Brand archetypes are increasingly on the rise to determine the positioning and identity of brands. At comma, we have been using the brand wheel to determine a communication style for our clients for some time. Archetypes are known from Carl Gustav Jung, who defined them as ‘certain structures that exist in our subconscious’.

What is an archetype?

An archetype is a personality type. Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) is the ‘inventor’ of it. Jung popularized the concept of archetypes within psychology. He defined archetypes as the content of the collective unconscious and believed that universal, mythical characters are present in the collective unconscious of people all over the world. Jung distinguished archetypes as the child, the hero, the great mother, the wise old man, the trickster, the eternal youth, the beautiful virgin and the divine couple.

image of mister Carl Gustav Jung

Brand identity and communication style

The archetype projected onto an individual gives this character a certain status. Because of this archetypal projection, people are no longer able to look at that individual differently. For example, the supernatural hero can no longer be a loser, the caring mother cannot be a delinquent, and the adventurer cannot be a boring wallflower. Think also of movies, fairy tales, and stories: archetypes such as the evil stepmother, the bad guy or the hero in a movie, the wise wizard, or the good fairy… they are universal and present everywhere, immediately evoking certain emotions.

The principle behind Jung’s archetypes fits well in the context of marketing, advertising, and communication. Especially the universally recognizable nature of archetypes and how people react to them is interesting. By playing with the reactions to an archetype, you can reach a certain target group. Choose your archetype wisely. It must show the authenticity of a brand. After that the brand wheel (Kapferer’s archetype model) and the brand archetype cards (which we will present in the upcoming blogs) can be a handy tool to determine a communication style.

image where the Jung's archetypes are illustrated

BMC and positioning

Once the strategy for your brand has been determined (through the BMC or Business Model Canvas by Osterwalder) and you know what your brand stands for (positioning), it is about time to consider how you will communicate with your brand. By the way, there are incredibly many associations possible with the values and personalities of the brand wheel, and the consumer will be inspired, motivated, and guided by them by using the brand wheel, you determine the position of your brand and end up in one of the twelve slices of the pie. Not an easy task, but it is the way to a love brand or a strong brand. Often marketers, leaders, product managers, etc., want a mix of four or five slices of the pie, but this only creates confusion in the market where you cannot convey what you stand for.

From 12 positions to 1

But how do you choose that one right position for your brand? This is the step-by-step plan that we follow at comma, brand strategists:

  1. Get to know the four quadrants: freedom, social, order, and ego. It is no coincidence that these quadrants also oppose each other.
  2. If you know what the core promise is that you want to radiate, you can see which personalities are in the corresponding quadrant:
    • Freedom: explorer, outlaw, jester
    • Social: lover, caregiver, everyman
    • Order: innocent, ruler, sage
    • Ego: magician, hero, creator The next step is to eliminate what does not fit.
  3. The next step is to eliminate what doesn’t fit. Go through the circle and eliminate the personality types that do not align with your brand. Look at the characteristics in the black circle, the description in the outer blue-green circle, and the brands in the white circle as examples. You will see that many options are already falling away. Note that:
    • Do not focus only on the B2C brand logo, but think about the communication style. Which advertisements, images, commercials, and social media campaigns do you see when you think about this brand?
    • Focus mainly on external communication and do not be led by the brand’s internal corporate culture.
  4. Which personalities remain? Think carefully about these positions. Which unique personality now best suits your brand?
  5. An additional step is to map out the competition and check if you are distinctive enough.
  6. Additionally, if your company is in transformation, look carefully at where you stand today and where you want to go. This will give you a clear path to follow and help you evolve over time, making the process measurable.

Once you have determined the unique position, it is essential to share it consistently with all levels of the organization or company. All communication from now on must be aligned with this position: form, color, typography, logo, house style, product and architecture, storytelling, campaign images, packaging, customized carriers for the chosen position, and so on. This is the only way to build a strong brand day after day based on the right visualization, communication, and performance.

This model may seem complex at the beginning, but step by step, you will come closer to the essence of your brand: pure, unique, clear, and with the right focus in mind.

The 12 archetypes in a nutshell

What are these 12 personality types with their own characteristics? And which well-known brands belong to them? Click on the titles to learn more about each personality

1. Magician

Changes the undesirable into the desirable, dreams and creates. Transforms and is mysterious: Axe, MasterCard.

2. Hero

Wants to win, is courageous and disciplined. Achieves ambitions and develops necessary skills: Nike, Ferrari, Duracell, BMW.

3. Innovator/Creator

Creative and imaginative. Realizes dreams and visualizes ideas, is unique and has its identity: Apple, Amazon, Lego, iPad.

4. Explorer

Goes its way, wants to be free, and loves adventure. Broadens the horizon and is independent: Nasa, Lonely Planet, Nikon, Saab, Salomon.

5. Rebel/Outlaw

Creates its own rules and breaks them. Longs for freedom: Powned, Harley Davidson, Jupiler, Red Bull, Hummer.

6. Jester

Escapes the daily routine with humor and fun and leads a carefree life. Bon vivant: Comedy Central, M&M’s, Nintendo, Jim Mobile, Ben & Jerry’s.

7. Lover

Seduces with beauty, passion, and lust. Prioritizes emotion over reason: Jaguar, Magnum, Chanel, Bacardi, Schweppes, Häagen-Dazs.

8. Caregiver

Ensures harmony, safety, and appreciation. Creates a homely feeling and is caring: Volvo, Nivea, Dove, Pampers, Becel.

9. Everyman

Likes to belong, loves equality, teamwork, and friendship. Chooses the affordable solution: Volkswagen, C&A, Ikea, eBay, Hema.

10. Innocent

Is optimistic, idealistic, simple, and loyal. The honest world improver: Coca-Cola, Disney, Efteling.

11. Ruler

Creates structure and order and is responsible. Has a clear vision and is determined: Mercedes, Microsoft, Albert Heijn.

12. Sage

Wants to understand the world. Thinks logically and structured. Collects knowledge: Wikipedia, Philips, Audi.

In the next blogs, we will dive deeper into each of the archetypes.

Positioning workshop

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