Brands are merely an extension of their founders’ or team’s personalities.

This “personality” is interlinked with the brand’s mission for existing, tone of communication, and methods of delivering value to its customers.

In other words, the brand personality (otherwise called the archetype) defines the story it tells the world about why it does what it does – and why they should believe in it.

Figuring out which archetype your brand fits into sets the foundation for your branding efforts.

It’s a basic exercise any agency will do when they have a new client on board, looking to create a logo, name, or entire branding strategy for their business (which is yet to be launched).

This infographic by Crowdspring helps you get a bird’s eye view of the twelve (12) common archetypes.

Here’s a similar infographic by Ogilvy. It goes into a bit of detail regarding which words are associated with each of the archetypes.

The archetypes are not just for theoretical understanding. They’ve come to define the entire communication approach & tonality of all the iconic brands we know & interact with today.

Brand archetypes also ensure you’re targeting & attracting the most suitable, convertible cohort of customers rather than shooting at everyone in the blind.

To better understand it, here’s what each of the archetypes actually means, and how the insight can be translated into action.

ArchetypeMeaningStrategy
OutlawRebels with a cause, Challenge status quo, Free to choose, Motivated to disrupt, LiberatorsBreak social norms in ads, build a cult following
CreatorValues design & aesthetics, Driven by imagination, Believe in self-expressionInspire customers, provide guidance to be creative
MagicianJourney of transformation through magical moments, Desire Power, Make dreams come trueAct as a means of escape from the ordinary
HeroSavior & redeemer, Full of courage & self-sacrifice, Motivated by victory, Prove one’s abilitiesHonor high-achievers & hard workers in your campaigns
LoverWant to be desired & praised, Like intimacy & blissful experiencesPortray sensuality & inner beauty (self-love)
JesterHave fun & live in the moment, Be Hilarious & cheer everyone upUse wit, humor, and puns in your content
EverymanYearning to belong & fit into community, Appeal to every common person, Warm but cordial & inclusive Show how everyone’s welcome & benefited by you
CaregiverSelfless personality, Driven to help others/those in need, Believe in caring & nurturingShow a sense of duty towards family, society, or causes
RulerDominant outlook, Desires control above all else, Confident & responsible Visualize luxury, respectable, and premium feel (status)
InnocentOptimistic & trusting outlook, Want everyone & themselves to be safe & happy, Pure & honestPromote wholesome, feel-good vibes in your messaging
SageSeeker of truth & knowledge, Want to learn about the world, Like to pass on their wisdomHigh-level vocabulary with homage to intelligence
ExplorerGo into the rugged unknown outdoors outside their comfort zone, Brave & adventurous, Self-explorationCelebrate the joy of doing something new & exciting

Here are real examples of each archetype.

  • Outlaw: MTV, Virgin, The Whole Truth Foods
  • Creator: Apple, Adobe, Pinterest, LEGO
  • Magician: Disneyland, Polaroid, Dior
  • Hero: Nike, Gatorade, FedEx
  • Lover: Godiva Chocolate, Chanel, Tiffany & Co.
  • Jester: Old Spice, Zomato, Heineken
  • Everyman: Target, IKEA, McDonald’s
  • Caregiver: Dettol, MTR Foods, Nestle, Unilever, WWF
  • Ruler: American Express, Rolex, Mercedes Benz
  • Innocent: Dove, Whole Foods
  • Sage: Harvard, Google, The Smithsonian
  • Explorer: NASA, NatGeo, Malbaro, JEEP

To understand the correlation between archetypes & strategy, take Apple as our example.

In 1997, they released the timeless ad “Here’s To The Crazy Ones.”

The ad didn’t speak about Apple’s products.

It only honored creative people who dared to change the world with their innovative ideas.

In doing so, Apple “positioned” itself as an Outlaw-cum-Creator archetype, and has consistently done so in its advertising.

You’ll seldom see Apple talking about familial values, or their duty to the environment, although both those elements form a small part of their communication nowadays.

But Apple at its core will always be an Outlaw/Creator brand made for innovative people only, and this fixated archetype gives customers a clear idea of how to view the company’s position or relevance in their lives – that’s the whole point.

Note that many of the businesses listed above can sit in more than one archetypes. There’s no hard & fast rule for it – the archetypes are not mutually exclusive but rather fluid in nature.

For example, McDonald’s has always positioned itself as a space where the entire family can hang out, especially the kids. It’s a fun place everyone loves.

So it can be counted as an Everyman, and also as a Caregiver as it undertakes the role of providing nourishment for your loved ones (whether that food is healthy is another debate).

In fact, there’s an interesting story about how the iconic yellow “Golden Arches,” which form the brand’s logomark, were preserved in the brand’s evolving designs to mimic a mother’s breasts, which provide nourishment for her babies.

Similarly, Dove is primarily The Innocent, but can also be treated as a Nurturer/Caregiver since it’s targeted towards women who want to care for their family’s skin, not just theirs.

The basic purpose of archetypes is to help marketers like you figure out your brand’s purpose for existing in this world, so that you can effectively communicate the mission through storytelling.

A focused storytelling strategy that has some supporting context & logic behind it (for example, the Founder’s personal story & mission) will result in higher recall & trust from your customers over time, provided you do it consistently.

So which type(s) does your business fall under?

Let’s discuss the reasoning in the comments!

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