations, strengths and vulnerabilities, Archetypes have been put to use in everything from psychoanalysis and social sciences to criminology and screenwriting.
Some of the most iconic brands in the world can help us see archetypes in action. Coke, for example, embodies The Innocent archetype, celebrating the simple joy of enjoying an ice-cold Coca-Cola. Everything Coke they do as a brand – from the iconic red/white wave to distinctive photography and illustration styles – it’s all designed to remind you of the happiness that awaits you in a bottle of Coke. If they focused more on their secret formula, they might feel more like a Creator or a Magician. If Coke celebrated escaping the dangers of boredom and blandness, they might better represent The Hero archetype.
One of the most effective ways to use archetypes is to analyze a category to uncover patterns and opportunities for disruption. In the beer category, identifying the archetypes that certain brands portray can help piece together why an experience with a brand can feel so different, particularly when their final products are so similar: They all make beer using variations of the same core four ingredients, but the overall impression of each brand is starkly different. Imagine you’re hosting a party, and each of these beer brands are a guest. How might they behave differently?
- Bud Light is walking around making sure everyone has a beer in hand.
- Corona just cut a fresh lime and is going to hang in the back patio, where it’s a little quieter.
- Guinness is seated at the head of the dinner table explaining the true science behind pouring the perfect Guinness.
- Coors Light is handing job-well-done beers to a few guests who worked up a sweat moving furniture for the party, while Bell’s has been busy admiring the art on the walls.
The ways these brands behave is what drives our impression of who they are, what the care about, and what our interaction with them says about who we are.
No matter the tool, great branding comes down to consistency and the discipline to know what not to do. Identifying a core archetype is only as effective as it is consistently expressed, over and over and over again. For example, take Dyson as a Magician. Above all else, Dyson focuses on celebrating the transformative and groundbreaking technology behind its products. Including everything from product photography and new technology launches to social media posts, graphic language and even in-store experiences, they behave as a Magician, looking to inspire awe and invite you deeper into a world you’ve never seen before.
They could choose to act as a Caregiver and focus on how their products help you care for a warm, loving home.
They could choose to act as an Everyman and make anyone feel that they belong and that they too can learn how to use a Dyson product.
But they don’t. Because they’re so consistent as a transformative, innovative and captivating Magician brand, they create a powerful brand impression in our minds that’s easily recognized, engaged with and remembered.
The key is remembering a simple truth: We’re all people before we’re consumers.
Using consumer behavior as a launching point to dig deeper into the emotional, subconscious and even irrational causes of our behavior will help any brand make a more lasting impact.