Branding archetypes are mental frameworks that symbolize common human motivations, as well as our drives, desires, and goals. They are based on the work of psychologist, Carl Jung, who identified 12 major personality archetypes. You may see some sources offer slightly different names for them. Multiple names are given below to reduce confusion in case you may have seen them referred to by other titles.
Carl Jung’s Personality Archetypes
- Ruler (representing control, leadership)
- Creator or Artist (representing innovation, imagination)
- Sage (representing knowledge, wisdom, curiosity)
- Hero (representing mastery, courage, protecting)
- Everyman or Orphan (representing belonging, connecting)
- Explorer (representing freedom, new experiences)
- Rebel or Outlaw (representing liberation, revolution)
- Lover (representing intimacy, passion, harmony)
- Caregiver (representing service, empathy, compassion)
- Jester (representing pleasure, frivolity, humor)
- Magician or Wizard (representing power, transformation, magic)
- Innocent or Purist or Idealist (representing safety, happiness, dreamers)
Marketing strategists have long used these archetypes for branding. They help us understand and view the brand as a person with all the talents and flaws that accompany it. In branding, however, each archetype has been subdivided further into five sub-archetypes, making 60 total archetypes. They are outlined in great detail in the seminal book (and accompanying card set) on the subject, Archetypes in Branding.
So WHY do we need a brand archetype representing our company?
Glad you asked. Here are three great reasons:
- Comprehension: It’s easier to understand and relate to a brand with a clear story behind it. An archetype gives you a clear definition and tone of voice to write from, create around, and rally behind. Brands with clear archetypes are easy for the public and press to understand, feel a kinship with, and be loyal to. The press frequently mentions brands that have clear archetypes (like Uber and Apple) and ignores brands that take a lot of explaining. The more a brand can be seen as a person, the more people can relate to it. See 250+ examples below.
- Consistency: Along with comprehension, keeping the story consistent is the key to success. If your employees aren’t on the same page as leadership as fas as company vision, culture, etc. they won’t tell a consistent story. This leads to low morale, negative reviews on GlassDoor, good potential hires looking elsewhere, and lost revenue. We’ve done many branding exercises for companies where the answers given by leadership did not match the employee answers at all. That’s a recipe for disaster and a high turnover rate.
- Profit: Companies with clear archetypal stories are more profitable and this has been proven and tested numerous times.
The Complete List of Branding Archetypes and Sub-Archetypes:
The Five Ruler Archetypes
- Ruler | Ruler brands: Trump, Rolls Royce, British Airways, American Express, Rolex
- Sovereign | Sovereign brands: US Treasury Dept., Mercedes, Lloyds TSB, Cleopatra, Queen Elizabeth II, The Vatican
- Judge | Judge brands: Consumer Reports, Snopes, The Supreme Court, US SEC, Standard & Poor’s
- Ambassador | Ambassador brands: Oprah, Brooks Brothers, Nelson Mandala, Pocahontas
- Patriarch | Patriarch brands: IRS, Volvo, The Godfather, Winston Churchill, the Pope
The Five Creator Archetypes
- Creator | Creator brands: Walt Disney, Adobe, LEGO, Pinterest, Etsy, IDEO, HGTV
- Visionary | Visionary brands: Steve Jobs, Herman Miller, Pixar, TED, Le Corbusier, Buckminster Fuller
- Storyteller | Storyteller brands: William Shakespeare, Maya Angelou, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, The New Yorker, NPR
- Artist | Artist Brands: Instagram, Julia Child, MoMA, Crayola, Dolce & Gabbana
- Entrepreneur | Entrepreneur brands: Richard Branson, Tesla Motors, Y Combinator, Fast Company
The Five Sage Archetypes
- Sage | Sage brands: Jane Goodall, Deepak Chopra, RAND Corporation, The Smithsonian, Mayo Clinic, CNN, Wall Street Journal, Janus Fund
- Mentor | Mentor brands: Udemy, Linda.com, Dumbledore, Mint.com
- Detective | Detective brands: Sherlock Holmes, Da Vinci Code, Agatha Christie
- Shaman | Shaman brands: Alex and Ani, The Dalai Lama, Moses, Aleister Crowley
- Translator | Translator brands: Rosetta Stone, Walter Cronkite, McKinsey & Company, Common Craft
The Five Hero Archetypes
- Hero | Hero brands: Nike, US Army, Harry Potter, Hercules, Snickers
- Warrior | Warrior brands: Mothers Against Drunk Driving, America’s Most Wanted, King Leonidas,
- Athlete | Athlete brands: Michael Jordan, Adidas, Accenture
- Rescuer | Rescuer brands: Doctors Without Borders, Atticus Finch, Humane Society
- Liberator | Liberator brands: Martin Luther King, Jr., PayPal, Robin Hood, Joan of Arc, The Hague
The Five Everyman Archetypes
- Everyman | Everyman brands: Rachel Ray, AAA, Trader Joe’s, MetLife Insurance, Craigslist, GM, Tom Hanks
- Citizen | Citizen brands: TOMS Shoes, Chipotle, Habitat for Humanity
- Advocate | Advocate brands: MindBodyGreen, Harvey Milk, Acumen Fund, CREDO Mobile
- Servant | Servant brands: Ram Dass, Peace Corps, US Coast Guard
- Networker | Networker brands: Chris Anderson (TED Talks curator), LinkedIn, SalesForce, Malcolm Gladwell
The Five Explorer Archetypes
- Explorer | Explorer brands: Starbucks, PBS, Patagonia, Star Trek, Global Exchange, Red Bull, Corona, the North Face, Subaru
- Adventurer | Adventurer brands: James Bond, Han Solo, Clif Bar, REI
- Pioneer | Pioneer brands: Cousteau Society, NASA, SpaceX, Google Earth
- Generalist | Generalist brands: Leonardo da Vinci, Sony, General Electric, GOOD magazine
- Seeker | Seeker brands: National Geographic, Boy Scouts of America, Dian Fossey, Jonas Salk, Stephen Hawking
The Five Rebel Archetypes
- Rebel | Rebel brands: Diesel Jeans, Malcolm X, Banksy, Che Guevara, Muhammad Ali, Virgin
- Activist | Activist brands: Greenpeace, Occupy Wall Street, Sea Shepherd, Gloria Steinem, PETA
- Gambler | Gambler brands: Survivor (TV series), E*TRADE, Bitcoin
- Maverick | Maverick brands: Harley-Davidson, Levi Strauss, John Wayne, Iggy Pop, Peter Rabbit
- Reformer | Reformer brands: Ralph Nader, Rosie the Riveter, Mr. Spock, the EPA, Tea Party Movement, ACLU
The Five Lover Archetypes
- Lover | Lover brands: Chanel, Häagen-Dazs, Gucci, Estée Lauder, Nescafé, Victoria’s Secret, BMW
- Romantic | Romantic brands: Tiffany, Godiva, Pandora bracelets
- Companion | Companion brands: Lassie, Kiva.org, Guide Dogs of America
- Hedonist | Hedonist brands: Hugh Hefner, Burning Man, the City of Las Vegas, the god Pan, W Hotel
- Matchmaker | Matchmaker brands: eHarmony, DonorsChoose.org, TheDeal.com, Amélie (movie)
The Five Caregiver Archetypes
- Caregiver | Caregiver brands: Dove, Amnesty International, Allstate Insurance, Johnson & Johnson, Campbell’s Soup
- Guardian | Guardian brands: UNICEF, World Wildlife Fund, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America
- Samaritan | Samaritan brands: Salvation Army, Meals on Wheels, Goodwill, Guardian Angels
- Healer | Healer brands: Gandhi, Band-Aid, Betty Ford Center, Alcoholics Anonymous, Edgar Cayce
- Angel | Angel brands: American Red Cross, Sparkle Paper Towels, Mother Theresa, Princess Diana
The Five Jester Archetypes
- Jester | Jester brands: Tina Fey, IKEA, GEICO, Jon Stewart, Taco Bell, Skittles
- Entertainer | Entertainer brands: SNL, Nickelodeon, MTV, Frank Sinatra, Pandora Radio
- Clown | Clown brands: Ben & Jerry’s, Jim Carrey, Jack in the Box, Cadbury Creme Eggs, Bill Murray
- Provocateur | Provocateur brands: The Onion, Bill Maher, BareMinerals Cosmetics, Ze Frank, David Sedaris
- Shapeshifter | Shapeshifter brands: Cirque du Soleil, M.C. Escher, Professor Snape (Harry Potter), Anansi the Spider
The Five Magician Archetypes
- Magician | Magician brands: Polaroid, iPod, Xbox, Charmed, Merlin, Benjamin Franklin, Disney, AXE
- Alchemist | Alchemist brands: MAC Cosmetics, Nostradamus, David Blaine
- Scientist | Scientist brands: Genentech, Nikola Tesla, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Los Alamos National Laboratories
- Engineer | Engineer brands: Bill Gates, Dyson, Applied Materials
- Innovator | Innovator brands: Apple, Google, Tim Berners-Lee, IBM, Thomas Edison
The Five Innocent Archetypes
- Innocent | Innocent brands: Dove, Coca-Cola, Method, Annie’s Homegrown, Inc., Charmin, Avon
- Child | Child brands: VW, Nintendo Wii, Calvin & Hobbes, Hello Kitty
- Dreamer | Dreamer brands: Facebook, Anthropologie, Ode Magazine
- Idealist | Idealist brands: GoodGuide, Erica Jong, Abraham Maslow, John Lennon, Barack Obama
- Muse | Muse brands: The 9 Muses, Tumblr.com, WIRED, Muzli, BoredatWork, Instagram
All brands fit under one archetype, some more than once, but in any case, one archetype is always dominant and that is the one you use. The archetypes are fairly easy to determine based on the company’s culture, mission, and values.
We recently had a branding client that belonged under a sub-archetype. One of these client’s executives questioned whether or not that was the correct archetype. We reiterated the characteristics of the recommended sub-archetype and then began going through the other 59 archetypes. After about nine or ten of them, the executive stopped and agreed that yes, that archetype was the closest match to them.
The point is, a sub-archetype doesn’t mean your business is lesser in some way. The sub-level archetypes are equal in every way to the top archetypes. They simply have a specialization that differentiates them from the main archetype. After all, each top-level is also listed as a sub.
The difference, as we see it, is the top-level archetypes share more in common with the others and function as a unifying thread between each set of five. It’s like you. You have your personality, and you may share a lot in common with your parents, but it’s unlikely you are exactly like them.
As an example, all of the Innocent brands like Dove Soap, Snuggle, Method, Evian, Coca-Cola, share characteristics of each other: being happy, trying to do the right thing, being wholesome and pure, optimism, honesty, and simplicity. Each is a unique brand with its personality and approach, but each one is also clearly an Innocent brand.
Curious or confused about which brand archetype your company (or personal brand) fits in? Give us a shout. Whether it’s a quick call or a full branding exercise with your team, we can help you out.