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Archetypes and your brand

Have you ever noticed that people you meet remind you of others you have known? That character types recur in myth and the narrative arts? These character classes are called archetypes, and you can use them to learn about yourself, and about your brand.

Archetypes are patterns of behavior, symbols or motifs that repeatedly appear. For example, Achilles, the Greek warrior of Homer’s Iliad, King Leonidas, the Spartan defender at Thermopylae, and General Maximus, from the movie Gladiator, are all examples of the well-known “hero” archetype.

The Swiss psychologist Carl Jung extended the concept of archetypes into the psychological realm, and said that these universal patterns derived from the collective unconscious.

What are some common archetypes?

You’ve probably encountered all of these twelve archetypes:

  • The Caregiver enjoys helping, and caring for, others and is marked by compassion and generosity.
  • The Creator believes that “if it can be imagined, it can be created”. These people are driven to create something of value out of nothing.
  • The Explorer has to know what’s on the other side of the hill — and there’s always another hill, and another new experience.
  • The Hero has to constantly prove their worth through courageous, competent action.
  • The Innocent is a childlike optimist who wants a happy, carefree life.
  • The Jester lives joyfully and in the moment, and wants to enjoy life and amuse the world through playful humor.
  • The Lover lives for relationships with others, and also needs to love their work and surroundings. These emotional, appealing people seek intimacy and passion.
  • The Magician seeks to understand how the universe works, and then use that knowledge to make dreams come true.
  • The Rebel believes that rules are made to be broken, and is driven to overturn what isn’t working through disruption, or even revolution.
  • The Regular Guy/Gal lives by the motto “all men and women are created equal”, and likes to socialize and connect with their community.
  • The Ruler lives for power, and is driven to control others to create a successful, powerful family or community.
  • The Sage needs to know the truth, and often becomes a scholar.

Archetypes and your brand

In their book Archetypes in Branding, Margaret Hartwell and Joshua Chen subdivide each archetype into five subtypes. For example, the “rebel” archetype has subtypes of activist, gambler, maverick, reformer, and rebel. The subtypes differ from each other in important ways, while retaining the characteristics of the embracing archetype.

Using archetypes in brand design

Archetypes can be used to give a brand a unique personality, distinct from those of competitors, and to attract certain kinds of customers. Each archetype has a unique look, voice, touch and feel that can be used in a brand design. For example, Apple’s “1984” ad for the Macintosh is based on the “rebel” archetype, while Nike’s “Just do it” draws on the “hero”. In contrast, the Mercedes-Benz brand echoes the “ruler”, resonating with those who desire power and control, while Chanel embodies the passionate, romantic intimacy of the “lover”.

How can you do the same with your brand? Start by considering the brand’s target customers and competitors. Which archetype will resonate with those customers and attract them? Which archetypes characterize your competitor brands? Decide which archetype best fits the motives, ambitions and desires of your target customers; matches the way you want your company or brand to be seen; and is different from your competitor’s archetypes. Finally, use your chosen archetype to express your brand’s personality throughout its design, including the logo, look-and-feel, brochures, ads, website, etc.

How can you use archetypes in designing your personal brand?

Archetypes can also be used to help you — and others — better understand your personality. First, for each common archetype, ask yourself how it matches your personality. Then give each archetype a score of 0–5, with 0 being “that’s not me at all” and 5 being “that’s me exactly”. Typically, you will find that one archetype dominates, and two or three others also reflect major aspects of your personality.

For example, my dominant archetype is the “creator”, but I also comprise elements of the “hero”, the “explorer”, and the “rebel”. And, like everyone, in some ways I display all the other archetypes as well.

How is it useful for you to know your archetypes? They give you hints about the kinds of environments — industries, organizations, business units — that best suit your personality, and may help you find your passion and purpose. If you’re an entrepreneur, your personal archetype may also be your brand’s archetype. Finally, you can use your archetype to design your personal brand. Having a personal brand aligned with your talents, motives and goals can distinguish you from others and set you on the path of a successful business career.

Conclusion: Archetypes are a powerful conceptual tool to give corporate and personal brands a more attractive, authentic personality. At Thinkergy, we make good use of archetypes in two of our systematic innovation methods whenever we help a client with one of these specific Thinkergy Projects:

  1. In an X-IDEA Innovation Projects that focus on brand design or image design, we use archetypes to design a corporate brand with a unique personality that resonates with its target customers and differentiates the brand from key competitors in the marketplace.
  2. In a Genius Journey Creative Leader Development Project, we determine the unique archetypical styles of all candidates to help them gaining deeper insights into their own personal uniqueness as a prerequisite to becoming an authentic creative leader.

Would you like to learn more of how archetypes may help you to design a distinct, attractive corporate brand? Or may allow you to gain more clarity about your unique personal core? Drop us an email and let us know more about yourself and your challenge.

© Dr. Detlef Reis 2014. 
This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on November 20 2014.