A view looking up at a giant tree with many branches in a forest

An Exploration of the Brand Archetypes

August 22, 2023 / Brent Closs

When you think of a big, well-known brand, you probably experience an emotion or reaction, even subconsciously. When you think of Disney, you feel magic. When you think of Harley Davidson, you probably picture someone a bit rebellious. Why is this?

Large, successful brands know that their value, success, and sustainability all depend on how they’re perceived. They have established what they want consumers to feel about their brand, often by purposely identifying and associating with a specific Brand Archetype.

What Exactly is a Brand Archetype?

Famous psychiatrist Carl Jung identified 12 universal, mythic characters which he called ‘archetypal figures.’ These represented the range of basic human motivations and Jung posited that every story includes these 12 different character types. Since people often describe brands as characters, companies can draw from those 12 character types to create a consistent personality for their organization. By identifying one character type that aligns with your brand, everyone in your organization can picture the kind of person your brand would be and deliver on that characteristic in everything they do.

What the large brands all have in common is they identify with one clear Brand Archetype and do so on a consistent basis. Brands that chose to personify more than one, or who change their character type from time to time, aren’t as successful because people cannot determine how they should feel about the company or product.

Why Brand Archetypes Matter

The concept of archetypes was first applied to brands by Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson in their book “The Hero and the Outlaw”, there are many resources available that describe the characteristics of each archetype. “Archetypes are the heartbeat of a brand because they convey meaning that makes customers relate to a product as if it were alive in some way… They have a relationship with it. They care about it,” according to the book.

Large, successful brands have determined their archetype based on their values and what they want to mean to consumers. They live and breathe by that archetype in everything they do.

Let’s explore the Brand Archetypes

#1 – Innocent

Their motto is ‘Free to be you and me’. Their promise is that life doesn’t have to be hard – keep it simple. They are dreamers, eternal optimists, wholesome, honest, and humble. They represent simplicity and happiness.

Dove is an example of the Innocent archetype - their skin care products are created with natural ingredients and simplicity. The women they portray in their advertising are genuine and honest.

#2 – Sage

The Sage archetype lives by the motto: ‘The truth will set you free’. The seeker of the truth, knowledge, and wisdom. Sage is a perfectionist by nature, who doesn’t settle for ambiguity. They’re analysts and what they learn, they share with the world.

Google is a prime example of the Sage archetype - the biggest online, worldwide encyclopedia that provides its audience with the answers they’re looking for.

#3 – Explorer

‘You only get one life, make it count’ is the motto of Explorers. They have a thirst for adventure, always going in different directions and seeking new paths. Explorers want freedom and live for the joy of discovery.

When you think of exploring, the Jeep brand comes to mind-- they represent freedom and travelling off the beaten path. When you think of Jeeps, a feeling of adventure is evoked.

#4 – Everyperson

Commonly referred to as the ‘Everyman’, this archetype’s motto is ‘Everyone is created equal’. They’re honest and authentic and want to belong and be accepted. They don’t strive for luxury or status; their offering is everyday products and services, accessible to everyone. They are a trusted friend and a good neighbour, who tells you what you need and offers the perfect solution.

Costco is a great example of the Everyperson. They are in our neighbourhoods and offer quality products at affordable prices. They care about their customer experiences, as demonstrated by their no-hassle return policy. Their staff are friendly and engaged.

#5 — Outlaw

Their motto is rules are meant to be broken. Their desire is nonconformity and revolution. They challenge the status quo in hopes of evoking change.

Harley Davidson is the quintessential Outlaw. Riders thrive on the freedom from societal constraints that their ‘hogs’ provide while living their inner outlaw personas.

#6 — Magician

The Magician archetype conveys a sense of magic. They seemingly make the impossible real. At their foundation, they’re curious, want to understand how the world works, and make dreams come true.

Dyson is a good example of the Magician archetype. They take everyday objects and completely reimagine them well beyond our expectations. Magician brands that do not consistently push the envelope are not seen as magicians for long.

#7 — Hero

Hero brands strive for triumph over adversity and have a ‘never give up’ attitude. They focus on their journey and don’t concern themselves with the competition. Typically, Heroes are charitable organizations and companies with strong social values.

Nike is the epitome of a Hero. They challenge people to ‘find their greatness’ by battling any walls they might put up against an active lifestyle.

#8 — Lover

Lover brands thrive on close relationships, intimacy, and making people feel special. They’re motivated by a sense of connection and belonging. Customer appreciation is a big part of their business and how they market to consumers. =

Hallmark and Chanel are popular examples of Lover brands, but a good non-traditional example is Cesar dog food. They effectively tap into the love an owner has for their pet, and that feeding them Cesar dog food is an act of caring.

#9 — Jester

The life of the party, the Jester likes to have fun. Their promise is ‘If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong’. Jester brands tend to not only be funny, but innovative. They take a concept and market it through humour. Like the Outlaw, they challenge the status quo, but in a light-hearted way.

Old Spice is a good example of the Jester. The man you see in their ads is an exaggerated depiction of ‘manliness’. Their success comes from not taking themselves too seriously and making fun of their competitors’ exaggerated claims.

#10 — Caregiver

The goal of the Caregiver is to help others and protect them from harm. They’re compassionate, empathetic, and generous. They want to nurture relationships by providing a sense of security.

An example is the Salvation Army. Their tagline is ‘Doing the Most Good’, and they live and breathe it by focusing on other people’s needs.

#11 — Ruler

The Ruler is motivated by stability and control. They seek power and authority while managing chaos. Brands identifying with Rulers tend to be established, timeless and high quality. They want others to want to be them.

Rolex is an example of the Ruler. Their products are high-end quality and timeless. They stand for prosperity and power and make consumers believe that nothing matches the power of a Rolex.

#12 — Creator

‘Embrace your creativity’ are words the Creator lives by. They’re visionaries and innovators who make something out of nothing. They strive for self-expression through creativity. And while freedom is a key motivator, they appreciate stability and control.

Lego sparks that creativity and innovation. The possibilities you can build with their iconic bricks are endless, and what you create can be uniquely yours.

And there you have it—the 12 Brand Archetypes. So, which one does your brokerage most identify with? Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series where we’ll look at ways to identify your brand archetype and how to apply it in everything you create.