Archetypes are a staple in many different disciplines and work as a driving force of authenticity and identity.
The most common way we come across archetypes on a day-to-day basis is through reading, writing, or watching a fictional story. Through these stories we follow characters that embody Vladimir Propp’s seven fairy tale archetypes The Hero, The Princess, The Villain, The Donor, The Helper, The Dispatcher, and the False Hero, through a lengthy 31 narrative steps. However, the technicalities of this don’t consciously register with the audience. This subtle insertion of archetypes within most stories allows the audience to more easily recognise and relate to them, thus immersing and investing themselves emotionally within the story. While the characters remain fundamentally similar, the unique way the author weaves the characters together, interlinking them, creates the unique storyline and provides the characters with a purpose that drives the plot along and hooks in the reader.
In marketing, the brand archetypes work similarly to provide an authentic identity and convey a set of values which consumers can relate to and believe in, promoting brand loyalty through the recognisable and relatable archetype.
Brand archetypes are inherently useful as they provide a starting point or a goal for businesses to build their brand identity, but which brand archetype most suits your business? Conducting research provides in-depth insights into your business, which you can then use in one of two ways:
Take those insights and start to build your brand identity around the archetype that those insights most resemble.
Take those insights and use them to spark a change in business values and processes in order to mould your business into your desired brand archetype.
So what are the archetypes and how can research determine which archetype you best fit into?
There are 12 brand archetypes which the majority of brands can be fit into, and a lot of information online on what exactly each archetype is and stands for. Here is a brief overview:
These brands are visionaries, imaginative, and help change the world for other people. These seek to inspire change through transformative knowledge. (Example: Disney, Apple)
These brands are seekers of truth and insight, a trusted source of important information and often logical/analytical in their ways. They help people understand the world through practical insights. (Example: Google)
These are businesses that have values and a strong moral compass, seen as trustworthy and reliable, but can be naïve. (Example: Dove, Innocent)
Rebellious in nature and iconoclastic, these brands are advocates for change and the breaking of conventions. (Example: Harley Davidson, Virgin)
This brand promises light-hearted entertainment, with typical traits being carefree and original. Their aim is to make people happy and impulsive. (Examples: Ben & Jerry’s, Skittles)
These brands create a feeling of intimacy through their marketing and products. They make people feel appreciated and easily build relationships. (Example: Galaxy Chocolate, Victoria’s Secret)
A firm that is adventurous, independent, takes risks, and is truly authentic as a brand. They are pioneers in their field and sometimes others. (Example: Red Bull, The North Face)
These brands seek to be in control, to create order from chaos, and are a role model for organisation, security and stability. (Example: Microsoft, FlexMR)
This brand makes caring for others their primary goal through any means possible. (Example: Johnson & Johnson, Heinz)
Firms that want to help improve the world for the better, are bold and strong, and work to solve problems or inspire others to do so. (Example: Nike, Duracell)
The Regular Guy/Girl
Firms that want to connect to others, are quite down to earth, and give a sense of belonging and comfort. (Example: PG Tips, McDonald’s)
Imaginative in nature, these brands want to encourage creativity and fun in all of its forms. (Example: Lego, Adobe)
Discovering your Archetype
Researching your brand can be difficult if you don’t know what to look for or where to start. The best way to start would be researching brand archetypes in order to get a detailed understanding of what each one stands for, what their goals tend to be, and what traits they typically have. The Hartford has a Business Owner’s Playbook which accurately details each classic archetype in a clear format, allowing businesses to understand each archetype’s role in creating a connection with their target market.
The next step is to create a document or mind-map detailing what you think your brand identity is; what values you show to consumers, what your brand stands for, and what do the brand colours, typography, tone of voice say about the brand’s identity? Does your brand identify as corporate or casual? Friendly, Parental, Rebellious, Innocent, Creative, or Business-like? Ask as many questions about your brand as possible to discover what your perception of the brand is and this will allow you to match your brand’s qualities up to a brand archetype.
Once this understanding has been reached, turn to your customers and the general public and ask the exact same questions to see what they think your brand identity is, what values it shows, and what the brand stands for. A blend of quantitative and qualitative research methodologies will allow brands to gain an in-depth understanding on the consumers’ perception of its brand identity. Quantitative research such as surveys and polls provide a good starting point to provide a baseline of statistics on consumer perceptions, as it allows respondents either prove or disprove the long-held hypotheses that businesses hold regarding brand perception.
Following quantitative results up with qualitative tasks such as focus groups and scrapbooking refine the insights gained from the surveys with detail and opposing views. The focus groups allow brands to ask respondents to expand on their answers in the survey, why did they chose the answer they did, and what experiences have they had with the brand which enabled the formation of that opinion? Scrapbooking allows respondents to create mood boards that they feel accurately represent the public identity and the overall feel of the brand through images, colours, and textures.
This variety of research will generate valuable insights that show you two things: the size of the perception gap between yourself and your consumers, and how successful your marketing campaigns have been in putting across your desired brand identity.
Where to Apply Archetypes
Once the archetype has been discovered, there is then a choice to be made: where do you apply your brand archetype? The answer to this depends on the situation of the business.
Disney applies the brand archetype to every area of the business and everything they do; they’re an experience-based brand which is supported by their ‘Magician’ archetype and massive following. However, where a company owns multiple, separate branded product lines - such as Mars or Unilever - then archetypes are best applied on a product-line level, enabling the company to create different brands that resonate and appeal to different audiences.
Despite the difference in strategy, all of these examples are successful in their own right: Skittles, who are owned by Mars, is an internationally popular sweet; Dove, who is owned by Unilever, is a popular brand known for quality and naturalism; and Disney has fast become one of the number one brands in the world in the entertainment and hospitality industries.
Closing the Perception Gap
Continuous quantitative research with regular perception tests will enable brands to recognise what actions are taking them in the right direction, aligning the perceptions of the firm and the consumers in order to create the best brand identity off the back of the desired brand archetype.
Qualitative research will allow brands to delve into why the perception gap is present, and gather insights directly from consumers as to what they think the brand could do to build a better brand identity; what aspects and values of the brand should be advertised more in order to achieve the desired goal. Qualitative methods such as our SmartboardMR and Live ChatMR enable effective concept testing of marketing content and campaigns prior to public release, which works well make sure that any content created accurately portrays the traits of the desired brand archetype. Participants can have direct discussions with brands in order to suggest changes and refine marketing concepts, and sentiment tag/comment on images and screenshots thus creating a heat-map portraying the range of consumer perceptions.
Successfully Maintaining your Archetypal Identity
This research will enable brands to build truly effective marketing campaigns that accurately portray the brand’s archetypal identity to the public, therefore closing the perception gap as much as possible. Even after the desired perception has been reached, continuous research as suggested above allows for the careful monitoring of the public perception, and the causes of any deviations can be pinpointed, corrected, and learnt from for future campaigns.
As a graduate of Creative Writing, Emily has a passion for content creation. She brings our global vision to life through her excellent writing and editorial skills across a broad selection of our content, and manages communication through social media channels. You can follow her on Twitter and connect with her on LinkedIn.