The most successful brands are built upon archetypes. Archetypes are identifiable, primal forms of the human condition. They were first identified and named by psychologist Carl Jung in the early 20th century. But their forms existed long before in mythology and plays. They are desires for success which emerge in recognizable patterns. Today they’re passed down and exemplified through TV, movies, writings and even ads.
Most commonly we see them portrayed in film and television. Archetypes like Everyman, Hero or Rebel characters exemplify who we secretly desire to be or think we already are. We may even adopt behaviors to be more like these symbolic characters. Top brands realize this, and have been marketing accordingly. They want you to associate their products with these archetypal motifs, and through this association hope you adopt them into your own life.
Carl Jung identified 12 archetypes, and these 12 broke down into four ultimate goals. His original goals have been slightly altered for the purposes of marketing. The goals are Belonging, Stability and Control, Making a Legacy, and Freedom Through Exploration. These are the goals of potential customers. The brand is to act as a provider or pathway to achieving one of these goals. The brand does this by acting as a reflection of an archetype in order to connect with people who exhibit the same.
Everyman - this is a community and family focused archetype. The desire is to belong in the most general sense and to be accepted. A brand wanting to adopt this identity should focus on inclusion, empathy, simplicity, and being down to earth.
Example: In this ad for jeans, Wrangler tells you the jeans are for everyone and every situation while showing a diverse set of people. The situations are never high class and most of the people are shown belonging to a group or couple.
Lover - a more personal archetype, they desire to be desired. They seek commitment, indulgence and affection. To win this archetype, a brand must play to sensuality and pleasure. Products should either offer pleasure or be a path achieving it.
Example: Sensuality all throughout the commercial. Playing to senses of taste and touch. Overt wording to equate chocolate and sex. Soundtrack even includes a woman moaning in pleasure.
Jester - the fun-loving personality, Jesters like to be happy and make others happy. Brands exuding the same qualities of fun, comic timing and light-heartedness will appeal to Jesters. It should noted any comedy too surreal or mean-spirited could easily lose Jesters, if they lose the sense of belonging.
Example: An example of a brand adopting a targeted Jester archetype. By using surrealist comedians Tim & Eric, they’re appealing to Jesters who identify with their brand of humor. This can be a very strong bond to be so specific. It’s Purple Mattresses way of signaling, “we’re one of you.” However, this may be more alienating than not.
STABILITY AND CONTROL
Caregiver - the most obvious by name archetype; these people are supportive, helpful, and givers. In order to associate, a brand has to show they, too, help those in need. Charities and healthcare professions are the clear dominant brands, but other brands could use this archetype to differentiate themselves from competitors.
Example: The commercial featured is for a charity foundation. It shows those who have been given care and someone else giving. While not a direct commercial for McDonald’s, the branding is all over and McDonald’s benefits by differentiating themselves from competitors by being known as a caregiver.
Ruler - people of this archetype see themselves as the best of the best. Successful and authoritative, they need their brands to reflect the same message. The strategy for appealing to rulers is the opposite from the Everyman. Brands have to be superior and exclusive. Only the elite can be worthy of your brand.
Example: Imagery connotes celebrity, elite, and even presidential status while verbiage denotes singular, top of the class standing. It should be clear this car is for only the top 1%.
Creator - this archetype is concerned with bringing their vision to life. Brands have to express their ability to provide pathways to self-expression. Only the most free-form products that facilitate creation, not dictate use, will connect with this archetype.
Example: The focus in this ad is versatility, two-fold. Once to demonstrate the features of the computer showing choice in physical usage. Then again it ends by showing versatility in types of projects; not just art, but architecture, business, etc. This type of multi-layered control draws Creators in.
MAKING A LEGACY
Magician - hard to connect with, as most people in this archetype are interested in having the answers already. They look to wow those around them with their knowledge and transformative innovation. Brands are better served playing the role of Magician themselves and trying to transform the lives of others to form connections
Example: Very common for entertainment brands to play the role of Magician as it’s rare for people to understand everything going into making a production. A key phrase in this film trailer is “From the Imagination of Tim Burton” meaning Disney is actually selling Burton as the magician and everything you see are his tricks. The story of Dumbo itself is a bit of a meta and on-the-nose example as it’s about selling magic and mystique of a flying elephant. Not just to the circus audiences in the film, but also to us in the real world.
Hero - this archetype is empowered through courage, determination, tackling challenges and proving their worth. Brands wishing to connect with heroes have to show similar values. They have to be honest while showing people succeeding and achieving, inspiring the other heroes they wish to connect with.
Example: A literal challenge to be better than the best, so much so it erases predecessors. It holds even greater gravitas and honesty as Abby Wambach issues the challenge in her own words.
Rebel - rulebreakers and revolutionaries is the name of game for this archetype. Brands have to prove they’re not part of the status quo in order to gain the attention of the Rebel. Any product facilitating freedom or encouraging bucking the system will gain favor.
Example: Setting and imagery evoke rebellious attitudes. Even in a setting of punks, the female lead focus is set apart as an individual from the crowd. Key verbiage in calling the beer a “revolution.”
FREEDOM THROUGH EXPLORATION
Innocent - similar to the Everyman, Innocents are good natured and optimistic about life. They don’t have the need for belonging, though, and are more concerned with humility, safety, and happiness. Brands should reflect those concerns, as well as honesty. Anything negative will likely lose this archetype
Example: True Innocent archetypes are able to see and accept everyone’s right to life and desire for happiness. The honesty, positivity, and togetherness presented in this ad would appeal to an Innocent’s desire for everyone to get along.
Sage - these people are driven by the pursuit of knowledge and truth. Unlike Magicians, though, they wish to share knowledge with the world and have knowledge shared with them. For brands looking to connect with Sages, it’s best to avoid using simple-minded tactics. Brands need to showcase expertise and understanding at a high level; non-folksy appeals.
Example: Presented less of as an ad and more of a short film, it poses philosophical musings about what it means to make connections with people and the city. The ad has the high-minded concepts of truth seeking that would appeal to some Sage archetypes, although may be dismissed as fluff by those looking for more factual groundings. Armani is hoping artistic, intellectual Sages will draw connections to become buyers.
Explorer - similar to the Rebel, they like their freedom and dislike conformity. However, Explorers don’t look for revolution and confrontation. Also similar to the Hero in tackling challenges, but it’s not to prove themselves against others. They seek adventure and excitement, and brands should be able to facilitate it. Use the unknown and dangerous as a challenge for the Explorer.
Example: Features of this ad include unfamiliar, dangerous terrain, challenges being conquered, and uncommon use of a recognizable product. The ad lacks the human element a Rebel or Hero appeal would have as the Land Rover is merely a facilitator or tool for adventure.