Using archetypes to define and articulate your brand

Using archetypes to define and articulate your brand

Tue, 15 Sep 2015

Articulating the essence of a brand is one of the great marketing challenges. While it is easy to list out the features and functional benefits of your organisation, it can be much harder to articulate what makes your brand distinctive.

At BrandMatters we often work with clients who have been trying to articulate their brand essence for years without success. Sometimes a circuit breaker is required in order to uncover a brand’s positioning – a different way of expressing the brand to get to an answer.

That’s where brand archetypes can be helpful.

Archetypes are symbols, metaphors or characters that are universally recognised. They sit at the heart of our culture, and indeed all cultures, and this is what makes them such a powerful tool.      Archetype theory says that all characters (or in this case, brands) can be understood relative to a universally intelligible system of personality classification.

At BrandMatters we use the brand archetype model derived from the work of Carl Jung. This model employs 12 discrete and culturally consistent personality types:

  • The Innocent
  • The Explorer
  • The Hero
  • The Sage
  • The Outlaw
  • The Magician
  • The Regular Guy / Girl
  • The Lover
  • The Jester
  • The Caregiver
  • The Creator
  • The Ruler

You can learn more about each archetype by downloading our brand archetypes fact sheet.

Archetypes can be useful in two ways:

Strategy

Anchoring your brand in an Archetype can help define your role/purpose…..your brand’s ‘reason for being’.  For example, defining our brand as a Sage suggests that it should be focused on bringing wisdom, knowledge and understanding to clients and stakeholders.

Execution

Fleshing out the defined brand archetype can help you express your brand in a way that is consistent, true and uniquely ownable.  For example, if we know our brand is a Sage, we can make a range of decisions about the way the brand is expressed, for example the tone of voice it should use in its communications (knowledgeable,  professional, not hyperbolic) or the types of employees that should represent the brand (knowledgeable, professional, not over-the-top or frivolous).

Download our Guide to Rebranding to gain a deeper understanding of the rebranding process, including archetypes and their role.

One of the great debates in relation to archetypes is whether a brand should be a single archetype, or a combination of archetypes.

Our view is that sometimes one archetype fits perfectly and enables us to be single-minded. However, in the majority of cases we believe that using just one archetype can be limiting and lead to unhelpful stereotypes. So in our processes we use secondary archetypes to help draw out the nuances that make our characters more real, multi-dimensional and believable.

For example, Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson are both Creators, but very different types of Creators.  Jamie is a Creator with a very strong element of the Regular Guy, while Nigella is a combination of the Creator and the Lover.

Brand archetypes can be a powerful tool when defining a brand’s positioning. We have developed an interactive workshop exercise that we often conduct with our clients and frequently find that identifying their archetype enables clients to understand their brand in a way that transcends the established (and often stereotyped) ways of thinking about categories. For example, in one recent project we used archetypes to help a major financial services brand articulate its point of difference.  They knew that they offered something quite distinctive but had been struggling to express this in a way that wasn’t clichéd, and archetypes provided the necessary inspiration and clarity to cut through years of debate.

For those looking for more detailed understanding, “The Hero and the Outlaw” by Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson is the definitive book on how archetypes can be used in branding.  And if you’d like to talk to us about how brand archetypes could help resolve your brand challenge, contact us for an initial discussion.

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