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Brand Archetypes: Understanding the 12 Personalities Behind Successful Brands

Updated: Sep 18, 2023


Carl Jung Portrait. Brand Archetypes: Understanding the 12 Personalities Behind Successful Brands
Carl Jung Portrait. Creator: Paul Popper/Popperfoto via Getty Images Copyright: 2008 Getty Images

In today's world, branding is critical to any successful business strategy. Brands play a crucial role in shaping the perception of a company's products and services, and how they are viewed by customers. But what is a brand, exactly? And how can a company build a successful brand strategy that resonates with its target audience?


One way to understand the essence of a brand is through the concept of brand archetypes. These are universal, symbolic characters or personas that represent a brand's core traits, values, and aspirations. The idea of brand archetypes can be traced back to Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychologist who developed the theory of archetypes in psychology.


Jung believed that archetypes are innate, universal, and unconscious patterns of behavior, symbols, and myths that exist within the collective unconscious of human beings. He identified 12 archetypes that are present in every culture, society, and individual psyche. These archetypes reflect the basic human desires, fears, motivations, and values that shape our thoughts, emotions, and actions.


The 12 archetypes of Jung are:

  • The Innocent

  • The Explorer

  • The Sage

  • The Hero

  • The Outlaw

  • The Magician

  • The Regular Guy/Girl

  • The Lover

  • The Jester

  • The Caregiver

  • The Creator

  • The Ruler

Each archetype has a unique personality, story, and set of characteristics that can be used to create a distinctive brand identity and messaging. Let's take a closer look at each archetype and some examples of brands that embody them.


The Innocent

The Innocent archetype represents purity, simplicity, and optimism. It is childlike, hopeful, and unspoiled by the world's complexities. Brands embodying this archetype aim to evoke nostalgia, trust, and authenticity. Examples of Innocent brands include Coca-Cola, Disney, and McDonald's.

Disney - Brand Archetypes: Understanding the 12 Personalities Behind Successful Brands

The Explorer

The Explorer archetype represents freedom, adventure, and discovery. It is curious, and adventurous, and seeks to explore new frontiers. Brands that embody this archetype aim to inspire exploration, innovation, and self-discovery. Examples of Explorer brands include GoPro, Jeep, and Red Bull.

Red Bull - Brand Archetypes: Understanding the 12 Personalities Behind Successful Brands
Sponsored by Red Bull, Felix Baumgartner accomplished the almost impossible by jumping from the stratosphere.

The Sage

The Sage archetype represents wisdom, knowledge, and insight. It is analytical, and objective, and seeks to understand the world's mysteries. Brands that embody this archetype aim to provide expertise, education and thought leadership. Examples of Sage brands include Harvard University, TED, and National Geographic.


The Hero

The Hero archetype represents bravery, courage, and achievement. It is noble, determined, and seeks to overcome challenges and obstacles. Brands that embody this archetype aim to inspire greatness, leadership, and success. Examples of Hero brands include Nike, Apple, and BMW.


The Outlaw

The Outlaw archetype represents rebellion, freedom, and nonconformity. It is rebellious, provocative, and seeks to challenge the status quo. Brands that embody this archetype aim to disrupt norms, challenge authority, and promote individuality. Examples of Outlaw brands include Harley-Davidson, Virgin, and Diesel.

Harley Devidson - Brand Archetypes: Understanding the 12 Personalities Behind Successful Brands
Photo by Tim Huber.

The Magician

The Magician archetype represents transformation, magic, and mystery. It is imaginative, and visionary, and seeks to create new realities. Brands that embody this archetype aim to create wonder, enchantment, and inspiration. Examples of Magician brands include Disney, Tesla, and Airbnb.


The Regular Guy/Girl

The Regular Guy/Girl archetype represents authenticity, reliability, and familiarity. It is down-to-earth, unpretentious, and seeks to connect with the everyday person. Brands that embody this archetype aim to create a sense of belonging, comfort, and approachability. Examples of Regular Guy/Girl brands include Levi's, McDonald's, and Budweiser.


The Lover

The Lover archetype represents passion, intimacy, and sensuality. It is romantic, and emotional, and seeks to connect deeply with others. Brands that embody this archetype aim to evoke feelings of love, desire, and beauty. Examples of Lover brands include Victoria's Secret, Godiva, and Chanel.


The Jester

The Jester archetype represents humor, playfulness, and irreverence. It is lighthearted, entertaining, and seeks to make people laugh. Brands that embody this archetype aim to create a sense of fun, joy, and entertainment. Examples of Jester brands include Doritos, Old Spice, and Geico.


The Caregiver

The Caregiver archetype represents compassion, nurturing, and generosity. It is selfless, caring, and seeks to help others. Brands that embody this archetype aim to provide support, comfort, and care. Examples of Caregiver brands include Johnson & Johnson, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and TOMS.


The Creator

The Creator archetype represents innovation, imagination, and originality. It is artistic, and visionary, and seeks to express itself through creativity. Brands that embody this archetype aim to inspire creativity, imagination, and originality. Examples of Creator brands include LEGO, Apple, and Etsy.


The Ruler

The Ruler archetype represents power, authority, and control. It is ambitious, dominant, and seeks to lead and govern. Brands that embody this archetype aim to create a sense of prestige, luxury, and exclusivity. Examples of Ruler brands include Rolex, Mercedes-Benz, and Louis Vuitton.


Why Brand Archetypes Matter in Business Strategy

Brand archetypes provide a powerful framework for building a brand strategy that resonates with customers and differentiates from competitors. By identifying the core traits, values, and aspirations of a brand, businesses can create a consistent and compelling brand identity that speaks to the hearts and minds of their target audience.

For example, a brand that embodies the Explorer archetype can create a messaging strategy that highlights the thrill of adventure, the joy of discovery, and the freedom of exploration. This messaging can be used to create a unique selling proposition that differentiates the brand from its competitors and appeals to customers who value innovation and risk-taking.


Similarly, a brand that embodies the Caregiver archetype can create a messaging strategy that highlights the importance of empathy, compassion, and social responsibility. This messaging can be used to create a unique selling proposition that differentiates the brand from its competitors and appeals to customers who value philanthropy and community involvement.


In addition to messaging strategy, brand archetypes can inform other aspects of business strategy, such as product development, pricing, distribution, and customer service. For example, a brand that embodies the Ruler archetype may focus on creating high-end products that are priced at a premium and sold through exclusive channels. A brand that embodies the Creator archetype may focus on product innovation and design excellence. A brand that embodies the Innocent archetype may focus on creating products that are simple, trustworthy, and easy to use.


How Carl Jung Influenced Brand Archetypes

The concept of brand archetypes was popularized by Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson in their book "The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes." However, the origins of the idea can be traced back to Carl Jung, the Swiss psychologist who developed the theory of archetypes in psychology.

Jung believed that archetypes are universal, symbolic characters or personas that exist n the collective unconscious of all human beings. He identified archetypes such as the Hero, the Mother, the Wise Old Man, and the Trickster, which represent fundamental patterns of human behavior and experience.


Jung's work on archetypes has been influential in a variety of fields, including literature, art, and marketing. By tapping into archetypes, brands can create a deep emotional connection with their customers and convey complex ideas and values in a simple and intuitive way.


In conclusion, brand archetypes offer a powerful framework for building a brand strategy that resonates with customers and differentiates from competitors. By identifying the core traits, values, and aspirations of a brand, businesses can create a consistent and compelling brand identity that speaks to the hearts and minds of their target audience. The 12 archetypes of branding – Innocent, Explorer, Sage, Hero, Outlaw, Magician, Regular Guy/Girl, Lover, Jester, Caregiver, Creator, and Ruler – offer a rich and diverse set of personalities that can be used to create a unique and meaningful brand story. Understanding the influence of Carl Jung on this concept is also important to fully grasp the power of brand archetypes in branding and marketing strategies.

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