Leaders and Brand Archetypes: Using the Unconscious to Build Business

You have probably heard that buying decisions are emotional decisions. But have you heard that the collective unconscious is a power tool for branding and building business?

Here are a few simple examples of common archetypes you might have heard:

“That guy is such a rebel.”

“She’s a Parrot Head.”

“He’s a jock all the way.”

“She’s always been the class clown.”

When you hear that kind of description, you immediately assign certain characteristics, features and qualities to that person, right? From statements like those, you can make certain assumptions about the character and motivations of that person.

In other words, archetypes are universal patterns of behavior that help us understand people.  

The same can hold true for brands because they can signify the mission of a business, as well as its brand promise and culture. For example, Harley Davidson fits the brand archetype of rebel. (And some might define me that way too!)

When a business uses a brand archetype, it makes it easy for their audience to understand the experience they deliver and can be the foundation of why it attracts certain customers or deals. 

When You Don’t Know Your Business Archetype

If you don’t know who you are in business, or you are unclear in your brand promise, it makes it hard to differentiate yourself in a competitive market. And that makes it harder to attract and engage customers. When you are not perceived as unique (and familiar at the same time), you end up competing for business.

If a brand is not clear about ‘who’ it is, no one is going to be interested in the business or what it can do for them. Your archetype can be the beginning of clear relationships with customers because they ‘get’ your brand.

When you don’t know your business archetype, it can cause confusion in your market because you might be telling conflicting stories about yourself and your business. Your brand archetype can clarify your business and, at the same time, give people a way to share stories about you – or not.

If you know your business reflects a rebel archetype but you try to look like and do what everybody else is doing, you aren’t being authentic. And that can cost you potential relationships with your ideal customers because you are working deals that aren’t really a match for you.

And, naturally, if your customers don’t know who you are once you are in a working relationship, you could lose their loyalty and referrals because they’re looking for someone who is rock-solid in who they are in business. 

What Happens When You Know Your Business Brand Archetype

Archetypes provide an intangible experience of meaning for a brand, bridging customer motivation and business solution(s).

Your brand archetype gives meaning to the value of your work, meaning that you no longer compete only on price (as one example). So, if you value working with someone who is a Caregiver or a Hero or an Explorer, you will naturally seek that type of person (or business) out when you’re ready to do business.

Because people buy for emotional and psychological reasons, so the meaning of your brand is its biggest asset. What your brand means to people is what causes them to buy in to what you’re selling. It makes them want to do business with you. You stand out in a crowded market with clarity as different. And your business brand archetype can be verbalized so it can be shared consistently.

When I say the name ‘Harley Davidson’, you immediately get an image of what that means (and, hopefully, I show up there too!). For me, Harley Davidson means freedom, being cool in a laid-back way and quality products. There’s a little status in there too because Harley owners hang with other Harley owners and are, sometimes, more successful than their jeans and leather would tell. I like that too.

Brand Archetypes Are More Strategic Than Marketing Strategies

Entrepreneurs are always looking for the magic silver bullet in marketing – a strategy, plan, technique, angle – that will attract and convert the perfect customers who just knows their solution is unique and irreplaceable. But you can’t get that from a single strategy! That kind of reputation comes from having a clean, clear, concise brand archetype.

So your business, while not actually a person, has a distinct character. That character comes to life through how you and your team handle your business. It comes from your mission, brand promise and corporate culture. And when you nail your brand archetype, it means people get an instant ‘hit’ on who you are and what you stand for through your business.

Archetypes “work” to help build business because they create instant emotional impact which triggers instant like-mindedness. They increase trust because they are steeped in a consistent and enduring expression of meaning that rises above the specific situation or business.

Using archetypes can shift a business from push to pull for new customers and opportunities, from messaging to shared values, from control to expansion, and move transactions toward relationships. When you live your brand archetype, it can also help align behaviors and business decisions to avoid (or resolve) any inconsistencies. Your archetype can also guide your marketing strategy, relationships and services.

In the end, using a brand archetype can increase your brand impact and bottom-line.

What Are the 12 Main Brand Archetypes?

You know what a brand stands for when you see or hear the brand name and instantly have a sense of who they are and what they’re about… that is brand archetyping in action. In a business brand context, they usually show up as 12 primary archetypes.

Here are a few household-name brands you might recognize, along with their brand archetypes.

Disney = Magician        

Jeep = Explorer        

Lego = Creator        

Johnson & Johnson = Caregiver        

Nike = Hero

Is this making more sense now? This is a huge concept, so this article is just the beginning of what you need to know about brand archetypes – but it is what market leaders use to differentiate their brands. They just don’t talk about it.  

Here are the 12 basic identities, or archetypes, a brand can assume:

1. The MAGICIAN makes dreams come true. They don’t just offer a better widget; instead, they make your wildest dreams come to life. Disney, anyone?

2. The SAGE seeks truth and wisdom. They command respect through what they know… like anything with the name ‘Harvard’ on it. 

3. The INNOCENT wants to be happy – that’s it. An Innocent business brand will never guilt or manipulate someone; instead, they will charm through sentimentality, nostalgia and good times. It kinda makes you want some Orville Redenbacher popcorn, doesn’t it?

4. The REBEL seeks revolution and is fearless. Like I’ve already said, Harley Davidson, Apple, me… we like to shake things up.

5. The JESTER is about humor, being in the present (not the future or past). Pure silliness (all the way to the bank) is a trait that the new Old Spice Man and Dollar Shave Club are working to build their markets.

6. The LOVER seduces you into indulgence. Feel like some Godiva Chocolate?

7. The EXPLORER breaks free and has adventures. I don’t know about you but every Subaru commercial I see makes me think – for just a minute – about hitting the untamed road for spectacular views.

8. The RULER wants absolute power and gets it through exclusivity, luxury and expensive price tags. Does anyone seriously worry about crash-test ratings when it comes to a Rolls-Royce or telling time when it comes to Rolex?

9. The CAREGIVER nurtures and just wants to be there. You trust Johnson & Johnson products to make your fall-down-and-go-boom-owies feel better.

10. The HERO wants to make the world better by being the best. There’s no nurturing when it comes to the U.S. Army or the U.S. Marines, for example. They want you to ‘answer the call’ to arms and take care of business.

11. The REGULAR is unpretentious and wants to belong in an un-hip, simple, relatable way. This is the most difficult archetype to work with well because you have to have a brand that appeals across all demographics. For example, everybody wakes up, everybody puts their pants on, everybody wants to drink Folger’s Coffee.

12. The CREATOR wants to build something you can’t live without, like Lego did in using the simplest ‘technology’ – blocks – to create a product that has shaped and inspired generations.

Your Goal Now?

Successful brand archetyping bridges the gap between the offer and how / why people make buying decisions. Understand your archetype as a key to your brand and business strategy, corporate culture and market presence.

You need to know who you are in the market and have a quick way for your customers (current and future) to know how to reference and relate with you. Over time, your brand archetype will guide marketing strategy, relationships and offers while increasing your brand impact in your market – and bottom-line results.

Ask yourself the following questions:

– What archetype do you think your customer has about your business?

– What is the brand archetype that best reflects your business? Why? And would your ideal customer agree with you?

– What brand archetype best represents your business as a whole? Why?

– Does your business have a secondary brand archetype? If yes, what and why?

For me, the Mortgage Marketing Animals might just be Rebel Lovers… our goal is to shake things up but we do it with heart and extreme consideration for how it will make things better for our people. We really care about each of our customers and students.

Carl White, Chief Officer of Coolness
Article Originally Posted on LinkedIn

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