The 12 brand archetypes: where do you fit in?

By Woven Agency, Sunday September 29, 2019
10 Minutes

Brand archetypes are like a genre for your brand that acts as a guiding star for your visual and verbal identity, and makes you instantly relatable to your audience.

In this piece, we’ll delve into what a brand archetype is and where the idea of them came from, before summarising each of the twelve archetypes.

So that, hopefully at the end of this piece, you’ll be asking yourself the most important question: which brand archetype are you?

Once upon a time…

Think of your favourite stories. Did you ever notice the characters within them fall into categories? The world-weary detective fuelled by cheap liquor. The femme fatale with the perfect put-downs. The naïve youngster whose destiny is to change the world — these are archetypes: characters defined by generic traits that quickly and clearly explain who they are and what motivates them.

Psychoanalyst Carl Jung believed these archetypes were immediately familiar to us because they’re inherent within our subconscious mind – a primal part of everyone’s DNA.

Which means that such archetypes don’t just exist within stories and characters, they exist within all groups, everywhere.

Including brands.

What is a brand archetype?

Just as fictional characters are written according to paradigms that help us understand their actions, a brand archetype is a way of presenting a brand — its symbology, values, behaviours, messages — as a persona, thus making it more recognisable and relatable to target audiences. In this way, brand archetypes give brands a character that makes them accessible and relatable to audiences who share those same values.

Brand archetypes also inspire creative teams (creative directors, copywriters and designers) by giving them a ‘personality’ to design and write for, which helps them narrow down their approach and create a consistent brand.

At Woven, we’ve positioned many brands, using brand archetypes as a guiding star for our creative teams. So, when we decide a brand should follow the Hero archetype (see below for all twelve archetypes), we decide on punchy graphics and provocative copy. When we decide a Creator brand is the way forward, we experiment with more expressive typography and colour palettes.

In short, brand archetypes guide creators to build a consistent, resonant brand, which in turn helps customers connect with it more easily — and more emotionally.

So what are the brand archetypes?

From joyful Jesters to wide-eyed Innocents, there are twelve archetypes that brands fall into. Take a look below to see what they are, what they mean, and which archetype your brand falls into.

Diagram showing the 12 brand archetypes
The 12 brand archetypes.

The Magician

Magician brand archetypes make dreams come true and — hey presto — make problems disappear. They do things, both big and small, that amaze and transform.

Intelligent and knowledgeable, magicians have access to secret information that makes them alluring and intriguing. The dissemination of that knowledge adds value to customers and positions the brand as problem-solving or wish-fulfilling transformers.

Brand archetype gift: Turning problems into solutions, making dreams come true.

Brand archetype examples: Disney, Dyson, TUI.

Disney turn dreams into reality. Even for ducks.

The Creator

The Creator has a vision, a way they feel the world should be, and they want to create an enduring product that turns that vision into reality.

Creators crave authenticity, innovation and freedom of expression to make sense of the world around them, and use creativity and technology to enable creativity in others.

Brand archetype gift: Inspiring creativity, creating an authentic brand story, fusing technology and artistry.

Brand archetype examples: Adobe, GoPro, Apple.

The Ruler

The Ruler seeks to eliminate uncertainty by taking control. They like to follow rules but, even better, they like to make them. (Rulers need followers, after all.)

Rulers believe in playing the game properly and create stable, respected brands to suit. They also expect the same propriety from others, which is why politicians naturally fall into this category (and often fail at it, too…).

Sometimes their confidence extends into arrogance and so Ruler brand archetypes need to be careful not to appear despotic, thus leaving the door open to pretenders to steal their throne.

Brand archetype gift: Fostering stability and trust, creating high-quality products that lead the way.

Brand archetype examples: Rolls Royce, Microsoft, American Express.

Rulers like to follow rules. But, even better, they like to make them.

The Lover

Who says romance is dead? Not the Lover, that’s for sure, who inspires closer relationships through sensuousness and seductiveness.

But it’s not all about romance; the types of relationships the Lover fosters are also spiritual, familial, companionable. For Lover brand archetypes, the focus is on improving connections with the people and things that really matter.

Brand archetype gift: Connecting people emotionally, providing sensuous experiences, making people – and life – more special.

Brand archetype examples: Victoria’s Secret, Häagen-Dazs, Cesar.

The Caregiver

Caregivers live to give. They’re motivated by compassion and want to make people feel secure and nurtured.

As defenders of the less fortunate, Caregivers are found in teaching, nursing and charities, but also appear as gardeners, cleaners and in restorative jobs, such as mending clothes and refurbishing.

Because they’re altruistically rather than financially motivated, Caregivers are considered trustworthy. Brands such as Heinz and Johnson & Johnson have tapped into the Caregiver brand archetype, couching their products in a quasi-medicinal, nurturing way.

Brand archetype gift: Making people feel safe, fostering trust, generating public support for the socially-minded service they provide

Brand archetype examples: NSPCC, NHS, Heinz.

Heinz aligns a simple bowl of tomato soup with warmth, safety and care.

The Jester

The class clown, the office joker – we’ve all known one in our time. And, crucially, we all remember them. They want to have fun, to lighten the mood by connecting with their inner child. And, just like most children, they’re not too fond of obeying rules.

Jesters think outside the box because they’ve never spent their lives living in it – which makes them great innovators.

On the face of it, Jesters live for the moment, but at a deeper level, they understand that life is fleeting and needs to be filled with laughter whenever possible.

Brand archetype gift: Helping people see the lighter side of life, spreading creativity through joy.

Brand archetype examples: Old Spice, Paddy Power, Budweiser

The Sage

The Sage brand archetype believes that the truth will set you free. They are driven by the desire for truth and knowledge and use them to make the world a better place by sharing their findings.

Sage archetypes are rigorous researchers and reject misleading messaging and ignorance. They typically show higher levels of intelligence and social awareness.

As arbiters of information, they are often highly regarded as a trustworthy and intelligent source of information.

Brand archetype gift: Illuminating the world through knowledge-sharing, earning respect through intellectualism.

Brand archetype examples: TED, The Economist, Discovery Channel.

We all have questions. As a Sage brand archetype, The Economist positions itself as the answer.

The Explorer

Explorers are independent thinkers, forging new paths to find purpose in life – and to change it in the process. They are often individualistic in outlook but their clear, strong vision inspires others to join them.

Explorers seek freedom and joy through discovery, often eschewing rules and conformism as a result. This means they’re defined more by their trailblazing philosophy than by the industry in which they work, so that an Explorer brand archetype may be defined by decentralising and democratising its internal structures.

Brand archetype gift: Inspiring change through innovative vision and force of personality.

Brand archetype examples: NASA, Patagonia, The Body Shop.

The Rebel

Unlike the Explorer, who disregards rules as a by-product of their behaviour, the Rebel actively seeks to rip up the rulebook.

Rebels see opportunity in dismantling existing paradigms as a way to create something newer, better and often cheaper. They position themselves as free-thinking outlaws – a romanticised and intoxicating social archetype.go

The Rebel brand archetype seeks to undermine the status quo so that people question it, search for better alternatives and – ta-dah – turn to them in the process.

Of all archetypes, Rebels inspire the strongest brand loyalty as their countercultural message resonates beyond just the product and into their customers’ lifestyles and philosophies.

Brand archetype gift: Disrupting existing structures, rock ‘n’ roll sex appeal, promoting brand loyalty.

Brand archetype examples: Harley Davidson, Diesel, Greenpeace.

Bold, brave and confrontational, the Rebel brand archetype can sell themselves by sneering at others.

The Hero

Just like their DC and Marvel spandexed counterparts, the Hero brand archetype rises to the challenge. They protect and inspire. They sell the power of self-belief and transformation.

The Hero turns a brand into a story of triumph over adversity. So that a company like Nike isn’t seen as a seller of trainers but as a transformative device that helps people achieve their full potential.

There is a moralism to the Hero. They see their work as important and empowering and take great pride in the positive effect they feel they have on the world.

Brand archetype gift: Inspiring courage and achievement by overcoming adversity.

Brand archetype examples: Nike, Red Cross, The SAS.

The Everyman

The Everyman is your salt-of-the-earth type: non-pretentious, relatable, wholesome, comfortable. The Everyman values hard work, common sense, reliability and authenticity.

They want to appeal to a mass market and so disregard the trappings of luxury. For the Everyman, practicality wins over pretence. Think Ford instead of Ferrari, Gap instead of Gucci.

Symbolically, the Everyman allies themselves to families and multiple cultures, appealing to those who sit below the luxury threshold and who, as the brand might describe it, better understand the value of money.

Brand archetype gift: Bringing safety, reliability, trust and comfort to a mass market.

Brand archetype examples: McCain, Tesco, Ford.

The Everyman archetype appeals to a diverse audience in with inclusivity, humour and emotion.

The Innocent

The promise of the Innocent brand archetype is one of simplicity bordering on naivety. The Innocent looks at the world through the lens of a child, seeing wonder, fun and happiness at every turn, and hoping to pass that good feeling on through their work. 

Not usually ones for innovation, Innocent brands rely instead on the simplicity of their product (organic food, baby soaps) or through childlike communications (Coca Cola).

Brand archetype gift: Spreading purity and joy in a cynical world.

Brand archetype examples: Coca Cola, Innocent (obviously), Johnson’s.

Which brand archetype are you?

So, now you know the brand archetypes, how do you fit in? As an all-conquering and inspiring Hero, a child-like Innocent, a trailblazing Explorer?

Perhaps you’re a mix of two or three types and don’t see yourself neatly fitting into one archetype (i.e., you’re having an identity crisis). Or perhaps you’re in transition, turning from a market-disrupting Rebel to a well-established Ruler.

Because brands don’t stay still, so whether you’re building a new brand or creating a new identity for an existing one, brand archetypes should be part of your brand strategy to help map out where you want to be in the future.

We’ll help you find your brand archetype

Not sure whether you’re an Everyman or a Rebel? We can help. We use brand archetypes as a key positioning tool to embed brands into the minds audiences. If you click here, we’ll show how we’ve done it for others.

And if you click here, we’ll show how we can do it for you.

Speak to a member of the Woven team today Click Here to get in touch