Which of the 12 Brand Archetypes Fit Your Business?

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Adopting an archetype isn’t a requirement to designing a brand, per se, but it’s something you’ll likely end up doing by accident if you start designing a brand persona from scratch. 

These archetypes reveal a set of behavior patterns, desires, motivations, and values that are entirely human. They’ve withstood the test of time, even forming the basis for many famous personality testing tools, like those developed by Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers.

Every brand strives to be authentic and, in order to resonate with people, you must design a persona that’s realistic, consistent, and relatable. By beginning with an understanding of these archetypes, you’ll be able to develop a natural brand persona very quickly and avoid common pitfalls (like contradictory values) along the way.

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Where Did The 12 Archetypes Come From?

Throughout the late 19th-century, psychiatrist Carl Jung often collaborated with Sigmund Freud, a widely known psychoanalyst. They even co-created The Interpretation of Dreams, a famous work from 1899. However, Jung eventually came to disagree with Freud’s approach to understanding human behavior and personality. Naturally, Jung decided to go his own way, which led to the creation of the “Jungian archetypes” in 1919. 

“Jung looked at areas of the mind that constitute the psyche, and the way in which they influenced one another. He distinguished the persona, or the image of ourselves that we present to the world, from our shadow, which may be comprised of hidden anxieties and repressed thoughts. Jung also noted … a collective unconscious, a set of memories and ideas that is shared amongst all of humanity … and surface in our culture – in myths, books, films and paintings,” explains Psychologist World.

Jung’s archetypes remain influential in modern psychology, to the point that we’ve since derived 12 widely accepted archetypes from his original model. The point to remember is that archetypes do not try to describe the deeper intricacies of anyone, but instead represent “[t]he idea that we project in our personas not our true personality but an aspirational, idealised version of who we would like to be.”

So, let’s dive in to these 12 archetypes and explain how they apply to branding. 

The Archetypes of Freedom 

This first group of archetypes is connected to growth, learning, and knowledge. These archetypes represent people and brands that inspire positivity and possess an optimistic outlook. These archetypes yearn for a better world and they value freedom of expression. 

1. The Innocent 

There’s beauty in simplicity and purity is worth protecting.

The innocent archetype is simplistic, even naive. A child-like viewpoint brings joy and wonder to every situation. Innocent brands try to pass on positivity through the work they do, but they tend to shy away from innovation. This archetype isn’t the kind to make waves, so innocent brands avoid controversial ideas and topics. 

Innocent brands promote purity as their best trait and they often pull inspiration from nature. This archetype is commonly seen representing soaps, organic foods, and baby care products. The water brand, FIJI, is an excellent example of an innocent brand. FIJI calls to mind fresh, clean, and pure, telling the story of how their water filters through ancient volcanic rock and remains “Untouched By Man until you open the cap.”

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2. The Sage

Preserving and sharing knowledge is the greatest responsibility of all.

The sage archetype is driven by an insatiable desire for knowledge. Sage brands seek out the truth wherever they can find it and they empower individuals by sharing their knowledge with the world. 

Sage brands often become authorities in their industry because they offer highly detailed and trustworthy resources. Sage brands respect the intellect of others and they demand respect in return by investing in research, studies, and knowledge sharing. 

Like many educational institutions, Harvard University is a sage brand. Harvard uses its status as an Ivy League school, with history dating back to 1636, to position itself as a leader in world-class education. Ranked as the world’s top university, the research that comes out of Harvard is highly regarded and Harvard alumni are met with incredible opportunities–a clear indicator of Harvard’s prominence.

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3. The Explorer

When you believe there’s a better way, you must forge the path.

The explorer archetype is defined by its independent thinking. Explorer brands tend to have a sharp vision, but their trailblazing philosophy is often the most prominent trait regardless of the industry they’re in. Explorer brands inspire people to follow them because of their commitment to innovation and change. 

Explorer brands often call themselves “disruptive,” and they are excited to shake things up and break tradition. However, explorer brands do not set out to break rules for the sake of it–they’re always purposeful in their pursuits and they’re on a mission to see if there’s a better destination or, at least, a better road to get there. 

NASA is a great example of an explorer brand, pioneering ways to conquer “the final frontier” and partnering with many other exciting brands, such as Space X, in order to do it. Jeep is also an explorer brand, although that persona is changing as they continue expanding beyond their original military-esque designs with off-road focus toward the development of family SUVs. 

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The Archetypes of Legacy

These next few archetypes aren’t afraid to take risks to get to where they want to be. They never stray from their beliefs and they always have the courage to say “This is possible,” especially in the face of adversity. More than anything, they want to make an impact on the world.

4. The Hero

You can overcome any challenge if you believe in yourself.

The hero archetype always rises to the occasion, seeking to inspire the brave and protect the innocent. Hero brands want to see customers rise to their fullest potential, which is why you’ll often find the Hero archetype in the sports and fitness industry.

Hero brands tell people that they can be triumphant in the face of adversity as long as they don’t give up. These brands say no challenge is too hard to overcome and that you have the power to succeed. Hero brands take pride in empowering people with courage and confidence. Nike is a fantastic example of a hero brand and they sum it up perfectly in their motto, “Just do it.”

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5. The Rebel

Question the status quo, break all the rules, and never fall silent.

The rebel archetype believes that rules are meant to be broken and that the status quo should always be questioned. When everyone else is falling in line, the rebel is moving against the current. Sometimes the rebel acts with a cause, but oftentimes they undermine the norm just to disturb the natural order of things. 

Rebel brands tend to romanticize the concept of an “outlaw,” painting the picture of a thrill-seeking, risk-taking lifestyle where the outlaw always come out on top. They always turn heads, never take orders, and they demand respect everywhere they go. 

Oftentimes, a rebel brand’s appeal is based more on the culture than the product. Rebel brands tap into the everyday consumer’s desire to go rouge. For example, most people who ride a Harley-Davidson spend their week at the office–a stark contrast to the risky and thrilling lifestyle that’s sold in the ads.

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6. The Magician

There’s still a little magic left to be found, so never stop dreaming.

The magician archetype is characterized by access to powerful, secret information. They take an innovative approach to problem solving and they make it seem like magic. Magician brands focus on offering a wondrous and often luxurious customer experience. 

Magician brands tend to be seen as one-of-a-kind–there’s nothing that could compare to the “magic” they create. Disney is the first example that comes to mind, with highly personalized services that seek to make everyone’s visit unforgettable. Dyson is also a magician brand that “transforms” every day appliances into technological innovations that perform and excite.

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The Archetypes of Connection

These next few archetypes are primarily driven by a set of distinct values that impact how they see and interact with the world. Above anything, these archetypes seek to form connections with those around them by being honest, relatable, and welcoming.

7. The Everyman

What matters most is practicality, hard work, and doing the right thing.

The everyman archetype is anything but pretentious. This wholesome, relatable archetype is down-to-earth and seeks to appeal to wide audiences. Everyman brands stay away from luxury, instead offering reliability and value that appeals to hard working people everywhere.

Everyman brands offer a sense of authenticity, trust, and comfort. Customers know and love an everyman brand because they’re friendly and familiar. So, the everyman archetype is a common face for consumer services and products, including insurance–“Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.”

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8. The Jester

Keep laughing and playing because life is too short to grow old.

The jester archetype is perfectly embodied by the class clown or the guy who’s always ready to crack a joke in a tense meeting. Jester brands want to make people smile, and their noncontroversial, lighthearted, and creative nature draws people in. 

Jester brands never take life too seriously. They live in the moment because they understand that life is short and we have to make the most of it. These brands help people connect with their inner child and they provide a sense of belonging. These brands tend to have the most memorable campaigns because they think like no one else–think Old Spice, M&Ms, and Dollar Shave Club. 

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9. The Lover

Sensuous and emotional experiences are what make life special.

The lover archetype is often associated with romance, but lover brands can deal with all types of love–the love of family, the love of friends, and the love of oneself. 

Lover brands seek to build connections and strengthen relationships. These brands want people to get in touch with the emotions and sensations that make life special, and they often provide products, services, or experiences to help. 

DOVE® Chocolate aims to create a special, savory moment anytime with melt-in-the-mouth sweets, making it a very innocent example of a lover brand. Meanwhile, Victoria’s Secret markets sexy lingerie and intoxicating fragrances, putting them on the seductive end of the scale.

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The Archetypes of Structure 

This final group of archetypes derive stability and direction from their beliefs. Without these archetypes, the world would lack structure as rebels seek anarchy and jesters seek non-stop fun. These archetypes help hold people, problems, and circumstances in balance.

10. The Caregiver

If we act with compassion, we can solve all problems.

The caregiver archetype believes that compassion is the key to a better world. In its ideal form, this archetype is altruistically motivated, taking the stance of “compassion at all costs” and doing the right thing, even if it means foregoing profits or self-gain.

Caregiver brands foster trust and garner support by offering a feeling of safety–they can take on a very motherly persona. Caregiver brands are often charitable, but for-profit businesses have successfully adopted this archetype, especially those in the field of healthcare, cleaning, and education. 

Campbell’s Soup is a caregiver brand, putting forward a persona that’s comforting and reassuring, which is exactly what someone needs when they’re tired or sick and reaching for a bowl of hot soup. Johnson & Johnson has also adopted the caregiver persona to market Band-Aids bandages and other staples. 

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11. The Ruler

As long as you’re in control, nothing is uncertain.

The ruler archetype seeks to take control. This archetype yearns for power and despises uncertainty. Ruler brands don’t set out to break the rules, but they’d rather be making them. These brands tend to be luxurious and often mysterious, leaving those on the outside wondering what they’re missing. 

Ruler brands recognize that they’d have no power without followers, so they  draw people in by offering high-end experiences and a sense of exclusivity. These brands are confident, but sometimes to the point of arrogance. Oftentimes, ruler brands associate themselves with the significance of tradition, history, and craftsmanship over the latest innovations. 

Rolex is a commonly cited example of a ruler brand, known for its high-end watches, which continue to be made in Switzerland with no exceptions. Rolex watches lack any modern features, but they hold value because of the brand’s status and attention-to-detail. As such, most Rolex watches are treasured gifts and family heirlooms.

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12. The Creator

If you believe in your vision, you can shape a new reality.

The creator archetype is guided by a strong vision of how something should be done. Creator brands often blend art with technology in order to design a product that brings their vision to life. Creator brands seek to inspire discovery, creation, and expression, often offering products that enable people to do those things more easily. 

Adobe offers a suite of editing tools, like PhotoShop, to help people bring their artistic visions to life like never before. In Adobe’s marketing campaigns, they showcase original works produced by real Adobe users. Crayola is also a creator brand, giving children tools to freely express their imagination using crayons, chalk, and other crafting supplies.

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Blending Archetypes to Bring Your Brand to Life

As you read through these archetypes, you might find that more than one seems to fit the brand persona that you’re hoping to build, and that doesn’t mean you’re taking the wrong approach. In reality, many brands end up blending a couple of different archetypes, especially if they’re taking the time to create a really detailed persona. We suggest choosing a primary archetype to start with and then, as you define your brand, bring in a secondary archetype if you need to. 

If you’re going with more than one archetype, the most important thing is to look for natural similarities and avoid contradictions. For example, a brand can’t be both an innocent and a rebel. The innocent archetype is all about purity, simplicity, and not making waves, which is the complete opposite of the loud, thrill-seeking rebel.  

Just as you’ll note that some archetypes are starkly different, you’ll also see that some feature a bit of overlap. For instance, the creator is all about inspiring originality and imagination and the magician is defined by its mystical and unique experiences. This could make it difficult to choose between the two, until you dig into the details. 

While the creator is driven by a unique vision to solve a problem, the magician is most concerned with putting on a show. If you put a creator and magician to work solving the same problem, both would come to a solution, but the magician’s solution would likely be quite fantastical with all the bells and whistles, making the creator’s solution appear relatively practical in comparison.

Creator brands often put imagination to work behind-the-scenes or they provide a tool (like Adobe or Crayola) to help their customers run wild with their own imagination. Magician brands, on the other hand, put the magic front-and-center. Imagination is what makes a magician brand special, behind-the-scenes, in ads, in person, and as a customer. 

So, if you find that your decision comes down to two very similar archetypes, we suggest digging deeper into the details of each to figure out which one fits your industry the best.

Creating a Unique Brand Persona

Now that you understand the 12 primary archetypes and how they apply to branding, remember that choosing an archetype is far from the only step in creating your brand persona. In order to establish a strong, consistent, and relatable brand, you have to sit down and carefully plan out the details.

To help you out, we’ve written an entire guide on creating an authentic brand personality, complete with some helpful templates to get you started. Ready to read it? Head this way.

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