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Brand Archetypes: What Are They And How They Can Build Your business

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Not all campaigns are created equal. Every business and the subsequent campaign they unleash onto the public will have a specific target audience in mind. What’s more, the content of that campaign will generate tailored thoughts, emotions or feelings based on who it is aimed at. Brand archetypes is a concept that looks to streamline this process, by identifying your target audience in greater detail. Here’s an overview of brand archetypes, what they are and how they can build your business.

What are brand archetypes?

The term brand archetypes was first coined by author Margaret Mark in the book ‘The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes’. Looking at branding as a whole, the book goes into detail about how companies (and their marketing) align themselves with particular types of people, known as ‘archetypes’. In total, 12 archetypes were identified which form the basis for many discussions about the topic since.

The 12 brand archetypes include hero, magician, rebel, explorer, sage, innocent, creator, ruler, caregiver, everyman, jester, and lover.

By understanding brand archetypes in greater detail, better marketing decisions can be made in response. After all, successful brands have a strong sense of identity. One that mirrors the hopes and aspirations of its customers. If a brand doesn’t know who they are truly aiming at (or who is most likely to buy their products) then the message will be missed and the campaign will likely fail.

Brand archetype examples

Every brand will tap into a different archetype. Taking ‘hero’ as an example. Think of all those you look up to such as movie or sports stars. If a brand is looking to channel the hero archetype, they want to empower their audience or motivate them in some way. It’s all about being upbeat and finding inner strength. A good match for the hero brand archetype would be a sports brand such as Nike, with the slogan of ‘Just Do It’, who have strong and powerful brand ambassadors within their advertising.

On the opposite end of the scale, ‘innocent’ is about pure, clear and simple advertising. While on the face of it innocent can seem quite dull (and it can be a marketing challenge to overcome this), there are many instances where innocent is the right approach. A good example is skincare companies that are targeted towards those with sensitive skin. They use clean packaging and are keen to highlight words such as ‘natural’ or ‘organic’. Customers of innocent brand archetypes are those who respond best to transparency, rather than flashy marketing gimmicks or even a humorous approach.

Each of the 12 brand archetypes has its own quirks. It’s not necessarily the case that each archetype solely responds to a certain personality. However, all companies are likely to align with certain values that specific personality types might have. Taking the ‘rebel’ as an example, this best fits with someone who is adventurous or outspoken. An extreme sports company would likely choose rebel as their brand archetype over ‘jester’ or ‘caregiver’. Having a clear idea of your audience will help define the right strategy as to which brand archetype would work best for your company.

How brand archetypes affect audience perceptions

When you are exposed to a product or service, you likely know within just a couple of seconds whether it’s for you or not. Brand archetypes need to be carefully selected because ultimately they will affect the audience’s perception of what you are offering them. Let’s say a sock company wanted to release a novelty line of their products. They’d most likely choose ‘jester’ as their brand archetype, due to the light-natured feel of the product. However, audience perception would be very different if the target audience was ‘everyman’ because novelty socks are very niche. It’s not the sort of thing people are going to wear to work or the gym. So misaligning the brand archetype would cause confusion for the customer.

Brand archetypes have the power to shape a marketing campaign beyond words and images alone. They can inspire us, empower us, entertain us and also reassure us. For marketers, it’s all about aligning exactly what you want to say to your customer. While “buy my product” is the ultimate message, it’s not just going to happen by saying it alone, rather by how you say it. Think of how a flashy car manufacturer will show clips of the car in the desert at top speeds. They aren’t looking to appeal to elderly drivers who want a cheap runaround car. Instead, there is a very clear brand archetype in mind for every successful piece of advertising you see. Audience perception is hugely tied to this.

Positioning your brand effectively

Whether you are a startup or your business has been around for decades – you have to know who it is you are aiming at to be able to identify your brand archetype. On a basic level that comes down to what emotion you want to provoke in those who are exposed to your marketing. It could well be the case that a brand appeals to several brand archetypes through different products and services they provide. Fragrance companies are a good example of this, as they can flip between brand messages of ‘strong and brave’ (rebel) to ‘sultry’ (lover) and even ‘generic’ (everyman). They do so by targeting each launch to a different archetype. When various brand archetypes are used by the same company, it can help appeal to multiple audiences.

When it comes to positioning your brand effectively, analysing your existing customer data can help. Things such as the age range, income, beliefs and interests all play a part in understanding what brand archetype would best suit your campaign. After all, the last thing you’d want to do is choose the wrong type. An example is making a humorous campaign (jester) for a product intended for healthcare professionals (caregiver). The theme of the message would communicate as intended, and in some cases, you could offend the audience too. So, you need to factor in your brand’s ethos and target customer in order to position yourself correctly.

To sum up

Brand archetypes might seem like a complex topic on the surface, but it’s really about getting to the heart of who your customers are and what they are best likely to respond to. Brands (and advertisers) should always look to hit the mark to ensure campaigns are successful. Targeting a specific brand archetype within this can be hugely helpful in ensuring the message is on point and speaks to the right people.

Want to find out more about brand archetypes or marketing as a whole? Imaginaire is a digital marketing and SEO agency based in Dubai, and we provide a wide variety of services to help craft your business message. Our core passion is to help businesses attract more leads through their website, so if that sounds like something your business would benefit from, be sure to get in touch.

Give us a call on 0115 971 8908 for help or advice.

I write about all things marketing and love to focus on data. You'll see topics from SEO and PPC to web design and CRO.

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