Why Do Brands Built Around Archetypes Work?
Human beings yearn for connection. We personify everything we interact with. We see faces in clouds, rocks, and electrical outlets that aren't really there. We search for patterns in behavior not because we want to, but because we have to--it's in our biology. We search for the archetype we relate to most. This is how we were built, how we've evolved, and I'm mighty thankful for it, because if it weren't for our enduring need to connect and to see patterns, we certainly wouldn't be where we are today.
In 1919, Carl Jung coined the term "Archetype" to first describe what he called the "dominants of the collective unconscious." These archetypes form the dynamic frameworks common to all of humanity-- universal to all cultures, all time, and all places. Jung observed that each individual was predisposed to a set of traits (an "unconscious personality," if you will) on which his or her own experiences would further build upon and color (the resulting "conscious personality"). Each "set of traits" were shaped by observed patterns in his studies that he distilled into a list of personality types.
Archetypes work because they're universal and speak directly to our core. We already know and trust their stories.
Today, 12 distinct archetypes exist to describe these unique patterns in human behavior. Here's a quick summary of the 12:
The Creator lives to craft something new, not just for the sake of crafting something new, but as a means to further provide structure and order in the world. The Creator's dream is to create something that helps others create. Apple, Adobe, Lego, and Crayola embody the Creator brand with their own flare, and they do so very well.
The Caregiver lives to provide care, love, and support to others. Caregivers are selfless, always placing the needs of others ahead of their own. They create structure in the world by providing assistance to people whenever they need it, often going the extra mile without hesitation. Key brand examples of Caregivers are Dove, J&J, Allstate, and Nordstrom, for their impeccable customer service and focus.
The Ruler lives to be powerful. Rulers are bent on exerting control and forcing chaos to bend to their will. Some fantastic ruler brands include American Express, Rolex, and Hugo Boss.
The Jester strives to live life in the moment. The Jester just wants to have fun with whatever they're doing at the moment. Jester brands are pretty easy to pick out--they tend to have the most humorous ads. Great Jester brands include Geico, Old Spice, and Skittles.
The Everyman contends that everyone is created equal. The Everyman believes that no matter who you are, where you come from, what you believe, that you deserve the same amount of kindness and respect as everyone else. Wendy's has always been an Everyman brand (think of the days when the Dave Thomas cut-out personally greeted you at every Wendy's line, telling you that, yes, you do deserve restaurant quality burger without the restaurant price). I've been enjoying the latest Everyman spin they've put on their Twitter account. Ikea, eBay, and Trader Joe's also embody an Everyman brand, but not as humorously as Wendy's has been doing it.
The Lover believes that you're their one and only. Lovers want to engage the senses, but not just anyone's senses, your senses. Victoria's Secret comes to mind as an easy one, but Haagan-Daz does a pretty fantastic job of encapsulating the Lover as well, through the taste of their silky smooth ice creams in perfectly-portioned sizes.
Sure, the Hero saves lives, but more importantly, heroes inspire action through their courage. The Hero embodies the phrase, "where there's a will, there's a way." The hero is courageous and rids the world of weakness and builds a following of other heroes-to-be behind them. Brands that fit the Hero archetype are Duracell, Nike, and Fedex.
The Outlaw blazes its own path. They believe that rules are made to be broken, and they always question authority. You can't fence them in. Harley-Davidson and Diesel are, without a doubt, great examples of the Outlaw.
The Magician just makes things happen. Magician rids the world of unanticipated negative consequences by surprising you with a solution that just...happens. Magicians make people ooh and aww. Disney is a classic example of a magician, but Dyson does a good job of it as well (who knew vacuums could be so magical?).
The Innocent symbolizes hope and happiness. The Innocent promotes community and hopes to renew and retain faith. Coke is the most powerful Innocent brand in the world. When you drink a Coke, all of your troubles and worries just seem to fade away. Share a Coke, and you invite a friend to a moment's peace along with you. In this crazy world, we need all the moment's peace we can get.
The Explorer is a pioneer. Explorers live to journey, discover, and they always look beyond today's reality. Explorers aren't afraid to get their hands dirty if it's in service of a brilliant discovery. North Face, REI, and NASA are three brands that encapsulate the Explorer.
The Sage symbolizes wisdom, and they pride knowledge above all else. The Sage strives to understand their world. Good Sages seek to share that knowledge with you any way that they can. National Geographic, Discovery, and IBM embody the wise Sage.
First Impressions are Everything
When there's a disconnect between your brand and your audience, you may do a great deal of injustice to your product or service. Your message may be confusing, people may not be sure what you do, and why it matters. The end result may be to dismiss your brand, and when your brand has been initially dismissed, it can be hard to escape that bad reputation and try to rebuild it. To avoid this, all you need to do is build a brand that people trust and already know and start with archetypes.