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12 brand archetypes: characters in your brand’s story

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We have psychologist Carl Jung to thank for the 12 brand archetypes: he developed a theory that we’re all hardwired to recognize and react to distinctive personality traits.

Why should you use them to shape your brand story? Choosing the right archetype can help you build a relationship with your audience, giving them familiar characteristics they can connect with. It strengthens your brand positioning and gives people the shorthand they need to understand what your brand stands for.

You might already recognize the 12 archetypes from familiar examples such as Apple, Disney and pretty much every scotch whisky brand you’ll ever taste. You might recognize them in your brand strategy. Or maybe even your own outlook on life.

Here’s the lowdown on these compelling characters:

1. The Innocent

Glass half full attitude, unshakeable optimism and a wide-eyed wonder at the world characterize The Innocent. If your brand needs a slice of happiness, trust and wholesome warmth, this is the archetype for you.

Who nailed it? Innocent Drinks (not a coincidence we’re sure), Toys R Us and Coca-Cola.

2. The Everyman

The Everyman (also known as The Realist or The Friend) is down-to-earth, straight talking and unpretentious. Want to appear dependable, one of the gang, likeable and humble? Check out The Everyman.

Who nailed it? PG Tips, Marks & Spencer and Ikea.

3. The Hero

Want your brand to be the one that saves the day? The Hero can help. Courage, determination and skill characterize this archetype. Their reason for being is to make the world a better place.

Who nailed it? Nike, Cillit Ban and BMW.

4. The Outlaw

Calling all disrupters, revolutionaries and rebel hearts. The Outlaw is designed to buck tradition. An always thrilling energy, The Outlaw takes on the beige brigade and crushes it under its heel.

Who nailed it? Supreme, Smirnoff Vodka, Harley Davidson and Brewdog.

5. The Explorer

The Explorer is the adventurer who seeks out new experiences and ideas. This archetype values freedom, individuality and finding meaning in discovery.

Who nailed it? The North Face, Starbucks and GoPro.

6. The Creator

The Creator’s purpose is to use imagination to bring a vision to life. This archetype thrives on turning an original idea into reality, celebrating the creative process and leaving their mark with something of lasting value.

Who nailed it? Lego, Apple and Adobe.

7. The Ruler

The Ruler is the boss and wants you to know it. Supreme confidence, power and prosperity give brands who use this archetype an unshakeable air of authority. Only winners need apply.

Who nailed it? Mercedes, Rolex and Dom Perignon.

8. The Magician

The Magician is the gateway to making dreams come true. Magic, transformation and the ability to inspire the consumer are all attributes of this powerful and visionary personality.

Who nailed it? Audi, Polaroid and MAC Cosmetics.

9. The Lover

Seeking bliss and desirability for your brand? The Lover is the seductress of the archetypes, pining for intimacy and human connection. Deploy this for maximum romance.

Who nailed it? Chanel, Magnum and Baileys.

10. The Caregiver

Inject a little Mother Teresa into your brand with The Caregiver. This is a character that takes generosity, selflessness and altruism to a whole new level. It’s a beautiful thing.

Who nailed it? Johnson’s, Pampers and Flora.

11. The Jester

Your inner child called and asked if The Jester can come over for a play date. This archetype stands for optimism, fun and living life in the moment. Don’t be fooled though – they’re smart too.

Who nailed it? M&Ms, Domino’s and Dollar Shave Club.

12. The Sage

What say you, oh wise one? The Sage is a seeker of knowledge and truth, proponent of wisdom and shedder of light in an often confusing world. Guess we could all use a touch of Yoda in our lives.

Who nailed it? BBC, TED and The Economist.

At Southpaw, we use brand archetypes and other brand building techniques to drive an emotional connection with our clients’ brands. Our bespoke Science of Emotion methodology ensures we create the most effective campaigns possible.

To find out more about our methodology, and what we can do to grow your brand, please contact laura.wood@southpawagency.com.

Laura Wood is business development lead at Southpaw.

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