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Brand Archetypes: The Final Guide

The 12 Brand Archetypes: The Final Guide

Apple users experience their brand as a religious experience.
This is not a bold claim or a hit, it’s a neuroscience discovery. Big tech managed to exploit the areas of our brains that evolved to process religion., and it doesn’t end there: A study at Duke University showed that people exposed to the Apple logo perform better at creative tasks than people who see an IBM logo.
But it’s not just about tech. Nike, Rolex, Louis Vuitton – all these brands have succeeded in rewiring our brains to the point that we’re willing to pay more for a product that does exactly the same thing as a cheaper version.

Why? Because nowadays, everything we buy is not about the item itself, but about what wearing or using that specific item says about us. And about what idea of us people form when they see us wearing a brand rather than another.

The truth is that you relate to brands the same way you relate to people.
One of the most powerful tools to achieve that are Brand Archetypes.

Today you’ll learn how to use psychological frameworks to influence how your audience perceives you, because a brand is nothing but that: A perception, a meaning… an idea that lives in the minds of those who follow you and buy from you.

Brand Archetypes - Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung pictured together

Sigmund Freud & Carl Jung

Brand Archetypes: The Psychology & History

Imagine you take a 3yo kid who has never seen a snake and you put it in the same room with a python… what will happen?
The kid will step back, cowering in fear and pressing himself against the door, calling for his parents to help him as he lifts both arms to his chest trying to protect himself, right?

That reaction is primal. Purely instinctual. And it happens because of something called the Collective Subconscious – a subset of our subconscious minds where we collect information that has helped us survive and evolve as a species. And here’s where Carl Gustav Jung enters the conversation:

Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist who also had a passion for mythology.
During his practice he noticed something fascinating: His delirious patients told him stories about their visions, and those stories had traits in common with Mesopotamian tales, Greek mythology and Biblical excerpts… but how was it possible? If most of those people didn’t know each other and many were probably illiterate, how could they know these things?

As this idea took shape in Jung’s head, his friend and future foe Sigmund Freud had been popularizing the idea of the subconscious mind, and Jung just made the connection: Stories show common patterns across all cultures, times and places because they’re engrained in the deepest part of our brains. That part is the collective subconscious, and those patterns are the Archetypes.

The 12 Brand Archetypes

But what are these Archetypes, precisely?
And how did they make their way into branding?

You and I, we both have basic desires. We didn’t pick them, nobody taught us to want them. For instance, if you looked up to anti-heroes since you were a kid, you’ll quickly realize there was never a moment in which somebody told you that’s what you should like. Just like if you’re curious by nature and hungry for knowledge, you surely noticed how most people are not as curious as you are. Or maybe you consider yourself an ambitious high-achiever who wants to be better every day and always wants more and loves being surrounded by people who are just as hungry as you are?

The list goes on and on, but the point is simple: All these needs can be traced back to archetypes.
Now, mind you – although archetypes are to be found in all stories, and although they’re the foundation of the popular psychological personality frameworks like the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator and the 16 Personalities Test, this is not astrology.

Archetypes are a raw material. A basic ingredient I combine with tons of other elements to craft a character: Whether the character is you, your company, your company’s mascot or a celebrity, there’s much more than goes into manufacturing influence. Archetypes are but the starting point.

With that disclaimer, here are the core desires that match each archetype:

  • BELONGING | The Everyman
  • CONTROL | The Ruler
  • ENJOYMENT | The Jester
  • FREEDOM | The Explorer
  • INNOVATION | The Creator
  • INTIMACY | The Lover
  • LIBERATION | The Outlaw
  • MASTERY | The Hero
  • POWER | The Magician
  • SAFETY | The Innocent
  • SERVICE | The Caregiver
  • UNDERSTANDING | The Sage

Think about these in the context of your life.
Do you hate limitations, love spirituality or the idea of backpacking the world? You have an Explorer archetype.
Are you a luxury enjoyer who wants status and loves having people respect them? You have a Ruler archetype.
You crave peace, want life to be simple, you have strong morals and are an optimist? You have an Innocent archetype.

Now, why should you include Archetypes in your Brand Strategy?

12 Brand Archetypes - Reference Tool
12 Brand Archetypes – Reference Tool

Brand Archetypes: Use Cases

You might want to consider implementing Archetypes for several reasons – many of which will end up affecting your financial upside.

  1. Control: A brand is perception. Brand is how people perceive your brand. In one word: A narrative. If you control that narrative, you’ll never be a commodity because you’ll portray precisely the image you want to convey. Imagine wanting your brand to stand for quality, exclusivity and craftsmanship, but ending up portraying a feeling of belonging and accessibility because you didn’t care about your Brand Strategy and didn’t even pick an Archetype.
  2. Differentiation: Most of your competitors aren’t committed enough to their business to go this deep into trying to influence perception and shape a market narrative. Therefore, Archetypes become a competitive advantage: Imagine you are in B2B, where most companies are plain, boring and mostly undifferentiated – you’d be only one with a brand built around your customers’ mind.
  3. Alignment: If you’re an executive, you know how hard it is to steer a brand when everyone, from your fellow C-Suite team members to the HR and Recruiting teams, feels like they own the brand. Archetypes come to support you and lay the foundations of a faster, easier workflow: When your entire company understands that the audience owns the brand, Archetypes allow your company to become a character, an almost living entity that interacts with the audience with a specific language, a specific look and a specific feel.
  4. Tribe: The most successful brands in the world create a tribe around them. A movement. Archetypes allow you to put down the foundations of a persona or framework that appeals to very specific people: This framework, along with all the other elements of your Brand Strategy, will help you build the familiarity, the trust and the emotional engagement you need for your audience to become a tribe.

A common question is: Should I make myself or my company the foundation of the archetype?

If you’re a company, we build Archetypes exclusively around your audience. In Brand Strategy, everything starts and ends with the experience and the satisfaction of those who trust you and buy from you.
For personal brands, things are a little bit different – you can build a personal brand by attracting people like yourself, thus picking your own Archetypes and building on those. This will create what I call “Controlled Authenticity“. Or, if you have a clear ICP, you can again built your brand personality around attracting your audience… which is never a bad choice, but it requires an amount of commitment and discipline not everyone has.

Why Brand Archetypes Work

As mentioned, Brand Archetypes are subconscious patterns.
Your audience and prospects will never tell you “oh, I bought from you because I like your Ruler brand,” but you’ll see people come to you that have a similar set of personality traits or core desires. That’s because Archetypes are universal, we understand them without consciously processing them – making them almost a backdoor into your buyers’ brain.

Now, what if you want to know more about archetypes?

I have your back here: We prepared a full guide to the 12 Archetypes so that you can access our knowledge, too.

You might like:

Brand Archetypes | The Final Guide
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Brand Archetypes

Learn how to appeal to your prospect’s most powerful decision-maker: Their subconscious brain.

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