Archetypes in branding – Part 3: Leave a mark

Another article in our multi-part series on using Jungian archetypes in branding is here. In the last installment, we looked at the first group of archetypes, which are typically characterized by a yearning for paradise. We briefly discussed the Explorer, the Sage, and the Innocent.

In today’s article we will move on to the second group. Their primary desire is to leave a mark on the world, or to make a clear distinction from society. Consultants and researchers Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson, in their book The Hero or Outlaw on archetypes in branding, aptly state another characteristic of this group. Namely, that they focus on consumer attitudes and actions that are not only related to their personal goals, but also to changing the world. Therefore, their natural representatives are those brands that have a significant impact on their time or living space. No more stretching – we’re going to talk about the Hero, Outlaw and Magician archetypes today.

The second archetypal group – to leave a mark, to make a difference in the world

Behind the motivations of these groups is change or the desire to leave a mark. We can clearly see this in the Heroes – they want to do something meaningful that will change the world for the better. And, depending on the strength of the Hero’s ego, something that will, to a greater or lesser extent, leave his or her mark.

As Pearson and Mark state, the Magician acts as a catalyst for the transformation of a society or institution, or takes on the role of a healer. We can see this in fairy tales or fantasy stories where this character is one of the main roles. Perhaps the most famous representative would be Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit book and film series.

And finally, the Outlaw. An individual who tries to bend or break rules that don’t fit his vision of the world or limit his actions. Outlaws are not necessarily always negative characters. Many brands that seek to change the status quo in the world in a rebellious way and challenge established rules may desire positive change. British entrepreneur Richard Branson’s Virgin Group is a typical representative of these ‘positive’ Outlaws. This ‘label’ is often attributed to the technology giant Apple. It must be said that Heroes with Outlaw features are considered the most “sexy”. They rebel against the established order and society because they see its wrongness and want to make the world a better place. In movies, they are typically people who do great good for others (saviors of the world or at least the city they live in – police officers, firefighters, paramedics), but at the same time they have weaknesses that we would not forgive other people. However we would forgive these kind of people, because their goodness is always greater than their transgressions. Would you like an example? The heroic firefighter who saved dozens of lives but broke a similar number of hearts as an incorrigible womanizer.

The Hero archetype – the good guy with a desire to change the world for the better

His typical motto is “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”. The Hero’s talent domains are competence hand in hand with courage. The Hero has a clear skill or skills and uses them for the betterment of humanity (think of the movie Armageddon for example). The strategy of brands that have chosen the Hero archetype as theirs is to be as strong and competent as possible. Conversely, the archetype’s greatest fear is incompetence and vulnerability. Like all people (and brands with their personalities), Heroes have some weaknesses. Typically these are arrogance or a desire for ever new battles where one can prove their strength again. The natural environment of representatives of this archetype is the battlefield. This, of course, can take many forms. Police officers often talk about the fact that even the streets of their precinct (especially in areas where gangs or terrorist organizations are rampant) are often a battlefield. On the positive side, there are sporting competitions, the Olympics. But we can also include politics or various movements (think of Martin Luther King or Gandhi). The signs in the Hero archetype help us to develop qualities such as energy, discipline, overcoming oneself or determination. Nike and Adidas serve as perfect examples. Typical representatives of the Hero as an organisation and brand include the U.S. Army – probably nowhere are military members regarded as a hero more than in the USA.

When might the Hero archetype seem appropriate for your brand? It’s when you have an invention, technology or innovation that will make a major positive contribution to the world. Brands that help people overcome their own limitations or solve a significant social problem can also establish themselves as Heroes. If your customer base holds high moral values and is socially engaged themselves, using the Hero archetype can further reinforce the positive impact of their perception of themselves.

The Outlaw archetype, or rules are here to be broken

It might seem that this archetype is the opposite of the Hero. However, the world is not that simple. Yes, in film, literature, and real life, we find typical “bad guys” in whom we would be hard pressed to find positive contributions. We don’t have to go far for examples – dictators, autocratic leaders or known criminals. On the other hand, as Pearson and Mark mention, the course of history often determines whether a person is perceived as a hero or an outlaw. If the rebels had failed in their fight for independence in US history, they would hardly be seen as positive figures in modern textbooks. If World War II had gone in the Axis’ favor, we probably wouldn’t be talking about Hitler as a psychopathic mass murderer today.

The main desire of the representatives of this archetype is revolution or revenge. Motivators include the desire for independence, freedom and change. The basic goal is then to destroy what does not work (for the bad guys – what does not work for them; conversely, for the “good Outlaws” – what does not work in terms of the future of society). The key personality traits of Outlaws are belligerence, rebelliousness, and a desire to disrupt the order around them). What about fears? This archetypal group has them too – acceptance of others, dependence, complacency (destroying the desire for change), conformity and servility. Typical brands representing this archetype are Harley-Davidson or Diesel. Artists include many African-American rap stars, many of whom were gang members in their youth. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, many marketers include Apple and Virgin in this category.

In which case might the Outlaw archetype be a good fit for your brand? If your customers feel alone or hold values that are at odds with how mainstream society sees the world. The significance of your product is so great that it can shake up an industry (and how people have been used to operating in it). Your products are not very healthful and their use may be attractive to those who are so rebellious against the status quo. Your products help maintain values and attitudes that are oppressed by mainstream opinion. Or, conversely, they introduce new and revolutionary ideas that may initially be perceived as anti-social.

The Magician archetype or let dreams become reality

Many of you will have heard the term “technological magician”. Magician is another term for a sorcerer. Thus, many technology companies coming up with groundbreaking inventions can make very good use of this archetype, because in the eyes of many people it literally works wonders. Just like scientists coming up with groundbreaking drugs or inventions that improve human health (or replace dysfunctional parts of the human body, for example). Magicians can also effect change through words, stories, wisdom. After all, the basic weapon of every wizard is an incantation or a sentence, a word with magical meaning.

The basic desire of this archetype is to allow things to “happen”. To understand the fundamental rules of how the world around us works, and then to use that knowledge to create. The Magician archetype is one of the visionary ones. The main goal can be stated as the pursuit to realize one’s dreams – one’s visions. On the other hand, the main concern is the fear of negative consequences of what the Magician creates. That good intentions will manifest themselves in negative consequences. Given his skills, knowledge and insight into many areas of human activity, he may be prone to manipulation. Marketers who work with the Magician archetype should pay close attention to this fact. Marketing communications in general can be a powerful tool for manipulation. It is therefore important to remember the important ethical dimension of the work of marketers. The famous marketer Seth Godin draws attention to this very strongly in his book This is Marketing, which I can highly recommend.

If your brand promises magical experiences, tries to conjure magical moments for people (pralines, coffee, gifts, etc.), it also belongs to this archetype. Alternatively, if you are into personal or spiritual development and helping people change their lives through personal growth, you are also a natural-born Magician. Well-known representatives of this archetype include Dyson, Pixar and the like.

A brand and its archetype must manifest itself outwardly and inwardly

You cannot preach water and drink wine. This is true in life, in leadership, and for brands, the behaviour and functioning of their representatives, this rule is literally a law. A law that, when broken, results in that so often seen collision between brand image and brand perception. The result is disaster in the form of confused customers asking themselves what’s wrong. Why is the brand saying something and doing something else? And the consequence? Inconsistency, mistrust and brand damage that is very, very hard to repair. A brand must literally live by its personality, rules and patterns of behaviour. Managers who keep this rule in mind also treat employees in accordance with what the brand stands for. Keep this in mind the next time you will have a discussion about your brand’s positioning and perception. Choose it so that you can be true to it at all times. In front of customers and within the company.