Establishing a brand communication strategy is a very important stage of image building. It must be tailored to the needs of the target group, but also relevant to the industry, consistent and as natural as possible. It should be based on pillars composed of the most important values for a given brand – therefore it is worth starting with their determination when creating your plan to reach potential customers. During this process, however, the marketer does not have to reinvent the wheel – the largest brands use popular schemes in this area, which work well, among others, because they are so well known. Brand archetypes – because we are talking about them – are perfect navigation buoys for every marketer – and there are as many as 12 of them!
The brand archetype – what is it anyway?
The concept of archetype, obviously, has not appeared for the first time in marketing. It became widely known in the first half of the last century thanks to Carl Gustav Jung, who used it in research in psychiatry and psychology. Jung noticed that all people, although they are not aware of it, recognize certain patterns, repetitions, universal patterns in their environment. He called these instinctively recognized patterns, in some way simplifying the world we live in, archetypes. They help us find ourselves in a very complex reality in a similar way as stereotypes.
Other researchers continued to consider patterns in the collective unconscious, noting, for example, that they appear very often in fairy tales and myths – both in the plot and in the construction of the characters. Let’s look at it for a moment. In the classic fairy tales we know, all characters are either extremely good or unimaginably evil. In addition, it mostly applies to the same types of heroes. If the mother appears in the story, she is good and affectionate, but the stepmother is always a black to the bone character, a jealous, greedy and self-righteous person. The main character must be innocent, noble, pure-hearted, and usually he is rewarded for these qualities – often the prince of a fairy tale appears as a reward here.
How brand archetypes work in marketing?
But let’s go back to the marketing field. Two researchers, Margaret Mark and Carol Pearson, introduced the archetype to this area of science in their 2001 book The Hero and The Outlaw. Building Extraordinary Brands Through The Power of Archetypes. There, the authors noted that currently producers have very little chance to stand out on the market. Competition can easily copy their solutions, more and more brands produce the same or very similar products, leading to a situation where the only solution seems to be to keep lowering prices. Seemingly, because in fact there is one more solution that can be used – to give your products and the entire brand a special meaning. Making buying from this manufacturer an experience was associated with adhering to certain values and principles. This is how the theory of archetypes found its place in the story of the brand.
Archetypes in brand communication
Mark and Pearson noticed that when brands communicate with their audience, they say a lot about what they do and how, but their message is missing the most important question: why ?. Why are they doing what they are doing? Why exactly this way and not otherwise? Why this product? By telling its potential customers about it, the brand has a chance to present a motivation other than earning money, show the values that guide it, and thus establish a bond with recipients for whom the same issues are important. However, building such a coherent brand image is not easy – that is why it is worth reaching for archetypes.
Talking about fairy tales, myths and values may seem a bit pathetic and out of place in modern free market realities. In practice, however, brand archetypes are nothing more than another marketer’s tool. They allow you to define how the brand should look like in the eyes of the recipients, and thus build certain guidelines for communication on the website, in social media or in advertising. The archetypal theory is used by most well-known brands such as Disney, Pepsi, Nike. Apple or Volkswagen. Thanks to this, their promotional activities are not random or chaotic – they form a harmonious image that provides them with millions of devoted customers.
Twelve brand archetypes
The classifications of archetypes differ somewhat from one researcher to another, but there are always twelve and they have similar descriptions. What archetypes can the brand identify with?
Innocent / Dreamer
Brands of this type prove to us that the world is a beautiful, safe place where everything is possible. They promise us nothing but positive emotions, kindness and predictability, but not one that is boring, but one that provides comfort. They never talk about sad, unfair or terrible events, they surround us with a bubble of beauty, harmony and acceptance. They strive to make the recipient feel that nothing bad can happen to them. They radiate optimism and energy at every step.
Coca-Cola and McDonalds are examples of brands that use this archetype. They are based on very positive messages, often calling for enjoying even the most ordinary moments. Each advertisement is based on the celebration of joyful experiences and good emotions, and the visual identification is created in optimistic, saturated colors. All this so that we know that nothing unpleasant can happen to us with these brands.
Who can build the image of the Innocent? There are probably industries that perfectly match the image of the Innocent and naturally find themselves in this type of communication with the client. These include cosmetic brands (especially with natural cosmetics), producers of healthy, organic food, companies producing children’s products, sweet drinks or snacks.
Brands that identify with the Explorer archetype want to be seen as adventurous, exploring unconquered paths and lands. Freedom and unrestricted freedom are very important in their communication. They often play in their advertisements with frames with vast spaces that emphasize the lack of restrictions. They like to challenge them, encourage them to live their lives actively and overcome their own barriers.
Brands that communicate with their audience using the Explorer archetype include Jeep and GoPro. They show us at every step that we can do more with their products, that our lives will become more interesting, full of fascinating journeys and amazing experiences.
Who can build the image of the Explorer? The Explorer Archetype is directly created for brands selling sports equipment (especially for extreme sports), travel agencies offering exotic tours or producers of off-road vehicles.
Wise / Philosopher
Such brands take on the role of a mentor, a teacher who helps the audience understand the world. In their communication, they do not use opinions, but pure facts. They like to present figures that show why their product is the best. By creating advertisements or posts, they share knowledge, research results and statistics. The key to communicating like a Sage is gaining authority in the eyes of your audience. Brands that choose to do so must be sure that they present true, unquestionable information and that they serve their wisdom in a way that customers can understand.
Communication in the style of the Sage is usually carried out by large brands with an established position on the market, such as Google or the BBC. They provide a lot of information that most recipients treat as proven, not requiring verification. In the case of Google, the mentoring aspect is also highly developed – the company provides a lot of materials for free, thus educating its customers. This is a profit for the recipients, but even greater for the brand, which thus strengthens its image as an expert.
Who can build the image of the Sage? Information websites, companies creating educational materials, brands selling industry courses, schools, universities or people offering their services as consultants can appear as Sages.
The name Clown may not be very well associated, but the very concept of communication behind it is extremely attractive to brands. It is based on food, mockery of authorities and the joy of life. Jester-brands can sometimes hover over the edge of what’s falling out and what’s wrong and making jokes about serious topics. However, they never have bad intentions – there is no bitter cynicism or irony in them, but the sheer joy of life itself. They want to bring a smile to their recipients, which is why they can use, for example, memes, funny viruses, etc. in their communication.
A brand that uses the Jester’s potential as a textbook is, for example, Skittles with its adverts with a rainbow and a milked giraffe. However, this archetype can also be attributed to Pepsi, which is thus playing a game with its main rival on the market, Coca-Cola. This can be seen, for example, in an advertisement depicting Santa Claus – a character entirely created by Coca-Cola – sipping Pepsi on vacation.
Who can build the image of the Clown? There is basically no limit to what brand can become a Jester. Most often, however, producers of snacks and sweet drinks, beer or toys decide to create their image in this way.
Everyman is simply an ordinary person, similar to all of us. Brands that want to be like this do not try to shock, stand out with sharp wit or creativity. They do not say that their products are unique, but say that they are comfortable, safe and known. They simply accompany us all the time, supporting us in everyday problems. Such brands are not a star, they are part of the group to which their recipients belong. They do not put pressure on us that we must be better, more brilliant, that we must achieve something extraordinary in life. These are brands that accept us.
It may seem that this is a completely unattractive archetype for brands – after all, each of them wants to stand out from the competition. In reality, however, the opposite is true – there are companies that have achieved the championship and huge financial benefits by posing as Everyman. An example here is IKEA with its furniture and accessories for every home, affordable, simple, easily accessible and always up-to-date.
Who can build Everyman’s image? This archetype works best for companies that produce everyday items, home and garden items, workwear, practical family cars, groceries, etc.
Lover / Admirer
Brands that want to be a Lover make their products desirable in recipients. In communication, they use sensuality, intimacy, the promise of pleasure, perhaps even a bit sinful. The advertisements show us beautiful women and handsome men who tempt, seduce and attract like a magnet. They often use references to love, romance and bodily pleasure. They want to show themselves as worthy of the moment of oblivion, as a temptation worth succumbing to, because it brings unforgettable experiences.
We see this type of communication, for example, in Victoria’s Secret commercials that are based almost entirely on beauty, desire and seduction. The brand that plays these patterns masterfully is also Chanel with its fragrances that promise delight to the senses. This image has been created with great consistency since the time when the face of Chanel was Marylin Monroe – a sex icon of the 1950s and 1960s.
Who can build the image of a Lover? This archetype fits perfectly with cosmetic and clothing brands that sell underwear, but also sweets (sinful pleasures), exclusive jewelry, expensive wines and perfumes.
Brand-Makers want to be perceived as creative, innovative, and turning dreams into reality. They like what is original, unique, they are visionaries who strive for continuous development and improvement of their products to fulfill even more functions. They do not follow others, but they make new paths themselves. They communicate to their audience that they are creating something valuable and lasting. They often pose as artists, but also those who know business well.
Brands that use this image-building scheme are, for example, Apple and Lego. The first one shows itself as a company that creates products of completely new quality, technologically advanced and beyond any competition. The second one creates blocks that allow the buyer to create whatever he wants, even transferring him to a different, more colorful and creative world.
Who can build the Creator’s image? This archetype is most beneficial for brands producing high-tech equipment, marketing companies, copywriters, architects, artists, all of these companies create something innovative.
Creating the image of the brand-Guardian is particularly demanding because it requires maintaining authenticity in communication based on empathy and altruism. Such companies care about their audience and show that they are willing to sacrifice to keep them safe. They put themselves in the role of a guardian who protects against evil and helps in achieving goals. The features visible in such brands are warmth, gentleness, caring and cordiality.
Which brands use this archetype? For example, organizations such as UNICEF and WWF. They show that they care for the weaker, the needy, that they do not act for their own benefit, but only for the common good.
Who can build the image of the Guardian? The Guardian is a natural archetype for nonprofits, medical companies, insurers, clinics, and even banks as the Guardian enters wherever someone needs help.
Ruler is the archetype for strong brands that are already high in the industry. They have everything under control, they radiate self-confidence, an aura of invincibility and success. However, they are not perceived as self-righteous, because they bestow loyalty and protection for their consumers. They care for them, not out of empathy like the Caregivers, but out of a sense of responsibility. They strive to make the recipient want to be in the group they protect, because it is an elite group, available only to the chosen few.
The Brand-Ruler is, among others, Mercedes, which bases all its communication on creating a leader, a winner, a class in itself. He always presents his cars in such a way that they look as impressive as possible, and the entire visual setting shows that not everyone can afford a vehicle of this brand.
Who can build the image of the Lord? Luxury brands such as expensive watches, jewelry, cars, designer clothes and shoes will benefit the most from this archetype. However, it is also a good way of communication for high-standard hotels or spas.
The protagonists are those brands that face challenges. In their communication, they show that life can be tiring, difficult, full of obstacles, but persistence and determination can overcome them. Their task and main goal is to persuade the recipients to act, take risks and make efforts, because taking them is profitable. Sometimes the Hero-brand protects the weaker who are unable to fight for themselves, but this is not inherent in this archetype. The motives most characteristic for the Hero are overcoming his own weaknesses and hard work, thanks to which he can achieve what is most important to him – mastery.
The Hero archetype is used, among others, by Adidas and Nike. They both show us that we want to be able to do so and that it is only up to us whether we will become winners or losers. They show people who, despite failures, make new attempts and finally achieve their goals thanks to persistence and perseverance.
Who can build the image of the Hero? Of course, this archetype best suits brands that offer sportswear or sports equipment. However, the image of the Hero can also be used by those companies that offer support in crisis situations, for example roadside assistance, mechanical facilities or physiotherapy and rehabilitation rooms.
Brands with this archetype do not agree to the existing reality. Their domain is struggle, they want to instigate a revolution, and overthrow stereotypes. They don’t care about rules, and they value freedom above all else. Sometimes their communication is accompanied by anger, even a bit of vulgarity, although of course there are exceptions. However, there is no taboo for them and they like to be blunt in their messages. They fight to make life better, but they also enjoy the anarchy they create.
The brand that chose the image of the Rebel is, for example, Netflix. He uses his social media and even products to promote tolerance, speaks loudly about the problems of modern societies and refuses to be discriminated against. However, there is no pathos of the Hero or the altruism of the Guardian in it – there is a lot of humor and simple disagreement with the existing situation. The brand is also rebellious in its very premise – in a way, it ended the stage of television domination and started the era of streaming platforms.
Who can build the image of a Rebel? The image of the Rebel is perfect for companies that introduce a completely new, revolutionary product to the market. It also works well in the promotion of brands promoting avant-garde fashion, motorcycles or in the case of alternative media.
Wizard Brands show us that the world can be beautiful, but they do it in a different way than the Innocent – they bring magic into our lives. They promise thrilling, fantastic adventures, they prove that the only limits that exist are the limits of our imagination. They are charismatic in their communication and reveal new possibilities for us, thanks to which we can reach the stars.
The company that masterfully implements this archetype is Disney. It naturally takes us to a fairy-tale world, but proves that everything is possible in ours. This can be seen, among others, in the Dream Big campaign, Princess, implemented by the brand, in which Disney showed girls that they can achieve anything they dream of.
Who can build the image of the Wizard? This archetype is very natural for brands that produce toys, animations for children and all products associated with rest and relaxation. According to the principle that a sufficiently advanced technology is no different from magic, it can also be used by companies producing modern gadgets.
How to use brand archetypes?
Brand archetypes are not meant to be cages for brands that stifle their freedom. On the contrary – they should be a signpost facilitating communication with potential customers. Many companies do not limit themselves to using one schema, but combine the characteristics of two or three archetypes – and that works well too. An example can be Coca-Cola, which neatly interweaves the features of the Innocent and the Wizard, or Apple, which is part Creator and part Rebel. However, it is important to think through your communication strategy as carefully as possible and implement it consistently in all channels.