In a previous article I explored the use of archetypes to clarify your entrepreneurial roles. This time I explore the creative use of archetypes in branding. In my opinion, the book, The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes by Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson, is the seminal work in this area.
The book addresses twelve brand archetypes in four categories:
1. The Yearning for Paradise
2. Leaving a Thumbprint on the World
3. No Man (or Woman) is an Island
- Regular Guy or Girl
4. Providing Structure to the World
Each archetype fosters specific cultural values, vision, mission, and strategy, and each has its own strengths, weaknesses, desires, fears, and talents. For example, the Innocent brand is associated with happiness and the freedom to be who you are. It’s greatest fear is to be punished for wrongdoing, and its strategic focus is therefore to do things right. Its greatest talent is optimism, but it has the potential weakness to become boring due to naive innocence.
Organisations are often subconsciously recognised for their strong brand archetypes. Lego is clearly a ‘Creator’ brand, while Jeep embraces the ‘Explorer’ archetype. Mr Price identifies with the ‘Regular Guy or Girl’, while the International Red Cross/Red Crescent is a ‘Caregiver’. Becoming conscious of your dominant brand archetype helps you to cultivate its strengths and avoid its pitfalls.
Tapping into human motivations
Dating back to Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung, archetypal models provide a deeply resonant structure for human motivation and meaning-making which are the cornerstones of great brands. Archetypes allow us to share emotionally satisfying experiences which are universal to the human condition. They attract us to great stories, poetry, movies, art, advertisements, sacred texts, and brands. In a crowded global marketplace, entrepreneurs must harness the power of such ‘primal assets’ to remain competitive.
Meaning management is a relatively new paradigm made necessary by a marketing landscape in which it is no longer possible to sustain competitiveness by focusing only on practical features and benefits. Tangible attributes of a product are easily copied, but a deeply meaningful brand experience means greater competitive resilience because creating an authentic archetypal brand requires much more than copying a few advertising images. It requires that the organization truly adopt and live out the characteristics of that archetype in its strategy, culture, advertising, marketing, and all internal and external operations.
Balancing less with more
Like a story with too many plot lines, a brand that employs too many archetypes can become confusing and diluted in its impact. The recipe for success is to carefully identify the archetype that best represents your organisation. Then direct all your branding efforts to consistently uphold the positive qualities of that archetype.
The value of primal meaning assets is being recognised and it is now not uncommon for organizations to be acquired for the strength of their branding. Archetypes provide a systematic way for you as entrepreneur to establish a brand identity which is meaningfully resonant with the deeper psychological needs of your target market.