Brand Archetype

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Read everything about brand archetypes on this page. Use the table of contents for an overview of subjects and common questions.

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A brand archetype is a globally recognized concept that can form the basis of your brand’s behavior. It is used to stand out and immediately connect with your target audience. Ties

Brand archetype

A brand archetype is a globally recognized concept that can form the basis of your brand’s behavior. It is used to stand out and directly hit your target audience in the right spot. It is a valuable tool for shaping your positioning and maximizing the impact of your marketing budget.

On this page, we not only explain what brand archetypes are, where they come from, and how to use them, but we also delve into each individual brand archetype. Want to know more afterward? Then read one of our articles about a specific brand archetype. In it, we explain how you can use this brand archetype for your brand and positioning.

What is a brand archetype?

brand archetype hero

The hero is one of the most recognizable brand archetypes, think Nike

Brand archetypes are the same for everyone. For example, the hero and the mother are fundamental characters that we don’t need to explain to each other what they stand for. And that applies to people all over the world! Brands that connect with one brand archetype make use of this recognizability and ensure that their brand value increases.

A brand archetype provides clarity about the brand’s DNA and handles for an effective, consistent brand strategy. The target audience recognizes what the brand stands for, which purpose it pursues, and which values it embodies. This is crucial in a time when more and more brands are fighting for attention, and it is very difficult to distinguish yourself based on basic characteristics and benefits.

A brand archetype helps your brand to take a unique position in your market. Research by Young & Rubicam (now VMLY&R) based on 13,000 brands in 33 countries1 indicates that brands strongly connected with one brand archetype perform better (97% more growth) than brands that do not.

1 The Hero and the Outlaw, Mark/Pearson, 2001 McGraw-Hill, page 30

Origin of brand archetypes

The cover of ‘The Hero and the Outlaw’ that first discussed the twelve brand archetypes

Psychologist Carl Jung coined the term archetype in 1919 but also stood on the shoulders of classical thinkers like Plato, Cicero, and Augustine. Jung used archetypes to denote certain experiences, ideas, and observations. He describes archetypes in his book, Psychology and Religion as: “Forms or images of a collective nature that occur practically worldwide as components of myths and at the same time as individual products of unconscious origin.” Thus, archetypes stand for behavioral patterns that we all instinctively understand.

For marketers and communication specialists, this thinking had a great attraction for years, but it wasn’t until 2001 that Mark and Pearson brought it together in their book ‘The Hero and the Outlaw’. The 12 brand archetypes were born. Ten years later, Hartwell and Joshua Chen expanded this to 60 brand archetypes across the 12 families in the workbook ‘Archetypes in Branding’. There is also a Dutch book that speaks about this; ‘De vijf stappen naar een betekenisvol merk’. Finally, there is the book ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’ by Joseph Campbell (1949); he explains that the hero’s adventure is central to mythology and was, for example, a major inspiration for George Lucas in writing Star Wars.

The above books form the basis of our own interpretation of brand archetypes, and we connect insights from all works in the individual articles about the brand archetypes.

Positioning and brand archetype

Brand archetypes and the positioning model are important levers for brands that want to position themselves distinctively. The brand archetype model – more on this later – helps to identify how the competition positions itself, and subsequently, the choice of a brand archetype is an important building block for a brand’s positioning. A brand chooses a brand archetype that fits its culture and identity and with which it can position itself distinctively. The brand archetype tells how your brand behaves, how it connects with the target audience.
Of course, there is much more to positioning. Merkelijkheid supports a wide variety of brands each year in sharpening or renewing their positioning. All our publications on this topic can be found in our knowledge base.

Brand archetypes create connection

Why are brand archetypes such an important lever? Because we instinctively understand each archetype, a brand needs to explain much less. For example, we don’t wonder why Nike sponsors great athletes; we almost expect it because it fits the hero brand archetype. And what behavior is also typical of the hero? Chances are you don’t have to think long to answer that question.

Our instinctive understanding of brands with a clear brand archetype means that we feel connected to these brands more quickly. And connection is the most valuable asset for brands. When a target audience feels connected to a brand, this not only results in a preference but also in higher margins, ambassadorship, and loyalty.

Brand archetypes provide differentiation

A brand archetype gives your brand personality, eliciting a certain feeling in people. And we recognize personality from a thousand. This means that your brand can distinguish itself based on personality rather than characteristics or benefits. Red Bull and Coca-Cola cannot be distinguished based on characteristics and benefits, but you would never confuse them.

brand-archetype-red-bull

Even without the logo, you can think of the brand, right?

Brand archetype and purpose

Not only do customers want to connect with a larger purpose, people also prefer to work for a company with a purpose.
Globally operating companies have been talking about a ‘war for talent’ for years, the increasingly competitive landscape for recruiting and retaining employees. This is also becoming more visible in the Netherlands, for example in technology where there has been a glaring shortage of electricians for years.

The right brand archetype is the fastest route to the mind of potential applicants. If they effortlessly understand your company, it’s much easier for them to decide whether they want to work for your company. We are increasingly coming across examples of companies that, thanks to their clear purpose, sometimes literally have a waiting list and consistently pay less for talent than is common in the market.

Who is the brand archetype, the customer or the brand?

Nowadays, everything revolves around the customer. Although there are still brands that center themselves, the vast majority of major brands have the customer at the core of their world.
Mercedes-Benz (Ruler) used to say: ‘Das Beste oder nichts’, but nowadays it is much more attuned to the wishes of its customers. Nike (Hero) is not the hero itself; ‘Just do it’ motivates you to be the hero and run that marathon.

nike-brand-archetype-hero

Nike’s mission statement

The brand archetype of your brand determines which need your brand facilitates for the customer. Take, for example, the brand Patagonia (Explorer), which provides you with the clothing and accessories to explore the world. Or the brand Dove (Caregiver), which makes care products and ensures every woman feels beautiful. In none of these brands is it about the brand itself; everything revolves around their customers.

Brand archetype model

The twelve brand archetypes can be classified along different axes. We use the axes Ego – Social and Freedom – Order to classify the brand archetypes. Mark and Pearson themselves use Stability – Mastery and Belonging – Independence. We prefer the former due to its easier applicability in a business environment because it seems more logical.
The world of car brands is a fun introduction to brand archetypes. Each brand archetype fits several brands, and for each brand, it doesn’t take much effort to understand why we classify the brand that way.

brand archetype car brands
Later in this article, we briefly explain the brand archetypes using these car brands. Want to know more about an individual brand archetype? In our articles, we go into detail with examples from both business services and industry. Practical for B2B as well.

Using the brand archetype model

If you want to use this model to map your market, answer the following questions for each competitor:

  • Is this brand about Ego or Social? By that, we mean: is it mainly about the customer themselves or rather about the wider world around them?
  • Does this brand prefer Order, or is Freedom important?

Then you determine where in the quadrant the brand is located. It is sometimes practical to first classify all competitors by quadrant and then only based on the differences between them to identify the specific brand archetype. And how do you then position your own brand?

Brand archetype and culture or identity

Can you just choose any brand archetype? No. Which brand archetype fits your brand largely depends on the culture or identity of your organization. Is your company mainly internally oriented and do you like order? Then it is unlikely that the Outlaw fits you well. But the Ruler, Magician, or Ally might be right up your alley.

focus-single-brand-archetype

A customer who sees two faces gets confused

The main reason for this is customer perception. A company that shows a different face in its marketing than when you contact them is rarely successful. It creates a feeling that people are being misled. So make sure the brand archetype fits the identity or culture of the organization.

Depending on the type of organization, we use different methods in practice to determine which brand archetype best fits your organization:

  • Desk research
  • Interviews
  • Culture research

Desk research means that we study the available resources (internal and external) and draw conclusions from them, which we then test. Interviews mean that we speak with a variety of people from the organization with the goal of uncovering the identity. A culture research is an approach we often use in workshops. Using interesting case studies, we discuss how an organization responds to certain situations. This is processed into a model based on the work of Hofstede and serves as the basis for a lively discussion.
It results in a number of clear conclusions that can be used to guide or validate the choice of a particular brand archetype. This way, you can be sure you’re making the right choice.

12 Jung brand archetypes

In our FAQ, we answer the question ‘What are the 12 archetypes of Jung?’. But of course, we go into detail on each individual brand archetype:

Brand archetype Hero

brand archetype hero bmw

Brand archetype hero: BMW

The hero evokes clear images in all of us. This brand archetype is associated with a strong sense of duty, a great desire to prove oneself, and mastery. The hero responds to a challenge, takes action, and makes a difference with his mastery. This typical image also applies to the Hero brand archetype, although it doesn’t always have to show off its muscles. Hero brands help their customers push boundaries, grow, and become a hero themselves, fulfill their (social) duty, or employ personal strength, courage, and competencies to make a difference.

The amount of motivation of the Hero is unmatched, and this inspires customers. Successful Hero brands manage to bind a loyal, dedicated following to themselves, provided they don’t miss the mark: arrogance and the search for a (non-existent) enemy can alienate the Hero from its target audience.

Famous examples of the Hero brand archetype are Nike and BMW. Curious about which business service or industrial organization we also see as a Hero? Read our full article about the Hero brand archetype. We’ll also tell you more about the motivations, benefits, pitfalls, and marketing of the Hero.

Brand archetype Caregiver

Volvo logo example of caregiver brand archetype

Brand archetype Caregiver: Volvo takes care of you

The Caregiver is a reliable and caring brand archetype, think for example of the classic image of a mother or teacher. Seeking a safe, orderly world where everyone takes care of each other, the Caregiver sacrifices itself because the interests of others come first. The Caregiver’s greatest concern is instability or problems of others, and thus, they offer, asked and unasked, help to others in need.

Caregiver brands put the interest of the customer first and truly think along with them. Thanks to the positive contribution to the lives of customers, innovations from successful Caregiver brands are accepted more quickly. The danger for Caregiver brands lurks when self-interest is completely overshadowed by the interest of the customer. How can you protect everyone if your own goals, desires, and boundaries are not clear?

Volvo and the Red Cross are well-known examples of Caregiver brands. In our full article about the Caregiver brand archetype, we explain these examples and provide two new ones; one business service and one industrial company. We also go into more detail on the motivation, benefits, and marketing of the Caregiver brand archetype.

Brand archetype Explorer

explorer-brand-archetype-land-rover

Land Rover Explorer shares its name with the brand archetype

Freedom is central to the Explorer brand archetype. The freedom to venture out, discover your own individuality, and truly be yourself. This brand archetype yearns for freedom and self-development. Combine both, and according to the Explorer, you get the ideal world.

For these explorers, the journey is more important than the destination. A successful Explorer brand finds a deep connection with its target audience and focuses on a long-term relationship. Although this brand archetype, and its target audience, like to wander, customers of the Explorer do want anchorage and a clear direction.

In our full article about the Explorer brand archetype, we tell more about the characteristics, benefits, and marketing of this brand archetype. We also offer examples like Land Rover and GoPro, as well as a business and industrial example.

Brand archetype Outlaw

The Outlaw car brand: Mini.

The Outlaw car brand: Mini.

Another name for the Outlaw is the Rebel. This brand archetype does not feel at home and does not recognize itself in the society in which he or she lives and therefore challenges the status quo. Driven by a sense of freedom, independence, justice, or even feelings of revenge, the Outlaw creates a world where he does fit in. The Outlaw is not afraid to touch a sensitive chord; provoking and shocking is actually part of the process.

As a brand, the Outlaw breaks rules within and outside its industry in the hunt for change, with and for the target audience. Outlaws are leaders, bold and not afraid to take risks. The rebellious character is also directly a pitfall because rebelling just for the sake of rebelling is not credible and is not accepted by potential customers.

Examples of Outlaw brands are Harley Davidson and Virgin. Curious about our examples from industry or business services? Read our full article about the Outlaw brand archetype, where we go deeper into the drives, benefits, pitfalls, and marketing of the Outlaw brand archetype.

Brand archetype Sage

Brand archetype sage audi

Brand archetype sage: advantage through technology

The Sage is also known as the wise one for a reason, knowledge and truth are the highest goods for this brand archetype. The Sage wants to create a better world and believes that everyone can make good decisions if they just have the knowledge. Like the Sage, its customers want to better understand the world and become smarter. They don’t want to blindly follow, but make a well-informed choice themselves. Preferably based on (factual) information.

The customers of a Sage feel like experts thanks to his product or service, which is why the Sage brand archetype fits well with high-quality or complex products and services. The biggest pitfall for a Sage is the attitude towards customers and tone of voice. Customers of the Sage want to be confirmed that they are smart and sensible. A lecturing or even condescending tone can be the end of their loyalty.

In our full article about the brand archetype Sage, we explain why Audi is a typical Sage and provide an example from industry and business services. Of course, we also go further into the character traits, benefits, pitfalls, and marketing of the Sage.

Brand archetype Magician

brand archetype magician

Brand archetype magician, what’s more magical than Rolls Royce?

A Magician dreams big and makes the impossible possible. The Magician is a perseverer with a great solving capacity, he knows how to turn something negative into something positive. From a short-term need satisfaction to a flow of experiences or even a miracle, the Magician brand archetype assists its customers with a transformation.

A true Magician is a pioneer and keeps innovating. This way, he can continuously provide his customers with moments of happiness and support their transformation. A well-executed Magician builds long-term partnerships and a loyal customer base. Fail as a Magician in execution or is the promise too big? Both customers and competitors will immediately penalize this. Keep the promise and execution well balanced!

In our full article about the brand archetype Magician, we offer two extensive examples, an industrial company and a business service provider. We also delve into the various levels the Magician knows, advantages, disadvantages, and marketing according to a Magician.

Brand archetype Innocent

Brand archetype Innocent Toyota

Toyota is the Innocent among car brands

The Innocent or Innocent is an optimist, searching for the perfect world, who believes in simplicity. The Innocent offers simple solutions and choices for a better life or a better world. Simplicity, happiness, and honesty are the central values of Innocent brands.

Customers choose the Innocent based on shared norms and values, often at the expense of the dominant brand in the market. As long as the Innocent meets these shared norms and values, this provides the foundation for a very loyal customer group. The positive attitude is a big part of the Innocent brand archetype, but also the pitfall: don’t lose sight of reality.

The characteristics and marketing approach of the Innocent brand archetype are discussed in detail using two examples in our full article about the Innocent brand archetype.

Brand archetype Creator

Brand archetype Creator Tesla

Tesla is clearly the brand archetype creator

For the Creator, it’s all about vision. Creative, technical, and practical, the Creator knows exactly what he wants. He pursues an ideal and creates the product or service that makes his vision a reality. The Creator is stubborn, innovative, and always looking for the best solution. He changes the world.

Precisely because the Creator makes the impossible possible, customers are willing to pay extra for Creator products or services. But watch out for perfectionism as a Creator; it can paralyze the execution of your vision.

Besides obvious examples like Tesla and Apple, we share in our full article about the Creator brand archetype two other examples, a business service provider and an industrial example. We also delve into the characteristics, advantages, disadvantages, and how to express the Creator.

Brand archetype Jester

Smart and Fiat are examples of the Jester brand archetype

Brand archetype Jester: both the Fiat 500 and Smart embody it

Playful and cheerful, but with a serious vision, the Jester makes problems discussable. Fun and humor for customers are paramount, but the Jester is also critical and painfully honest. In a light-hearted way, he tries to convey a serious message.

If you as a Jester find the right tone, both your target audience and other stakeholders are willing to listen to you and even take action. The Jester doesn’t shy away from publicity and brand ambassadors but must always watch for the core of his message. Not being taken seriously as a Jester? Then the core of your message won’t reach the target audience.

Besides known examples like Smart and Ben & Jerry’s, we provide you in our full article about the Jester brand archetype with two more examples. Namely a business service provider from the Netherlands and a well-known international industrial brand. We also tell more about the values, characteristics, and marketing of a Jester.

Brand archetype Ruler

brand archetype ruler mercedes-benz

The Ruler of car brands, Mercedes-Benz says ‘Das Beste oder nichts’

The ruler of the market, always seeking more control and power. The Ruler exudes authority and stands at some distance from competitors, suppliers, and customers. With his power and control, he creates order and offers customers safety and success. Customers of the Ruler are also looking for power, status, and prestige.

As a Ruler, you set the standard in the market, something many customers are drawn to. Customers trust the Ruler and feel comfortable, for which they pay a higher price and thereby the Ruler conquers a large market share. But a ruler out of balance quickly becomes a tyrant who does not allow new players, products, or innovations and thus loses the trust of his following.

Mercedes-Benz is a typical Ruler. In our full article about the Ruler brand archetype, you will read two more interesting examples of Ruler brands, a business service provider and a large industrial player. In addition, we tell you more about the characteristics and behavior of typical Ruler brands.

Brand archetype Lover

Car brand Alfa Romeo is a Lover, a car brand for true enthusiastsLover brands intensely crave approval from their target audience and achieve that by prioritizing the customer relationship. The Lover often provides pleasure or beauty, think of luxury chocolates, perfume, or designer clothing. In another form, the Lover can also be a spiritual or strategic partner, helping its target audience achieve its goals. The lover is a reliable, loyal, and respectful partner, charismatic and with an eye for detail. Customers feel valued, are often emotionally connected to the brand, and therefore remain customers for life.
The Lover has a very large potential target audience. Unique to this brand archetype is that almost everyone at some point in their lives identifies with the drive of the Lover: love. With a well-executed positioning as a Lover, you build a loyal customer group willing to pay a premium for your brand. Not only customers but also employees feel connected to a Lover brand, where the internal culture is not based on competition but on close cooperation. Confirmation from the target audience, both customers and employees, is essential for the Lover. Without this confirmation, the Lover risks becoming aimless in search of what does work for its target audience, thereby losing sight of its own knowledge and experience. As a logical counterpart to the pursuit of valuable relationships, jealousy and strife are also potential pitfalls for this brand archetype.

Curious how to approach marketing as a Lover? In our full article about the Lover brand archetype, we delve deeper into this and offer a number of practical examples, such as Magnum and PPG. In addition, we outline the three levels of the Lover brand archetype, the pros and cons, and characteristics.

Brand archetype Ally

brand archetype volkswagen ally

Volkswagen is the Ally among car brands

The brand archetype Ally always puts the success of its customers above its own honor and glory and excels during uncertain times. The Ally is a rock in the surf and has no trouble finding the right staff.

The brand archetype Ally fits well with brands that stand up for an ideal or serve a greater good. The brand acts as a champion, connector, or servant and always does what is necessary. And the right ally is, of course, invaluable. The main challenge for the Ally is to find the right balance between customer and self-interest.

A selfless ally can calmly build the trust that is the basis for years of cooperation. And by being clear about goals and ideals, the brand has an edge in the labor market. In addition, the Ally can often take a unique position in the market. Competitors clearly position themselves at the extremes of the market in terms of price or quality, the Ally can then take a unique ‘best of both worlds’ positioning.

Read everything about the brand archetype Ally