The 12 Brand Archetypes: What They Are & How You Can Use Them

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If you’ve ever studied psychology (and perhaps even if you haven’t), you’re probably familiar with the concept of archetypes developed by psychologist Carl Jung. Known as Jungian archetypes, these 12 universal symbols were believed by Jung to represent the collective unconscious of all people. In other words, the theory is that when we watch movies or read books, these archetypes are the reason we tend to see the same types of characters in literary works and art forms – the stereotypical underdog, the hero, the villain, etc.

But, it’s not just people and characters that can be categorized as an archetype; brands have archetypes, too. In the branding world, your archetype is driven by your brand identity, voice, and personality, as well as how your brand relates to your audience, playing an important role in your branding strategy. Whether you’ve intentionally crafted your brand identity to align with a specific archetype or it’s completely accidental, understanding your brand archetype(s) and how it affects your relationship with your audience is crucial for developing more meaningful relationships. Branding

While there are 12 brand archetypes, many companies have both a core brand archetype and an influencing archetype, with the core archetype representing the majority of your brand personality and the influencer archetype comprising the remainder. Leverage your influencer archetype to make your brand stand out from the pack.

Beyond just recognizing your brand archetype, brands must ensure that their content creators and marketers stick to the required messaging to effectively engage the audience with brand identity guidelines or a comprehensive brand guide. A robust digital asset management solution like MerlinOne can help you maintain brand consistency by ensuring that your team has access to the most up-to-date, on-brand messaging and assets at their fingertips.

Here’s a look at the 12 brand archetypes, how to identify your brand among them, and how to use your archetype to your advantage.

The Creator

The Creator is a common brand archetype for brands in the art, design, marketing and technology fields. The Creator is motivated by control but also has a strong desire for freedom. Brands that dismantle previous or outdated systems and processes and create and implement something new in their place are Creators, as are brands that encourage self-expression, such as Crayola, Adobe, and Canva. Innovation and quality are strongly emphasized in the Creator brand’s internal culture, with high value placed on both the creative process and the outcome.

How to leverage your Creator archetype: The Creator brand should be inspiring and daring, even provocative. Focus imagination and self-expression, stirring your audience’s desire to create and innovate.

The Outlaw

The Outlaw brand, also known as the Maverick, likes to break the rules and often shirks authority. These brands are wild and rebellious, yet they’re often the pioneers of change. That said, Outlaws (or Mavericks) should use caution not to push the envelope too far, or they risk a negative perception, particularly if their audience doesn’t share their Outlaw ways. Harley-Davidson and Apple are brands often considered Outlaws, as well as Red Bull.

How to leverage your Outlaw archetype: Let your audience know they don’t have to settle for the status-quo. Use a brand voice with attitude, showing disdain for conformity and encouraging or facilitating revolution to inspire your audience to break free from the status-quo. The well-executed Outlaw brand often builds a cult following.

The Hero

Hero brands want to prove their worth through courage and determination, and they place a strong emphasis on saving the day. Companies in the sportswear, sports equipment, and outdoor industries are often a fit for the Hero archetype, as well as emergency services trades like plumbers, locksmiths, mechanics, and electricians. Fitbit and Nike are examples of Hero brands.

How to leverage your Hero archetype: Your brand voice should convey your grit and determination, empowering your audience to succeed, grow, and realize their full potential. Inspire your audience to rise to the occasion and dare to do what few attempt.

The Innocent branding lightbulb sketch

The Innocent, also known as the Dreamer or the Romantic, desires freedom and happiness. Optimism and enthusiasm are common traits of Innocent brands, as well as honesty. Beauty and skincare brands often fit this archetype, as well as organics, cleaning products, and fresh food. Orville Redenbacher is one of the most commonly cited examples of the Innocent archetype for its appeal to nostalgia, as well as Charmin, Dove, and The Honest Company.

How to leverage your Innocent archetype: Innocent brands should adopt an honest, optimistic brand personality that conveys that you see the beauty in everyone and everything. Emphasize simplicity and happiness, and avoid messaging that conveys negativity or guilt. You want your audience to associate your brand with safety and trust.

The Lover

Brands of the Lover archetype help people find love and friendship. Other Lover brands may aid communication, help to foster beauty, or promote closeness between people. The Lover isn’t limited to brands that focus on romance; instead, this archetype includes those that focus on all types of love, including parental, familial, and even spiritual. Customer appreciation is a strong focus of these brands, which tend to value partnerships and have a collaborative, team-oriented company culture. Fragrance and cosmetic brands, wine, and indulgent food are often a match for the Lover archetype. Brands like Hallmark, Victoria’s Secret, and eHarmony fit the Lover archetype.

How to leverage your Lover archetype: Use an empathetic and soothing brand voice, catering to your audience’s desire for connection and intimacy. Appeal to your audience’s senses through sight, sound, smell, and touch to leverage your audience’s desire for pleasure. Invite them to participate in an indulgent experience.

The Sage

The Sage brand wants to help its audience – and the world at large – gain wisdom and insight. These brands are quite the contrast to the Lover, rarely creating the warm, fuzzy feelings you’d expect from a Lover brand. Instead, the Sage brand seeks knowledge above all else. These brands command respect from their audiences simply by demonstrating their brilliance. Harvard University, Mayo Clinic, and Oprah Winfrey are examples of Sage brands, as are Google, PBS, and Phillips.

How to leverage your Sage archetype: Help your consumers better understand the world by providing practical information, expert advice, and analysis with a knowledgeable, assured, and guiding brand voice. Appeal to your audience’s desire for knowledge, with a brand voice that incorporates a higher-level vocabulary and philosophical meaning, providing thoroughly researched and factual information to inform.

Download our white paper, How a DAM Can Help Marketing Leaders to Unite Their Teams, below to learn more about how MerlinOne can keep your team on the same page an in-tune with your brand archetype.
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The Explorer

The Explorer yearns for freedom and fulfillment, constantly seeking authenticity and discovery. Explorer brands help consumers feel free, and they’re often pioneering and non-conformist. Brands with products described as “rugged” and “durable” often fit the Explorer archetype, extreme sports, outdoors equipment, adventure and travel companies, and rugged automobiles like SUVs and ATVs are typically Explorer brands. Jeep is a good example, as well as brands associated with adventure, like NASA and National Geographic.

How to leverage your Explorer archetype: The Explorer brand’s audience is brave and adventurous, seeking self-discovery and exploration. Explorer brands should challenge their audiences, promoting the exploration of the outdoors or the unknown with the confidence that they can conquer the world (using your products or services, naturally).

The Everyman

Wanting to connect with others and fit in, the Everyman brand is a common archetype of companies that create products that people use in their everyday lives as well as those that help to foster a sense of belonging among their audience. Home and family life brands, comfort foods, everyday apparel brands, and family automotive brands are typically Everyman brands. Examples include Wendy’s, Wrangler Jeans, and GAP.

How to leverage your Everyman archetype: Use honest, down-to-earth messaging that never excludes. Everyman brands should be humble and authentic, promoting harmony and trust. Moderation in all things is key for Everyman brands, as they aim to blend in without being too loud or obnoxious or too funny, which can hinder the brand’s goal to be taken seriously and sincerely. Elitist messaging can be a turn-off for these audiences. Keep in mind that the Everyman brand, aiming to blend in, risks being easily forgotten.

The Ruler 12 brand archetypes and how to use them

Quite the opposite of the Everyman brand archetype, the Ruler brand, as its name suggests, strives for control and loves creating order from chaos. These brands are gatekeepers, focused on luxury and exclusivity to cultivate a sense of belonging to the elite among their audiences. Luxury brands like automotive brands and watch manufacturers, hotels, and formal wear brands often fit this archetype. Examples include Mercedez-Benz and Rolex, as well as American Express.

How to leverage your Ruler archetype: Ruler brands should focus on exerting leadership and demonstrating superiority, appealing to the consumer who won’t settle for anything less than the best. Make your audience feel like they’re members of an ultra-exclusive club (when they use your products or services, of course). Forget about appealing to the masses; Ruler brands should cater to a specific niche audience that demands luxury and seeks status.

The Jester

The Jester brand is the class clown who just wants to have fun. These brands want to make their audience smile and laugh, giving them a sense of belonging and showing them a great time. The emphasis for these brands is living in the moment, to the fullest. However, Jester brands that aren’t careful with their messaging could be seen as frivolous or disrespectful. Quite the mix of categories can fit the Jester archetype, including childcare brands, professional services, confectionaries, and, naturally, alcoholic beverages. Old Spice is considered an example (everyone knows the “Old Spice Man”), as well as M&M’S and Ben & Jerry’s.

How to leverage your Jester archetype: The Jester brand should have a fun-loving, playful brand personality and voice. Focus on promoting the good times and making your audience laugh. The Jester brand archetype doesn’t often fit a specific brand persona, but can appeal to a variety of personas by differentiating themselves with a fun-loving attitude.

The Caregiver

The Caregiver, also known as the Nurturer, the Parent, or the Saint, is compassionate, strong, and generous, driven by the desire to care for others and protect them. Non-profit organizations, healthcare and aging care services, hospitals, and education brands often fit the Caregiver archetype, placing a strong emphasis on customer service, nurturing relationships, and providing helpful services. Campbell’s Soup, Johnson & Johnson, UNICEF, and TOM’S Shoes are good examples of Caregiver brands.

How to leverage your Caregiver archetype: The Caregiver brand should communicate in a warm, reassuring, and compassionate brand voice. Your aim is to make your audience feel secure and cared for, so consider messaging that’s educational and evokes the conscience.

The Magician

Last but not least, the Magician brand archetype, also known as the Shaman or the Visionary, wants to understand not only the universe, but where they fit into it. They’re described as driven and charismatic, but they risk being perceived as dishonest and manipulative. These brands are visionaries, aiming to bring their audience’s dreams to life by offering a one-of-a-kind experience. Like the Sage, the Magician values knowledge, but they often position themselves as the gatekeepers of transformative knowledge and experiences. These brands are often in the entertainment, beauty, health, and relaxation and well-being industries. One obvious example of a Magician brand is Disney, while others include Tesla, Dyson, and Polaroid.

How to leverage your Magician archetype: Using imaginative and inspiring messaging, make your audience feel like they’ll be better, wiser, or influential by using your products or services. Focus on the transformative experience: from sickness to health, from aging to youthful, chaotic to organized, inefficient to productive, etc. It’s worth noting that the Magician doesn’t typically have a matching buyer persona; instead, the Magician brand can appeal to a variety of personas with their transformative focus.

Knowing your brand archetypes is one thing, but keeping your marketing and creative teams in line with your brand personality and messaging is a challenging task.  Schedule a demo today to find out how MerlinOne’s automated workflows, versioning, access control, built-in content distribution tools, and more can transform your marketing and creative operations.

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