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Understand who you are: Brand Archetypes

The holy grail for many brands is a deep connection with the audience. Building loyalty, creating raving fans and being part of their lives.


This is what makes a brand far more than a business, far more than the transactional relationship that commerce is based on.


The transaction is still the end goal, but a brand doesn’t just give goods or services in return for money, a brand takes the audience on a journey of discovery, building a bond and turning that bond into advocacy.


So many brands do this well. You might love Marmite, or will never switch from your iPhone despite maybe feeling it could be better – these brands have your loyalty.


Great brands have personalities, and to understand them it’s useful to view them through the lens of archetypes.


What is an archetype?


Time for some psychology.


Carl Jung defined 12 personality types. He believed we all have a “collective unconscious” that channels memories and impulses, that is common to mankind as a whole and is separate to our personal unconscious which is shaped by our experiences.


These archetypes are designed to reflect those and make the assumption that most humans will fall into at least one of these categories.


Many others have written about archetypes. In their 2001 book “The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes”, Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson write about how “Archetypes are the heartbeat of a brand” – they convey a meaning that makes audiences relate to a product as if it were alive in some way.


They also talk about the relevance of Jung’s work in applying archetypes to brands:

Psychiatrist C.G. Jung helped his clients connect with their deeper selves and, in so doing, with their callings and values through the individuation process. Similarly, the process of Archetypal Branding helps clients identify the deep human truth underlying their products, services, corporations, and causes and to bring this meaning alive in a way that forms unassailable connections with both internal and external audiences. — Margaret Mark



Jung believed that each of us have one dominant architype that dominates our personality:



The theory behind these archetypes is that they are pre-programmed into our subconscious, and this is what makes them a powerful tool in connecting with audiences.


Let’s look at two examples:



Ikea sometimes pulls on the playful and the fun with their advertising – this is part of what helps make them memorable and distinctive.

But it’s their products’ practicality and ability to fit into our everyday lives that makes Ikea who they are.

I mean, the clue is in their latest strapline:

The Wonderful Everyday

This fits them nicely in to “The Everyman” archetype. They are friendly, humble and authentic.





It’s just chocolate, right?

Confectionary brands have some of the strongest identities – after all, how else do you distinguish one sugary sweet chocolate product from another…

M&M’s are just one of the many brilliant examples of a chocolate brand that knows who they are. Whether you’re walking into one of their playful stores, where you can literally be like a kid in a sweet shop, or catching one of their hilarious ads on TV – it’s unmistakably M&M’s.

But ultimately, they stand for fun, lacing them nicely in “The Jester” archetype.


How can we use these archetypes?


To avoid being another business competing on price, benefits and features, a brand needs to connect with its audience on a deeper level.


A brand needs a strong personality, with passion, values and communications that back this up.


Now, it’s easy to argue that humans are far more nuanced than just 12 personality types and that many of the example brands within each archetype example in this article are up for discussion – and we agree. It’s not a perfect system.


However, at Epix we use Brand Archetypes typically in two scenarios:


1) when working with start-ups who are still finding their feet,

2) when working with established businesses who perhaps ran with a product or service they know well, but need to more fully understand the connection to their audience.


This tool will also often be paired with brand value-building exercises and/or customer persona creation. Simply selecting a brand archetype to align to will not be enough.

Brands don’t need to align to an archetype – we often use these a thought-provoking tool, as a means to get teams, boards and business owners to really start to think about how their passion and meaning resonates with their audience.


They are also useful in understanding the concept that a brand is a controllable asset, separate to its owners and the business, and that a brand is an asset that can be moulded to create differentiation in a market.


This is where the power of Brand Archetypes lies.


The Archetypes


If you’re relatively new to the concept of branding in this way, explore these Brand Archetypes and compare how your own feelings toward a brand match these 12 personality types. Then compare popular, competing brands and see if they both fit the same archetype– sometimes their products are very similar, but their brand personalities are very different.


Maybe compare the brand you work with, with that of your competitors. If you find there isn’t much to differentiate them, get in touch – we can help to create real distinctiveness.





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