Attract More Customers Using The 12 Brand Archetypes

What are the 12 Brand Archetypes?

I believe that Brand Archetypes could be every marketer’s secret weapon.

I’ve personally seen how powerful they can be – having immersed myself in the theory and applied the practice to every brand I’ve worked on since 2006.

The results speak for themselves – during my time as global Brand Director for ghd, I grew the brand by leveraging archetypes with our customers.

During a period of 6 years, the brand grew from being worth £50m to £300m.  Not a bad result when you consider it didn’t cost us anything to start using archetypes as part of our brand identity and communication.

But before we get into the specifics of what the 12 brand archetypes are and how they work, let’s go back to the very beginning.

To understand how Brand Archetypes can be useful, we first need to understand where they originate from.

What is the history of Archetypes?

The concept of Archetypes is not new.  It goes all the way back to the times of Plato (way before Brand Management was even a thing!)

Archetypes are:

  • A useful perspective on branding
  • A very typical example of a certain person or thing
  • Taken from the Greek language:  Arche = Beginning / Typos = Imprint

But more recently, a 20th Century psychologist named Carl Jung used them in his work and described them as ‘forms or images of a collective nature which occur practically all over the earth”.  You could say that Jung was the modern day godfather of Archetypes.

I wonder if he knew that they’d become a bit of a buzz word in the marketing world?


Carl Jung - 20th Century Psychologist

Carl Jung

How Carl Jung’s work links to the 12 Brand Archetypes

You may have come across Jung’s work before without realising it.

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator – used by many companies to understand their employees – is based on Jung’s theory of psychological types.

Jung was also responsible for the ideation of other well-known psychological concepts – such as psyche, individuation, dream analyses and collective unconscious.

Jung was a contemporary of Sigmund Frued and the first person to count he phrase ‘complex’ as in ‘inferiority complex’.

It’s though his work on complexes that he discovered the concept of the ‘collective unconscious’.

And this important because, according to Jung, this is the home of Archetypes within our brains.

What is The Collective Unconscious?

Jung states that a person’s psyche can be divided into 3 ‘realms’:

  • The Consciousness – a person’s field of awareness
  • The Personal Unconscious – the things we haven’t taken note of that sit below the threshold of consciousness
  • The Collective Unconscious – Deeper more universal psychic structures which are not individualistic. They are shared by EVERY individual

Jung believed that when we’re born our mind isn’t a blank slate.

His theory was that we have a pre-determined structure which shapes how and what we experience in life.

These heritable structures influence the way we experience everything.

And he called these structures ‘archetypes‘.

So what does this all mean?

Archetypes are essentially ‘categories’ in our brains that we are all born with.

They make us think, feel & act in a specific way.

They make things ‘feel right’ because they look and feel familiar.

They provide instant understanding, there’s no need to think it over, you just know.

Imagine if you could harness the power of ‘instant understanding’ when marketing to your customers.

An Archetype is…

  • a pattern of behaviour
  • a pattern of thought or an idea
  • an image
  • a symbol
  • a motif (in literature or mythology for instance)
  • an artistic expression (painting or illustration)

And Archetypes are now associated with the fields of:

  • Behavioural studies
  • Historical psychology
  • Drama and theatre
  • Literary studies
  • And more recently…MARKETING!

What are Brand Archetypes?

An Archetype is something which makes an initial impression that sticks…which is the goal of a strong brand.

Brands want to be instantly understood

Brands, just like humans, want to connect with people.

They want instant recognition and interpretation

When a brand takes on an archetype, people instinctively recognise it – they GET it.

Humans really connect with Archetypal stories.

We never tire of them, they speak to something deep within us.

For examples of archetypes, you don’t have to look any further than the latest blockbuster or bestseller – Hero? Caregiver? Girl / Guy Next Door?

Sound familiar?

But What Are The 12 BRAND Archetypes?

Take a look at the chart below to see the 12 Brand Archetypes.

The 12 Brand Archetypes

To read more about the 12 brand archetypes, click on the links below:

The Stability Archetypes

Caregiver – Nurturing, caring and patient

Ruler – Powerful, prestigious and often higher priced

Creator – Innovative, free-thinking and talented

The Independence Archetypes

Explorer – Pioneering, individual and adventurous

Sage – Wise, knowledgeable and intelligent

Innocent – Happy, nostalgic and child-like

The Mastery Archetypes

Hero – High performing, strong and reliable

Magician – Transformational, creative and catalysing change

Outlaw – Revolutionary, rebellious and disruptive

The Belonging Archetypes

Lover – Sensual, intimate and generous

Jester– Fun, energetic and entertaining

Citizen – Belonging, community spirited and everyday


The 12 Brand Archetypes

How do you work out what your Brand Archetype is?

You can start by taking my Brand Archetype Quiz!

The quiz is designed to help you narrow down the right archetypes for your brand, but it is only a guide.

Choosing an archetype is more of an art than a science.

You should follow up the quiz results with further research and investigation to determine the best archetype for your brand.

If you’d like more tips, techniques and ways to ‘try on’ different archetypes for size, there’s an extensive module in The SME Marketing Academy.

Using Brand Archetypes authentically

To be effective, the message your brand conveys must be authentic.

You can’t just decide one day to add a certain meaning to your brand. You must actually embody that meaning. 

For instance, you can’t use the magician brand archetype if your brand isn’t doing something genuinely transformational.

Brand archetype theory shouldn’t be viewed as a formulaic ‘instant identity’ to solve all your branding problems.

Instead, it provides structure and acts as a sounding board to help you determine how you can best convey the meaning of your brand to those you are trying to connect with.

When are Brand Archetypes helpful?

Brand Archetypes are incredibly useful when:

  • You don’t know where to start
  • You need to pull brands apart
  • You want to differentiate beyond your product’s functional needs
  • You need to align teams
  • You need an enduring framework

Once you know whether you’re a ‘hero’, ‘sage’ or ‘magician’ brand, or something else, you can use shorthand linked to that archetype to manage all of your activity.

Defining your archetype will start a chain reaction in understanding your brand.

And for small businesses with small budgets, anything that helps you to bring your brand to life without too much financial investment has to be a good thing.

Thing of Brand Archetypes as your secret weapon or a really helpful tool in your toolbox.


Your archetype is your first domino

How can I use Brand Archetypes in my every day work?

You can use Brand Archetypes in your brand tone of voice.  When the way you speak and the language you use is consistent, it will amplify your message.

Think about how to reflect your archetype in the brand’s look and feel – colours, styles, fonts, imagery etc

And finally, use your Brand Archetype for idea generation.  If you’re a jester brand archetype just ask yourself – what would a jester do?

Why does’t every marketer use Brand Archetypes in their marketing work?

Brand Archetypes…Genius concept or the horoscopes of the marketing world?

Marketing academics and professionals are divided on the topic.

You need to decide for yourself.

I think they can be a useful tool in your marketing toolbox, especially when you work in a small business

And If you can relate to any of the statements below, then I reckon you might find archetypes useful.

  • You’re launching a brand new brand and you need to make sure it hits with clarity
  • You own or manage an existing brand but things are a little fuzzy – perhaps you find it difficult to make brand and marketing decisions or you don’t know how all your brands and products fit together
  • You’re struggling to make an emotional (and profitable!) connection with your target audience
  • You’re ready to embark on a content marketing strategy for your brand but you don’t know where to start – writing content isn’t coming naturally
  • You’ve identified inconsistencies in how your brand is represented and internally you struggle to agree on what is ‘on brand’ and what is ‘off brand’
  • You find yourself breaking your own brand guidelines because they’re not flexible enough
  • You are a marketing student or at the start of your marketing career and you want a secret weapon when it comes to making an impact on your CV, in interviews and in your early roles
  • You own or work at a smaller agency without a planning department and you need a way to generate further income by selling strategy services, without investing in a whole new team.

A word of caution though.  The 12 Brand Archetypes are no substitution for the correct marketing planning work – diagnosis, strategy & tactics.

They are a useful tool to help you get creative with your brand, providing a framework for small business owners and marketers to help keep their messaging and identity consistent and appealing.

What next?

Find out more about The 12 Brand Archetypes or take my Brand Archetypes Test

Read more about the Brand Archetypes module in The SME Marketing Academy

Further reading:  The Hero & The Outlaw by Mark & Pearson