The Comprehensive Guide to Brand Archetypes [+ Free Download]

Kaine Levy
June 5, 2024
FREE DOWNLOAD

In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about brand archetypes, what they are, and how to use them to create a brand personality that customers love.

The issue we have found with other articles out there is that, although they are informative, they lack the practical steps needed to apply brand archetypes in real-world scenarios. The other issue is that they only share big brands as examples This is helpful, of course, but in this post, we will also look at small brands to show you that you don't need to be Apple, Amazon, or Tesla to use brand archetypes.

My promise to you: this will be the most practical and comprehensive guide to brand archetypes anywhere on the internet

What Are Brand Archetypes?

Brand archetypes are a framework used by branders and marketers to develop brand personalities that feel authentic, human, and familiar. It's a concept deeply rooted in neuroscience (more on that in a moment).

We've all heard the saying, "people buy from people". Well, archetypes help your brand feel like a real person so that you can attract customers and build better relationships with them. The result, of course, is increased revenue and stronger brand equity.

💡 Quote
"People will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like, and trust” - Bob Burg

Where Do Brand Archetypes Come From?

Brand archetypes stem from the works of the famous psychiatrist, Carl Jung, way back in 1919. This rich history in neuroscience is what makes them so effective in branding and marketing because they use innate feelings, desires, and behaviours to appeal to the human psyche.

Jung's development of archetypes comes from his Collective Unconscious Theory. He believed that, although we each have our own unique life experiences, we also have a collection of "shared" life experiences purely because we're all part of the human race. He came to this theory from first-hand case studies in his clinical practice. He also analysed thousands of dreams, mythology, and religious texts. In all of these instances, Jung noticed patterns of recurring themes and symbols which formed the basis of his work with archetypes.

Ever since, they have transformed the way we look at:

  • Psychology
  • Art
  • Literature
  • Mythology
  • Anthropology
  • Filmmaking
  • Branding
  • Marketing
A portrait of Carl Jung. Image via Vision.org

There is some debate as to how credible his theory of archetypes actually is. On the one hand, his in-depth studies and experience as a psychiatrist suggest he is a highly credible source. On the other hand, due to the fact that archetypes are a subconscious concept of the mind, it's almost impossible to prove with hard evidence.

In my opinion, we have more than enough empirical and qualitative evidence to support their credibility. Just look at the way it has transformed the various fields above. There's a good reason so many people connect with archetypes.

The 12 Brand Archetypes: Short Summary

Before we dive in, look at the image below to familiarise yourself with each of the 12 brand archetypes.

The coloured ring in the middle shows the desire of each archetype. This is the thing, idea, or feeling that you want to create as a brand. For example, a Magician brand wants to imagine a new reality whilst a Sage brand seeks to share wisdom.

The black circle at the centre represents their core need. A core need is the deeper reason for their desire. In the case of the Magician, it's WHY they want to imagine a new reality. In the case of the Sage, it's WHY they want to share wisdom. For example, The Lover desires indulgence, The Jester desires laughter, and the Everyman desires belonging. All of these fall under a deeper need for connection.

You will also see some logos around the outside of the circle. These brands are examples of each brand archetype, giving you a better understanding of how each one looks and feels.

Here is a list of the 12 archetypes and their desires:

The Rebel -> Disruption

The Magician -> New Reality

The Hero -> Courage

The Lover -> Indulgence

The Jester -> Laughter

The Everyman -> Belonging

The Caregiver - Service

The Ruler -> Control

The Creator -> Creativity

The Innocent --> Purity

The Sage -> Wisdom

The Explorer -> Freedom

The 12 Brand Archetypes: Designed by Ventur Agency

Do Brand Archetypes Really Work?

I can tell you first-hand that brand archetypes work incredibly effectively. We have been using them with clients for years now and here's what we love about them:

  • Customers love them because your brand feels familiar and exciting so they enjoy interacting with it.
  • Branders/Marketers love them because it gives them structure whilst still allowing for fluidity.
  • CEOs and leadership teams love them because they add scientific foundations to something creative and intangible.

We find that brand archetypes are a concept our clients constantly refer to as a guide for their branding, marketing, and communications. They love them!

The reason I think some people struggle with the concept of brand archetypes is because they haven't properly translated Jung's work into something applicable to branding.

A lot of articles out there simply regurgitate Jung's work, slap "brand" on the front of it and expect you to be able to use them. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way and we struggled at first with brand archetypes. That's why we have adapted the idea into a practical framework that you can apply to your brand right away.

Make sure you grab The Complete Brand Archetype Blueprint. It's free :-)

Why You Should Use Brand Archetypes

Archetypes will help you build a bigger, better, more loyal customer base because your brand will feel familiar and human to them. The result is more revenue, increased customer lifetime value, stronger brand equity, and a larger social media following.

Brand archetypes will also help you understand the role your company plays in your customers' lives.

The role...?

Yes. Your brand won't be in their lives 24/7. It plays a specific role at a specific time when they have a specific need. We'll dive into more detail on that later.

The 12 Brand Archetypes: In Depth

Let's dive into each of the 12 brand archetypes and discover how you can use them in your branding and marketing.

I have included both household names and smaller brands so you can get a feel for how these archetypes work in practice.

THE REBEL


Core Need:
Legacy

Life Motto: "Dare to be different."

Desire: To disrupt their industry or society at large.

Fear: Being controlled or forced to conform to existing norms.

Brand Characteristics: Nonconformity, fearless, edgy, controversial

Brand Strategy: Provoke new ideas, thoughts, and conversations by breaking the rules.

Example Brands: VICE, Fuck Jerry, Oatly, Supreme, Liquid Death

The Rebel archetype [also known as The Outlaw], as portrayed by Elon Musk.

THE MAGICIAN


Core Need: Legacy

Life Motto: "Anything is possible."

Desire: To be a visionary and invent a new reality.

Fear: To have their inventions fail, be manipulated, or used for harm.

Brand Characteristics: Innovaton, transformation, mystery, wonder.

Brand Strategy: Creative innovative experiences or solutions that push limits and set new industry standards.

Example Brands: Tesla, Intel, Dyson, Aether Diamonds, Magic Leap, Incognito Cocktail Company

The Magician archetype, as portrayed by Steve Jobs.

THE HERO


Core Need: Legacy

Life Motto: "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

Desire: To courageously lead people to a better world.

Fear: To be weak, cowardly, or to fail in their mission.

Brand Characteristics: Inspiration, resilience, brave, strong moral compass.

Brand Strategy: Inspire positive change, lead by example, and empower people to achieve greatness.

Example Brands: Oxfam, Adidas, Nike, Amnesty International, IFRC, Hero Beverage Co.

The Hero archetype, as portrayed by Nelson Mandela.

THE LOVER


Core Need: Connection

Life Motto: "Go on... treat yourself. You know you can't resist."

Desire: To indulge in luxury, pleasure, or intimacy.

Fear: Being unattractive or losing their sense of allure.

Brand Characteristics: Beauty, elegance, indulgence, passion.

Brand Strategy: Create a feeling of indulgence by offering sensual, luxurious, or pleasurable experiences.

Example Brands: Dior, Lindt, Clos Maggiore, Lamborghini, Agent Provocateur, Moët & Chandon

The Lover archetype, as portrayed by Shakira.

THE JESTER


Core Need: Connection

Life Motto: "Life is short. Don't take yourself so seriously!"

Desire: To enjoy themselves and make people smile.

Fear: Boring situations or their humour being mistaken for foolishness.

Brand Characteristics: Playful, spontaneous, extroverted, fun.

Brand Strategy: Entertain people through humour or fun. Create experiences that bring joy, positivity, and laughter.

Example Brands: Old Spice, Compare The Market, Who Gives A Crap, BarkBox, MINI, Skittles

The Jester archetype, as portrayed by Jack Black.

THE EVERYMAN


Core Need: Connection

Life Motto: "We're all human beings. We're all in this together."

Desire: To create a sense of belonging and togetherness.

Fear: Being the centre of attention or perceived as 'different'.

Brand Characteristics: Relatable, genuine, easily understood, not overstated.

Brand Strategy: Create a sense of community where everyone feels included, valued, and heard.

Example Brands: Starbucks, Target, Primark, IKEA, Thrive Market, Unify Financial Credit Union

The Everyman archetype, as portrayed by Ellen Degeneres.

THE CAREGIVER


Core Need: Stability

Life Motto: "We're here for you."

Desire: To serve and care for others.

Fear: Becoming neglectful by putting their own needs first.

Brand Characteristics: Warm, nurturing, selfless, responsibility.

Brand Strategy: Ensure the happiness and wellbeing of others by prioritising their needs, especially those who are less privileged.

Example Brands: TOMS, Johnson & Johnson, NHS, RSPCA, Vicks, Bombas

The Caregiver archetype, as portrayed by Princess Diana.

THE RULER


Core Need: Stability

Life Motto: "I'll take it from here."

Desire: To achieve success, power, wealth, leadership, or status.

Fear: Failure, losing control, or being disrespected in their position.

Brand Characteristics: Confidence, status, structure, elitist

Brand Strategy: Lead by example by striving for success. Demonstrate authority, create structure, and maintain high standards.

Example Brands: Rolex, Tiffany & Co., Bugatti, Coutts, The Ritz London, Merchant Taylors' School

The Ruler archetype, as portrayed by Jeff Bezos.

THE CREATOR


Core Need: Stability

Life Motto: "Innovation starts with imagination."

Desire: To express themselves through art and creativity.

Fear: The inability to create something unique that others appreciate.

Brand Characteristics: Expressive, unique, detail-oriented, imaginative.

Brand Strategy: Use your unique creativity to express yourself, producing innovative ideas that push boundaries.

Example Brands: Adobe, Etsy, Behance, Swarovski, Hasselblad, Moleskine

The Creator archetype, as portrayed by J.K. Rowling.

THE INNOCENT


Core Need: Spirituality

Life Motto: "There's joy in simplicity."

Desire: A world filled with safety, purity, peace, and happiness.

Fear: A dangerous and corrupt world filled with sorrow.

Brand Characteristics: Pure, simple, joyful, optimistic.

Brand Strategy: Foster a sense of peace and harmony through simple, safe, and positive experiences.

Example Brands: Dove, Cheerios, Innocent Drinks, Hallmark, The Optimism Company, The Happy News

The Innocent archetype, as portrayed by the Dalai Lama.

THE SAGE


Core Need: Stability

Life Motto: "Knowledge is power."

Desire: To seek truth and wisdom and to share that with others.

Fear: Sharing misinformation and not seeing the whole picture.

Brand Characteristics: Wise, guiding, analytical, articulate.

Brand Strategy: Guide people towards their goal by sharing insights that increase their knowledge and understanding.

Example Brands: TED, The New York Times, University Of Cambridge, Coursera, ThoughtCo., The School Of Life

The Sage archetype, as portrayed by Albert Einstein.

THE EXPLORER


Core Need: Stability

Life Motto: "Embrace all life has to offer."

Desire: The freedom to discover new places and experiences.

Fear: Feeling trapped or bored, not improving, and missing out on life.

Brand Characteristics: Adventurous, curious, freedom, discovery.

Brand Strategy: Inspire people to seek new experiences by embracing freedom, discovery, and adventure.

Example Brands: National Geographic, Red Bull, GoPro, YETI, Bear Grylls Survival Academy, The Outward Bound Trust

The Explorer archetype, as portrayed by Ben Fogle.

How to Use Archetypes in Branding

Now you have a solid understanding of all 12 brand archetyps, you're probably asking yourself, "How do I use these?"

Let's answer that.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to defining your brand personality. There are those who say you choose your archetype based on the leadership team, and there are those who say you should choose your archetype based on your customers.

At Ventur, we believe in a combination of the two. If you base your archetype solely on the leadership team, your brand personality can come across as selfish because you haven't considered your customers. Similarly, if you base your archetype solely on the needs of your customers, your brand personality can feel fake and forced. You need to show up as the brand your customers need whilst also adding aspects from the leadership team so it feels unique and authentic. This way, customers feel understood and the leadership team buy into their own brand.

Now, let's choose your archetypes...

Which Brand Archetype Should You Choose?

To decide on your brand archetypes, think of it in two parts:

Your primary archetype: this one makes up the majority of your brand personality and is based on the needs of your customers. Its function is to give customers the correct look, feel, and tone base on what you sell.

Your secondary archetype: this one makes up a smaller part of your brand personality and is based on the leadership time. Its function is to add depth to the brand by injecting unique traits from the leadership team.

In some case, you may also wish to introduce a third archetype so long as it doesn't dilute or conflict with the other two.

💡 Pro Tip:
We recommend assigning percentage values to help you determine how much of each archetype you want in your brand. Eg. 70% primary 30% secondary.

Earlier, we discussed how brands plays a specific role at a specific time when customers have a specific need.

Think of it like people in our lives. We turn to different people when we need different things. Perhaps we turn to our fathers when we need a leader (Ruler archetype), our mothers when we need support (Caregiver archetype), our teachers when we need a guide (Sage archetype), and our friends when we need a laugh (Jester archetype).

The same is true with brands. You won't exist in their life 24/7 so you need to ask yourself this question:

💡 Ask Yourself:
"At the exact moment our customers choose to engage with us, what do they need?"

For example, a customer looking for ice cream is probably seeking happiness, fun, or indulgence. Therefore, the Jester or Lover archetypes would work perfectly here as your primary archetype.

Now, let's say the founder of the ice cream shop is deeply interested in history. This would align with the Sage archetype. So, although his main focus is on providing joy and indulgence to customers, he might decide to add depth to his brand by connecting it to history.

Just imagine how that ice cream shop might look and all the uniqu experiences it could provide.

Whether you sell a fun product like ice cream or a boring service like legal advice (sorry to any lawyers out there), this method of applying brand archetypes will work for you.

Using Your Archetype in Your Brand Strategy

Once you've decided on your brand archetypes (or archetypal mix) it's time to apply it to your brand strategy.

The purpose of brand archetypes is to shape a unique brand identity and personality that customers love. Therefore, we will address the four key areas that make up your brand personality, which are:

  • Look & Feel
  • Tone of Voice & Messaging
  • Behaviour

To make things easy to understand, we will pick one primary archetype for each category as an example.

Look & Feel

Let's say our primary archetype is an Explorer. Referring back to our archetypes blueprint, the Explorer wants "the freedom to discover new places and experiences."

How might we demonstrate that visually?

We might want to use earthy green tones, oceanic blues or warm sunny tones to create a feeling of open space. We could then support that with some outdoor imagery that depict vast horizons and untouched landscapes.

Our logo and typography might have an unstructured look about them to give a sense of freedom. Remember, our fear as a brand is "feeling trapped or bored" so we want to avoid creating this feeling at all costs.

Explorer archetype look and feel by GoPro

Tone of Voice & Messaging

This time, let's say our primary archetype is a Hero archetype. Referring back to our archetypes blueprint, the characteristics of a Hero are "inspiration, resilience, bravery, and a strong moral compass", and our desire is to "courageously lead people to a better world."

How might we demonstrate that verbally?

Perhaps we use motivational language that inspires our customers to take action. We may also want to give them encouragement to help them deal with challenges and become their best self. Lastly, our language should be confident and demonstrate leadership. It should no be passive or meek.

Some examples are Nike's "Just do it" tagline and Oxfam's website copy (see below).

Hero archetype messaging from Oxfam

Behaviour

This time, let's say our primary archetype is an Innocent archetype. Referring back to our archetypes blueprint, the Innocent desires "a world filled with safety, purity, peace, and happiness."

How might we guide our brand actions to work towards this goal?

On a small scale, it could be something as simple as working on our internal company culture. On a broader scale, we can look to impact societies through campaigns, charitable acts, and supporting others.

An Innocent brand who continues to this perfectly is Dove. Take a look at their "Choose Beautiful campaign below and you'll see exactly what I mean.

Examples: How Major Brands Use Archetypes

We've already covered a few examples. Let's take a look at a few more major brands with various brand archetypes so you can really get a feel for how they work.

Dyson - The Magician Archetype

Dyson are all about envisioning a new reality. Whether it's hairdryers, vacuums or fans, their tech continues to revolutionise the way we think about airflow. Their logo, colour pallette, and image style feel futuristic and create a sense of wonder. Their tone of voice and messaging also demonstrate these characteristics.

Image via Dyson

The New York Times - The Sage Archetype

The instagram bio from The New York Times tells you everything you need to know about their archetype: "We seek the truth and help people understand the world." How much more Sage can you get? This is backed by articulate, authoritative messaging and visuals that are both accurate and trustworthy.

Image via The New York Times' instagram

Bugatti - The Ruler Archetype

You'd expect nothing less than a Ruler archetype from one of the most expensive car brands on the planet. Bugatti screams wealth, power, and elitism. The dark, minimalist feel with that burst of gold just screams expensive. Meanwhile, messaging like, "If comparable, it is no longer Bugatti" further supports this idea of prestige. Bugatti isn't just for anyone. It's for the elite few.

Image via Bugatti

Conclusion

I did promise you the most practical and comprehensive guide to brand archetypes, did I not?

By now, you should have a complete understand of what brand archetypes are, where they came from, and how to use them in your brand strategy to create a brand customers love.

If you'd like some further reading, check out:

Also, don't forget to grab your free copy of the Brand Archetype Blueprint.

Remember, archetypes help your brand feel familiar and authentic. When something feels familiar to a customer, they're much more likely to trust it and buy it.

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