The power of archetypes in modern branding

Even though the term branding is becoming a part of the vocabulary of people outside the marketing bubble, of business owners and directors, it is still a field somewhat shrouded in mystery. However, at the level of marketing non-professionals who own or manage companies, there are debates about what branding actually means, what it entails, who is responsible for it and what KPIs can be associated with it. The one thing that virtually everyone agrees on is that branding is important. Whatever that means.

Even branding suffers from higher and higher complexity

To make matters simple, of course, the field of branding is constantly evolving as well, as competition grows and supply outstrips demand more and more in each area of business. From the role of mere differentiation (built more or less on a distinct visual identity), to more complex brand and product positioning (not only appearance but also functionality must differ, and there is increasing pressure for additional functional benefits for customers), to today’s need to create and reinforce a connection with customers, in a way emotionally attaching them to the brand and reducing the chances of them leaving for competitors. In their book Hero or Outlaw, author duo Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson even talk about the fact that companies (brands) today have basically only two options to maintain their position in the market – to lower prices or to add meaning to their products.

One of the best tools marketers have in their efforts to build and manage brand relevance is undoubtedly archetypes. That’s why I’ll be exploring them in a series of articles, to which this is the introduction. Together we will look at what archetypes are, what opportunities they present for marketers in brand building, and we will discuss in turn the four groups defined by Swiss psychiatrist Gustav Jung. We’ll also look together at 12 archetypes representing each group that you can use to build your brand personality.

Marketing today is about creating and strengthening relationships

Customer relationships with brands today can be divided into two categories, transactional and emotion-based. A brand that doesn’t work on building relationships with customers based on emotion is only offering an exchange of product for money. As long as it offers a bargain, it is bought. The moment a competitor comes along with a better offer, customers go elsewhere. It is simple calculation and the customers’ desire to buy as efficiently as possible. We all know where it ends – with price wars and the race to the bottom.

Most of us are looking for self-determination

Conversely, when a brand brings more to the table, for example helping us define who we are, the simple relationship between price and product fades and other values come to the surface. With such brands, we pay (often happily) for much more than a mere product. Today’s times are in many ways very complex. People are more and more eager to define who they are. And brands play a very important role in this process, whether we like it or not. They can make it easier for us to express ourselves. If you meet an athlete dressed head to toe in Under Armour, he is subconsciously communicating something. To themself and to those around him. Under Armour represents the archetypal image of the strongman, the athlete – in the language of archetypes, we talk about the Hero. Apple product lovers, on the other hand, want to be perceived as innovative, inspiring, powerful, trendy. Not for nothing does Apple represent the archetype of the Creator. And a typical example, which perhaps cannot be missing in any article about brands, is Harley Davidson, a great representative of the Outlaw archetype. The brand themselves describe the example of their customer as a 50-year-old accountant who puts on leather clothes at the weekend and, while riding his Harley, enjoys the feeling of freedom and of inspiring a sense of awe in those around him, at least for a moment. And that’s what people are often happy to pay a lot more for than just a pile of nicely stacked rubber and iron.

Stick to your archetype

The better a brand is at defining its archetype, the stronger the sense of belonging the brand can evoke with its target audience. But it must also be lucky to have wise management that builds and develops the archetype rather than experimenting with changing it. And how do we know that a brand means something more to us as consumers? All it takes is for someone to ask us questions like “Why are you buying that overpriced brand when XY offers the same thing at a lower price?” or “That brand’s stuff has gone wrong so many times and you keep buying it. Why?” and we are not able to answer for sure. We just have this feeling that it’s the way it’s supposed to be and we don’t want another brand. People with a transactional relationship with the brand would have made the change long ago, because the equation “price meets functional benefit” no longer applies. But we don’t. There is a different type of connection between us and the brand that we don’t want to lose.

4 groups of archetypes

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, Jung defined four archetypal groups, with each group containing three archetypes. We can divide these groups according to the underlying goal or desire that defines the three archetypes in the group. For the first, it is the desire for paradise or also the desire for independence and self-fulfillment. We include here the archetypes of the Innocent, the Discoverer and the Sage.

For the second group, it is the desire to make one’s mark on the world or the desire for risk or mastery. We include the Hero, the Outlaw and the Magician.

The third group adheres to the motto that no man is an island unto himself, and we all, with sociopathic exceptions, crave belonging and pleasure. The archetypes here include the Clown, the One of Us and the Lover.

Finally, the fourth group desires to bring order to the world. The basic motivation of the archetypes in this group is stability or even control. These include the Creator, the Caregiver and the Ruler.

That’s all for today. The individual groups will be waiting for you in future articles.

Are you interested in the possibilities of archetypes for building your brand?

We have prepared a seminar that will guide you through this.