Know Thyself? Introducing the '12 Archetypes' to Explore Brand Identity
Just in case you didn’t already know, language is pretty important. So important that aside from the ability to think logically, our ability to communicate is one of the things that sets humans apart from all other species.
With the mass-takeover of social media, brands are now paying even more attention to the power of effective communication. And of course, this involves finding the right words to do it well. But during this important quest, there is often another depth to powerful word-driven communication that ends up being missed. And ironically, this is a realm that we all know exists, because it's a language that we all understand - at least to some degree.
This is the language of Archetypes.
Carl Jung described archetypes as a universal language. He described them as symbols and meanings which are stored within the collective unconscious. For example, we associate red with warnings, wings with freedom, water with tranquility and so forth. Some not-so-day-to-day examples include Pluto as the mysterious power house, Saturn as the Father or Tiger Eye crystal as creativity.
Jung introduced 12 core Archetypes to the masses. And interestingly, a closer look at them tells us that this system is simply one way of viewing the vast field of semiotics (the study of signs and symbols). The patterns that make up Jung’s Archetypes can be found in lots of places; including various zodiac systems (both eastern and western); the Bible; other religious texts and even the field of numerology. Essentially, Jung's 12 Archetypes are a simple and popular entry point into a much larger arena of semiotics.
Because they are found throughout so many aspects of life, these Archetypes offer a sturdy foundation for semiotic understanding - enabling us to break down barriers and maximize the power of words. They also help brands to understand who they are and communicate their core identity, mission and values with a clarity that connects.
Using these symbolic reference points has lots to offer. You can check out the original article I wrote on this subject here.
Or simply keep reading to meet the 12 popular archetypes below.
Determination and courage are everything to the Warrior – it's what gives them the power to triumph and overcome various obstacles in pursuit of a better world. These traits typically make Warrior brands a highly goal-orientated bunch. They're a species of ambitious go-getters with a fierce fire that helps them to super charge any call to action. As a result they have an impressive ability to empower their audience to overcome their own individual struggles.
Fundamentally, the Warrior brand is on a mission to save the day... and maybe even the world.
Brand Breakdown: Warrior brands aren't necessarily on a mission to fight global poverty. They might just be fighting tough stains. But as a rule of thumb, providing solutions to tough challenges is part of the Warrior Brand DNA.
Additional Info: The Warrior is also known as the Hero, the Crusader, the Leader, the Pioneer & the Saviour.
In astrology, the Hero is most closely related to the zodiac sign Aries and the 1st House of self, identity and pioneers. This area is ruled by the Planet Mars - the Warrior God of the sky.
Examples: Super Nanny. Mr Muscle. Breadwinners.
According to the lover; beauty, intimacy and sensuality is what the good side of life is made of. And the lover wants to make sure that you have an abundance of these gifts. Lovers have their hearts set on the finer things in life - luxury, beauty and quality material comfort. Think velvet; fur; chocolate; diamonds; slow dancing; long warm hugs and sultry jazz – you're then in the Lover's paradise.
Brand breakdown: Lover brands tend to provide beautiful aesthetics, sensual comfort and a warm sense of intimacy. These brands leave their audience feeling special with a little symbolic TLC.
Additional Info: The Lover is also known as the Intimate, the Friend, the Sensualist, the Romantic or the Matchmaker.
In astrological speak, the Lover is represented by Taurus and the 2nd house of self worth, material possessions and security. This area is ruled by Venus, the planet of love and beauty.
Remember the attractive, popular and charismatic class clown who took centre stage in your high school days? This folk is a Jester spirit. The purpose of these characters is to entertain their audience, give them a good time and remind folk not to take life too seriously. For those seeking a break from the heavy stuff - or just some light entertainment and banter - the Jester brand may tickle their fancy.
Brand breakdown: Jester brands provide a sense of entertainment. Their upbeat energy makes light of life, while giving people a reason to have some fun. Humour, entertainment and play embodies the spirit of these brands. But this doesn't mean that Jester brands all run comedy clubs or theme parks - the symbolism of this brand simply indicates that their products will usually send a playful signal to their audience.
Additional info: The Jester is also known as the Trickster, the Entertainer, the Clown, the Joker, the Comedian or the Fool.
In Zodiac speak this archetype is represented by Gemini and the 3rd House of social conversation and intellect. This area is ruled by Mercury, the planet of Communication.
The Nurturer cares for people like a mother does their child. Bringing warmth, comfort and motherly guidance - nurturers find purpose providing healing, nourishment and care.
Brand breakdown: Nurturer brands will usually offer a feeling of warmth, protection and guidance - often evoking a sense of angelic assistance. With that said, Nurturer brands don't just exist in the form of charities, daycare centres or nursing homes - any products or services that embody this sense of motherly love can fall into this symbolic category.
Additional info: The Nurturer is also known as the Mother, the Caregiver, the Healer, the Protector, the Angel & the Homemaker.
Astrologically speaking, the Nurturer is represented by Cancer and the Fourth house of home. This area is ruled by the feminine energy of the moon.
The Creator sees no boundaries. This is the fearless visionary who says "If I can see it in the mind’s eye I can make it happen". They are expressive souls with a special knack for re-imagining the world and bringing people into their fold in order to make it manifest.
Brand breakdown: Creator brands usually encourage and/or instill the spirit of innovation. They strive to encourage self expression - often in artistic forms. This won't necessarily be through traditional 'art' products - but their brand messaging will usually ooze creativity and experimentation, while encouraging this artistic expression.
Additional info: The Creator is also known as the Innovator, the Artist, the Dreamer and the Idealist.
With reference to the Zodiac, the Creator is represented by Leo and the 5th house of creativity, romance and children. This area is ruled by the Sun (the celestial body of ego, life and expression).
In a world where everybody is tirelessly competing to stand out, the humility of the Everyman shines through. The Everyman is comfortable with finding 'an effective place to fit' within this diverse world and is content with simplicity. This archetype appreciates things of a practical quality - without the unnecessary frills.
Brand breakdown: These brand types tend to create everyday products and services that can be used by all. They're often renowned for being particularly handy and accessible. And in part, because of this inherent accessibility they tend to create communal bonds among people who can relate to the brand's value.
Additional info: The Everyman is also known as the Regular Guy, the Regular Gal, the Realist, the Citizen or the Servant.
In astrological speak, the Everyman is linked to Virgo and the 6th house of routine, service and health - it’s an earth sign ruled by Mercury - the planet of organization and communication.
The Innocent lives in an ideal world - a safe and peaceful paradise. And they're great a staying in this utopia, living according to the way that they'd like the world to be. As a result of their idealistic disposition, avoiding conflict comes naturally to the Innocent brand because they have a way of seeing the sunny side of life no matter how tough things might be.
Brand breakdown: Innocent brands find purpose in giving people a break from the struggle and despair of the world - creating a safe haven or paradise for which themselves and others can momentarily dwell. As an optimistic, bright and cheerful group - they're always branded with a warm, soft smile and uplifting message.
Additional info: The Innocent is also known as the Optimist, the Do-Gooder & the Idealist.
In astrology this archetype is represented by Libra and the 7th house of justice, harmony and relationships. It's also ruled by Venus the planet of beauty, love and harmony.
The Alchemist is the magician of transformation who turns water into wine. They encourage or assist people through times of change, upheaval and rebirth. The Alchemist archetype also has an uncanny ability to cut beyond the surface and dig deep enough to uncover powerful insights that hide in uncharted realms.
Brand breakdown: These brands transform, offer a sense of magic, mystery or initiation. They might also offer a feeling of exclusivity, the forbidden, undiscovered places and intense truths.
Additional info: The Alchemist is also known as the Magician, the Shaman, the Priest, the Priestess, the Healer, the Witch & the Wizard.
According to astrology, this archetype is represented by Scorpio and the 8th house of sex, death and rebirth. This area of the Zodiac is governed by the mysterious powerhouse Pluto and the Warrior planet Mars.
Examples: X Factor. Disney Land. Gok Wan.
The Explorer encourages others to journey into the unknown. They promise adventure, the discovery of new heights and other exciting possibilities. Whether it's a new way of life, the pursuit of a new hobby or a seriously ambitious voyage - the Explorer will instill a real thirst for adventure and motivation that inspires.
Brand breakdown: Explorer brands tend to push boundaries and seek to broaden horizons. But this doesn't mean that these brands are all Adventure Playgrounds and Safari Parks - it simply indicates that these brands communicate the fundamental spirit of adventure.
Also known as: The Explorer is also known as the Gypsy, the Traveller, the Adventurer, the Seeker & the Backpacker.
Sagittarius and the 9th house of higher learning, philosophy, long distance travel and mass communications is the Zodiac equivalent to the Explorer. This area is ruled by Jupiter - the planet of expansion.
The ruler is authoritarian and helps its audience to feel so too. In order to maintain this sense of authority you will see that they operate on strong foundations and traditions. Quite often, even when the brand is woman-led or specifically caters to women - Ruler brands tend to have a masculine, kingly feel. But whichever gender this air of royalty might embody, you can be sure that the Ruler's are the elites.
Brand breakdown: Ruler brands illicit feelings of high status, quality and leadership. They aim to rank at no.1 within their field and tend to set high standards of excellence. In short: if a brand makes their audience feel like they've hit the big leagues when engaged then they probably belong to this unforgettable group.
Additional info: The Ruler is also known as the Boss, the Leader, the Politician, the King & the Queen.
In terms of the Zodiac - the Ruler is represented by Capricorn and the 10th house of authority, role models and the father. This area is ruled by strict Saturn, the planet of discipline.
The Outlaw is the Rebel with a cause; an outsider, who is proud of their ‘weird’ and readily embraces their quirks. The outlaw does not look to 'the left or right' to check on what others are doing. This trailblazer is too busy carving out their own path to be worrying about other people's choices and goals.
Brand breakdown: The Outlaw brand tends to disrupt the status quo and fights to reform outmoded traditions. Again, this might not be in the form of an 'Occupy Wall Street' - it might simply be a disruptive product that revolutionizes the market - or an extra feature which gives the customer a sense of doing things outside of the norm.
Additional info: The Outlaw is also known as the Rebel, the Revolutionary, the Misfit, the Anarchist & the Reformer.
Astrologically speaking, the Outlaw is represented by Aquarius and the 11th house of technological advances, revolutions, networks and innovation. This area is ruled by the disruptive planet Uranus.
“When the student is ready, the teacher shall appear”.
Whether they're immersed in teaching, offering wise counsel or a power-packed coaching session; the sage’s power is always their wisdom. The Sage wants to transcend the superficial and foster a deep understanding of life. As natural philosophers, they promote the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom - for knowledge and wisdom's sake.
Brand breakdown: Although many consultancies or advisory agencies embody the Sage archetype, any brand that provides information, guidance, philosophy or any other platforms of wisdom will carry the energy of the Sage. These brands avoid getting caught up with frivolity and are committed to sharing substance.
Additional info: The Sage is also known as the Teacher, the Master, the Priest, the Priestess & Guide.
In the Zodiac, the Sage is represented by dreamy Pisces and the 12th house of spiritual transcendence. This area is ruled by the Neptune, the planet of poetry, intuition and illusion.
So here we have it; a brief introduction to the 12 Archetypes.
It should be noted that although brands will have a dominant archetype they may display traits of others but to a much more subtle degree. For example, you might just come across an Outlaw with a Jester spirit - but at heart, the brand will remain the Outlaw at its core.
So, based on the brief qualities outlined for each of the 12, which do you think best represents your brand?
Or which are you keen to embody?