Forget Brand Archetypes…Try This
Let’s talk about brand archetypes! (And why we don’t use them.)
You see, some shmo invented them at some point and somehow they became the pet rock.
Ok, ok – it was Carl Jung and he was no shmo.
And really they’re genius (good for Carl ?)
We don’t find them useful when working on brands.
They’re way too broad and leave too much to the imagination to actually be useful for us simple minded folk who need concrete guidelines and actionable ideas.
Just to catch you up, here’s the deal on brand archetypes:
Carl Jung stated (rightfully) that there are characters – basic archetypal traits – that repeat over and over in people, cultures, myths, etc.
He classified 12 of these archetypes: The Innocent, Everyman, Hero, Outlaw, Explorer, Creator, Ruler, Magician, Lover, Caregiver, Jester, and Sage.
He (or someone) then defined the traits of each one.
The Innocent: Exhibits happiness, goodness, optimism, safety, romance, and youth.
The Magician: Wishes to create something special and make dreams a reality, the Magician is seen as visionary and spiritual.
Then someone else applied these concepts to building brands that have these as core traits.
So if you’re Coca Cola maybe you’re The Innocent.
If you’re Old Spice maybe you’re The Jester.
So that all makes sense right?
Here’s the rub.
It’s easy to slap an archetype onto a brand that’s been around for 100 years.
How does all this translate into something meaningful for YOUR business?
Your “brand experience” is made of assets not just ideas.
And your brand personality is defined by copy and design.
Even if, let’s say, you identify with The Magician.
Are all your employees going to wear pointy hats now?
Are you going to start talking to people like Dumbledorf and cast magic spells upon your customers?
Will you start using thy and thou instead yours and you?
So here’s a proposal.
IMHO it’s a more appropriate, modern and useful way to get at your brand personality.
Come up with your own archetype based on a person you know or aspire to be like.
See, brands can and should have a personality.
Having a tone of voice, for example, and speaking to people in a particular way really helps people connect to you.
It’s actually the thing people love when they love brands.
It’s an energy, a presence people either aspire to be like, or want to be around.
I personally don’t want to connect with The Magician or The Innocent.
(And I’m not Joseph Campbell, who I love, but who was not a brand strategist!)
So the best way to build a brand personality is to base it on an actual personality.
A character with a distinct voice who could act as a spokesperson for your brand.
That character could be the founder of the company, someone you actually know, or a character from a movie or other media.
Then that character becomes your brand archetype.
To show you what I mean, I’ve come up with 10 of my own archetypes.
You’ll recognize them immediately because they are all already present in our consciousness.
Once you read through them, you’ll quickly recognize what they stand for which is important because the more quickly people recognize the character, the quicker they understand what you’re about.
If you were our client, this is what we’d be working on to define your brand personality.
We’d create an authentic, engaging tone of voice that stays consistent throughout your digital presence.
Here are some starter archetypes:
The Frat Boy – Dollar Shave Club
The Frat boy is a mostly male archetype. He’s the cool guy with a heart of gold who’s confident enough to tell it like it is. He’s funny, charming, off the cuff, irreverent, likes to have a good time, and always there for his “bros”.
The Bad Boy – Tucker Max
He’s a man of few words and short sentences. He says only what needs to be said and gets on with it. He flies in the face of “the system” he tries to break preconceived notions about anything and everything.
The Marilyn – Victoria’s Secret
She’s sultry, sexy with a touch of cute. She’s the seductress that doesn’t take it all too seriously. Think of the many sides of Marylin Monroe.
The Good Girl – Honest Company
Feminine, lovely, like a breath of fresh air on a warm night. A comforting voice through the toughest times.
The Tina Fey – Goop, Spanx
Snarky, educated, sharp witted, a bit nerdy and always in her own lane. Creative metaphors abound and she always knows what she wants, even if she doesn’t.
The Ash Ambirge – The Middle Finger Project
Ash Ambirge is a marketing copywriter who swills vodka and curses like a sailor. Imagine your hard drinking old aunt Evelyn who preaches words of wisdom from behind a martini glass. She’s a no holds barred sort of off the cuff writer who’s tone-of-voice is unique enough to be it’s own archetype. A bit AbFab if you know that one.
That Happy Jim (or Jane) – Walmart
Usually male but can also be female, this is a voice you hear often on TV commercials. It’s nondescript, has very little unique personality, but is always excited about whatever they’re pitching. He (or she) is simple, happy, excited and consistent.
Old Cowboy – Dodge, Folgers
He’s been there, done that. He’s watched herds of buffalo stampede across the plains, fought grizzlies in the Dakotas and slept under the stars. He’s a man’s man, a uniquely American hero from a bygone era.
Grandma in the Kitchen – Sara Lee
We wake up to the smell of fresh baked cookies and apple tarts. Grandma’s in the kitchen cooking and baking up a storm. Always kind with a bit of dry wit and sage wisdom.
Teen Heartthrob – iHeart Radio
Male or Female – the teen heartthrob is full of youthful, exuberant energy. No matter what they’re doing, they’ll sell it to you like its’ “totally, the best thing ever.” Think millenial on crack.
So when you looked over those, did you feel like you knew those people? Even if you didn’t know the name or reference – didn’t you just get a feeling like you’ve met that person before?
We want to be distinct, but also familiar.
I recommend spending some time on this.
Then practice writing in that voice.
And when you communicate, imagine that it’s the brand personality speaking and do a bit of role playing..
It can really ratchet up the strength of your message.
Thou Shalt Use Thy Power Wisely!!!.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]
- Start at the top to read about brand archetypes
- Read about the basics of brand identity
- Read about how the a positioning statement works into the elements of a brand strategy