What are brand archetypes? And do they matter?

If you’re a marketer, you might have seen Mark Ritson’s video about “Marketing Bullsh*t”, and seen that brand archetypes are holding a very firm #2 position.

So, are the 12 brand archetypes derived from Carl Jung’s personality archetypes a load of nonsense? Is it the brand equivalent of a zodiac sign for a brand? Let’s discuss.

What are the 12 brand archetypes?

Firstly, let’s discuss what brand archetypes are.

Brand archetypes are a way of thinking about brands as personality types or roles. They are similar to personality type assessments for people such as the Myers Briggs personality tests or the enneagram but are applied to particular brands. They are a universally recognisable, innately understood character type or role that a brand can embody.

Are brand archetypes a load of bollocks?

In short, no. Brand archetypes can be extremely useful in helping to define a brand’s identity and how it should present itself to its target audience. By understanding their own archetype (or multiple archetypes), a brand can better understand who they are, what their story is, and the values that drive them. They were introduced to the branding world by Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson in their book; The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes. The 12 types are: Creator, Ruler, Caregiver, Everyman, Jester, Lover, Hero, Magician, Outlaw, Explorer, Sage and Innocent.


The Brand Archetypes Wheel

This wheel is used to visualise all 12 archetypes. It’s split into four main sections, with three archetypes in each. You can see them in the image here.

This wheel gives a very broad overview of different categories a brand can sit in, in terms of the way it conducts itself. An agency could say “OK, you’re a jester. Crack on”. And leave it at that. But we know that’s not what they’re for.

It’s a generalisation to say that each brand fits into one perfect archetype. That there’s only one way to be. Because there’s not. A brand can be a combination of two of these archetypes. Three. It doesn’t matter. It’s a way of saying this is how your brand fits into these vague ways of conducting itself so you don’t go completely off-piste. So that the marketing manager working for a law firm doesn’t inject his or her own “fun” personality into the legal documentation. So that people at a funeral brand know how to write their brochure copy. So that Disney employees behind the scenes with the personality of a damp school blue paper towel can understand how the brand is supposed to come across, even if they themselves couldn’t be less dull if they tried. It’s supposed to be a generalisation. It’s supposed to be vague. Because it’s not the biggest part of a brand.

How to determine your brand archetype?

It would be easy to say “We’re a paint shop. We must fit into the creator”. Or, “Boots is a pharmacy. Must fit into the caregiver archetype”. But it goes a little deeper than that.

Start by looking at your values and mission. Why do you exist? If you’re a pharmacy and you exist purely to give the public their medicine, you might be a ruler. Providing control, structure and simply getting things done. A-B. No-fuss. That will then determine how you conduct yourself. The add-ons you provide. Or don’t provide, if that’s the case.

Whereas, if you’re more than that, and you’re a pharmacy that exists to give the public everything they might need in one place, give them a place to get everything they need for all things wellness, inside the body and out, you might fit into the everyman archetype. Providing a sense of belonging, wanting to really connect to others because you care about how they feel. This would then determine the way you market yourselves. The brands you collaborate with. The services you offer, the extra support, the initiatives you take part in within the community. Look at Boots for example. Their vision, mission and values statement states that the brand wants to “reflect the communities [they] serve, understanding the needs of others and innovating together.” So one of the services they provide is giving free, private advice to young people needing contraception. A “ruler” archetype wouldn’t do this. Nor a “magician”. Sometimes, figuring out what you’re NOT as a brand is just as important as figuring out what you are.

How do you use your brand archetype?

The 12 brand archetypes are a springboard towards understanding how your brand should conduct itself across social, how you approach sales, recruitment, customer service, the documents you send out, your processes, general business practices and more.

I’m going to list all of the possible archetypes, and explain how they could be used to guide your brand in real life.

The Creator

Creator brands are focussed on innovation. Doing things differently. An example of a brand in this archetype is Apple. Their slogan – “Think Different” makes sense with this kind of brand. They’re constantly innovating through technology, creating something better than that currently exists in the marketplace. Going back to our point of fitting into multiple categories, Apple could also fit into the Hero archetype. Focussed on mastery, really leaving a mark on the industry and the people it serves. If you’re a creator, you’re unlikely to ever stand still. Creator brands would focus on investing in R&D more than others might. Pushing the boundaries. Creating.

The Caregiver

Caregiver brands are focussed on providing structure. Serving the communities it exists within. This might be Unicef, providing supplies and aid to those in need. Or, it might be a cleaning company serving the elderly. Knowing you fit into this category might mean your brand takes a different approach to customer service. It’s unlikely they’ll have an automated phone system. Or a chatbot. Everything is likely to be personal, going the extra mile to make their customers feel cared for.

The Ruler

Ruler brands give a sense of “we’ll take it from here”. Everything is under control. They value stability and order. In this archetype, a brand might use it as direction for how they run their training, the type of people they hire, perhaps very confident, resourceful, direct people. It would shape how they dealt with queries – not stopping until they get an answer. Instilling confidence in the customer that they’ve got this.

The Jester

The jester archetype, like Old Spice, is another that values connecting with others. They’re more playful, silly, and don’t take themselves too seriously. Knowing this can power the way you make your brand adverts, such as the “I’m on a horse” ad from Old Spice.

The Everyman

IKEA is a classic Everyman brand. Another archetype that values connecting to others. Enforcing a sense of belonging. Brands that fall within this category could use their brand archetype to influence the language used across creative campaigns. Nothing too serious, speaking in layman’s terms, easy and accessible for all.

The Lover

The lover brand romanticises. Think chocolate brands, with their sensual melt-in-the mouth adverts in slow-motion, with seductive language. Slow transitions between scenes in adverts. Slow, seductive fade-in of text. Sound and motion plays a big part in this archetype. This would be considered if a brand knew this is where they fit on the archetypes wheel.

The Hero

Think Nike. A master. This archetype is made for brands who push forward against all odds. Overcoming any obstacle in its way. Similar to a top sportsperson, this archetype portrays success whilst pushing through adversity, challenges and through self-sacrifice. A brand in this archetype might do something that’s never been attempted before. They’re the kind of company that would take a trip to Base Camp of Everest to raise money for a local cause. A company that will do everything in its power to change an industry for the better.

The Outlaw

Outlaw brands are companies such as Harley-Davidson. Offended, the marketing agency. Risk takers. Rule breakers. Going against the grain to be free free from whatever is holding them back. These kinds of companies really don’t care what other people think – they’re well and truly breaking the mould. A company in this category would never opt for the safe option. In anything. This will influence decisions made, the values they live by, and you’ll likely never find them painting a wall beige.

The Magician

Magician brands, like Disney, will add an extra touch to make things extra special. Like the caregiver, they will go the extra mile. The sonic branding will likely be considered more than others, creating an emotional connection to the brand. Doing the unexpected as standard.

The Innocent

An innocent brand, like Dove, prides itself on safety. Honestly, humbleness, and has a pretty wholesome brand tone. Things are simple. The way the world should be. Think the intro sequence to the Barbie movie. The Dove campaign for real beauty. Knowing a brand fits into this archetype, again, would encourage a brand to do good. Be good. Things aren’t always as they seem though, as some would say McDonald’d fits into this archetype. And we all know McDonalds, despite its innocent outer layer, has a dark side to it, and the way the animals are treated behind the scenes. Always important to consider that although a brand may portray itself as fitting into one of these archetypes, there might be processes behind the scenes that aren’t quite as fitting as you might think.

The Explorer

An explorer brand will be exciting, daring, fearless in the way that is speaks.These brands are usually based around discovery and adventure. Freedom and independence are important to these kinds of brands, and knowing they are in this archetype might influence their working from home/working from anywhere policies within the organisation. Or they might take business trips to climb a mountain. You get the gist. Your archetype is very much based around your values, vision and mission. 

The Sage

Finally, the sage. Knowledge-focussed, naturally. Brands in this archetype would likely focus their content around learning. Less meet the team posts, more “did you know” articles. Their sole purpose is to provide their audience with knowledge. They know all they need to know about the area they exist in. Knowledge should be a key component of everything they do – so, we would imagine their training for any role within the company would be next-level, they’d value internal development, the resources they provide would likely be stacked full of insight, and so on.

How are brand archetypes different to brand personality?

Brand archetypes and brand personality are sometimes confused but are not the same thing. They do, however, interact with each other. Thinking about and choosing your brand archetype can help you develop your brand personality.

Your brand archetype places your brand in one of 12 established categories that have strong emotional and psychological resonance with customers. Your brand personality is more developed, detailed and personal. It will reflect and grow out of your brand archetype but will provide a fuller picture of what your brand is all about.

Your brand archetype is what makes your brand recognisable as a particular type. Your brand personality is what differentiates your brand from the competition.

Want to figure out your archetype?

At Dawn Creative, we can help you identify your brand archetype and apply it to further developing your brand identity. Our experienced creative team can help you discover what it is about your brand that resonates with your target customers.

Call 0161 711 0910 or email wakeup@dawncreative.co.uk to find out more about our branding services.