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Brand Storytelling through 12 archetypes

Wayne McMaster

31 May 2013

 

An archetype is a universally familiar character or situation that transcends time, place, culture, gender and age. It represents an eternal truth’

Brand development is nothing short of creating a story that people want to be part of; a character with values that have deep resonance which our target audience want to emulate or be associated with.

This is why a Harley-Davidson marketer can say: ‘what we sell is the ability for a 43-year-old accountant to dress in black leather, ride through small towns and have people be afraid of him’ (1).

A stereotype is culturally, and often temporally, specific, usually complete with a heap of negative connotations. All cultures and times have stereotypical characters, but they don’t travel well. They tend to be rigid, simplistic and one-dimensional. Unfortunately, most also carry some grain of truth, which is why they are easy to slip into and hard to shake off. Stereotypes embody surly teenagers, lazy students, arrogant stockbrokers, and hen-pecked husbands.

In comparison, an archetype is a universally familiar character or situation that transcends time, place, culture, gender and age. Archetypes are deeply-rooted in common symbolic patterns that are anchored in our subconscious. Brands that manage to communicate along these dispositions, will not only be understood more intuitively, they also seem more trustworthy and meaningful.

Brand archetypes should never be seen as a replacement for a robust brand platform garnered from indepth research and workshops, and they should never be considered as a single facet approach. There is an opportunity to explore the nuances of your brand character, to embrace the tension between a multi-faceted archetype.

The twelve brand archetypes

1. Magician
2. Outlaw
3. Jester
4. Lover
5. Citizen
6. Nurturer
7. Ruler
8. Creator
9. Innocent
10. Sage
11. Champion
12. Explorer

Jack Daniels©Coloribus

For example take premium brand Jack Daniels—A story of authenticity: in two dimensions (Creator and Outlaw). Handcrafted in Lynchburg to be drunk by hardcore rockers.

 

Louis Vuitton Étoile Maison by Peter Marino, Rome ©Artica

By contrast in luxury brand, Louis Vuitton which plays heavily on authoritative, structured, flawless traits (Ruler). But relies equally on Creator and Lover values.

 

IKEA ©culturaltraction

Or in our home-interest world IKEA who sees the world with fresh and hopeful eyes (Innocent), but has a practical yet creative spirit (Creator) and believes in offering ‘many people a better life at home’ (Nurturer and Regular Guy/Citizen). IKEA never takes itself too seriously (Jester). (2)

1. Magician

Key traits

innovative
clever
gifted
intuitive
changemaker
lateral

2. Outlaw

Key traits

revolutionary
free-spirited
radical
rebellious
subversive
maverick

3. Jester

Key traits

humourous
carefree
upredictable
fun
original
spontaneous

4. Lover

Key traits

passionate
intimate
magnetic
dreamer
idealistic
joyful

5. (Regular Guy) Citizen

Key traits

friendly
unpretentious
no frills
trusting
persuadable
belonging

6. Nurturer

Key traits

nurturing
gentle
empathetic
concerned
compassinate
trusting

7. Ruler

Key traits

leader
confident
directive
authoritative
flawless
control

8. Creator

Key traits

authenticity
visionary
passionate
expressive
imaginative
creative

9. Innocent

Key traits

optimistic
simple
truthful
honest
straight-forward
reliable

10. Sage

Key traits

wise
intelligent
expertise
respected
influencial
guiding

11. (Hero) Champion

Key traits

successful
awarded
proud
determined
powerful
achievement

Explorer

Key traits

independent
adventourous
self-sufficient
slef-knowledge
daring
pioneering

(1.) As quoted by Tom Peters at Tompeters.com.

(2.) Added Value

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