Humans are a funny bunch. We love to connect, even with not-people. That’s the only explanation for Spongebob Squarepants. We give non-humans and inanimate objects meaning and human characteristics so we can form relationships with them. There’s a $10 word for this: anthropomorphism. Stick that in your hat and pull it out at your next networking event.
When we anthropomorphize a company or organization, we tend to use brand archetypes. There are 12 general archetypes that mimic well-established characters from history, film and literature, and they’re used to convey a brand’s underlying personality. They stem from the work of psychologist Carl Jung, who described archetypes as “universal collective patterns of the unconscious.”
Hard truth: With more and more advertisers trying to dominate in the digital space, consumers are on information overload. This means they’re picky about who gets their attention. You want some? You need to figure out what makes you worthy—and that means more than just promoting a kick-butt product or service. You also need to have a brand story that connects deeply with your audience.
Some of the world's most beloved brands have figured this out. Coke inspires a sense of nostalgia and community. Patagonia says, “Let’s explore the world.” Victoria’s Secret awakens a woman’s inner seductress. Nike stirs motivation. Love Your Melon makes people feel like superheroes when they wear a beanie.
If you haven’t already, it’s time to get in touch with your brand’s inner Wonder Woman. Or Robin Hood. Or Christopher Columbus. Who are you really, and how can you convey that to your people? Here’s a good place to start: Meet the twelve archetypes.
Where does your brand fit?
The Creator’s strongest desire is to create something of enduring value and give form to a vision. Brands that encourage self-expression, help foster innovation and inspire creativity embody the Creator archetype.
Examples: Lego, Adobe, Canon
The Hero values courage and looks for ways to improve the world. Behind that flowing cape are brands that help people perform their best, address a social problem and motivate people to take action.
Examples: Nike, Duracell, U.S. Army.
The Outlaw (AKA the Rebel) is all about changing the status quo and getting rid of what’s not working. Brands that are trying to pioneer new and revolutionary attitudes as well as those willing to break the rules fall into this category.
Examples: Harley Davidson, Virgin, Diesel.
The Lover craves intimacy and/or sensual pleasure. It’s relationship-oriented and wants to help people find love as well as foster communication and connection between people. These brands offer joy, delight and indulgence.
Examples: Victoria's Secret, BMW, Godiva
The Everyman just wants to fit in. Unlike the Outlaw, the Everyman celebrates the status quo and finds beauty in everyday life. It’s all about connecting, belonging and bringing everyone together.
Examples: Gap, Levis, IKEA, Trader Joe's
Guided by the discovery of truth, the Sage encourages curiosity and emphasizes learning.
Examples: CNN, National Geographic, The Wall Street Journal
The Explorer wants to discover the world; it lives for adventure. Brands with Explorer traits are often those that help people feel free and motivate them to try new places.
Examples: The North Face, Subaru, Lonely Planet
“Don’t worry, be happy” is this archetype’s motto. The Innocent values hope, nostalgia and simplicity. Brands that are associated with goodness, morality and childhood fall into this category, and its voice is typically simple and straightforward.
Examples: Charmin, McDonald’s, Hello Kitty
The Ruler wants to create a thriving and successful family, company or community. Brands that enhance or promote power, help people get organized or promise safety and stability in an ever-changing world fit here.
Examples: Rolex, Microsoft, American Express
The class clown. The comedian. The life of the party. The Jester wants to live in the moment, have a great time and lighten things up. Brands that identify are those that make people laugh and embrace a fun-loving culture.
Examples: GEICO, Taco Bell, Skittles
The Caregiver’s aim is to help others. Whether it’s offering safety and protection, personable customer service or products/services that make the world a better place, Caregivers are often found in the healthcare, education and nonprofit industries.
Examples: Campbell's, Johnson & Johnson, TOMS shoes.
The Magician makes dreams come true. Brands that focus on creating an exceptional experience for consumers tend to channel this archetype.
Examples: Red Bull, Disney, Polaroid
One important thing to note: You can’t fake personality. If you want people to like you, you have to be authentic. You can’t just wake up one day and create a touchy-feely ad so that you’ll be perceived as a Caregiver; it has to be true to your core values and your company’s operating practices.
But the cool thing is, once you know who are—and communicate it effectively—your marketing will be more on point than it’s ever been. Your audience will connect with your brand story. And you’ll be able to carve out your own niche in a noisy, overcrowded marketplace. Trying to find yourself? We can help—shoot us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.