Relevance of Archetypes for Brands
By: Shweta Soman, Deepa Soman
With brands having permeated every sphere of the human existence, understanding branding has become extremely essential for companies. In our highly consumer centric society, companies are no longer mere suppliers of goods and services; they are sellers of dreams and aspirations. People tend to express their personalities, both actual and idealistic, with the commodities they buy. Brands are essentially products with personalities and people are drawn to brands whose personalities they identify with. Successful brands are those that have connected with their customers and reflect their values and goals. In order to do so, brands need to identify the personality that will resonate best with their audience. This is where the Archetype Theory becomes useful.
An archetype is a primordial image, character or pattern of circumstances that recurs throughout literature and thought consistently enough to be considered universal. The word ‘archetype’ is a combination of two words, archein, which means ancient or original and typos, which means type or pattern. The combined meaning is “an original or ancient pattern from which all new themes or patterns are derived”. The Archetype Theory was introduced by the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung in his theory of the human psyche. He claimed that certain characters, themes or patterns, which he referred to as “archetypes” exist in the collective unconscious of all human beings. He identified twelve archetypes which are grouped on the basis of their motivations, core desires, values and traits as follows:-
The four core desires are, ‘provide structure’, ‘yearn for paradise’, ‘connect with others’, ‘leave a mark on the world. The chart above shows the various archetypes grouped according to their core desires. The brackets show the manner in which they satisfy this core desire. Thus, while multiple archetypes share the same core desires, they will satisfy them through unique means. For example, while the Ruler and the Creator both desire to provide structure to the world, the Ruler will do so by exercising control and the Creator, through innovation. These archetypes constantly reappear in literature, mythology and popular culture, transcending generations, time and geography. They evoke strong emotions and make people identify with them instantly. For example, the Hero archetype is found in Arjuna from the Hindu mythology, in J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter as well as in the Greek demigod Hercules. All expression of the human thought and experience, whether in the form of art, film or literature, knowingly or unknowingly draws from these archetypes.
In their book “The Hero and the Outlaw”, Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson explain how archetypes can be a powerful tool for brands to help craft their character and differentiate them from competitors. A brand’s archetypal territory is rooted in its core brand elements and values. An archetype acts as a compass for brand behavior, governing all communication and interactions. It gives the brand an ‘ownable’ tone around which all its strategies, services and relationships are centered. Archetypes instill humanity into companies, create lasting associations and transform their engagements from transactions to relationships. Applying an archetypal approach helps brands create personas that trigger an instant emotional response and that people associate with intuitively. For example, Johnson & Johnson instinctively evokes a Caregiver persona; a Five-Star commercial immediately makes us think of a Jester. Typically, similar product categories tend to embody similar archetypes: sports goods (Hero), beauty products (Lover), automobiles (Explorer). Using archetypes not only makes communication more impactful but also helps brands reinforce their internal values and external vision and weeds out inconsistencies. Some brands may have secondary and even tertiary archetypes but most will usually strongly identify with only one. Archetypes are applicable not only to products and services but also to countries and travel destinations. For example, Monte Carlo, whose commercials exude opulence and indulgence, would fit perfectly into the Lover archetype.
Thus, by harnessing the power of the archetypes, brands can not only increase affinity and in turn their bottom lines, but also employ a more authentic and humane way of doing business.
- Mark, M., Pearson, C. (2001). The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes. New York: McGraw-Hill.