What Does Your Archetype Say About You and Your Brand?

Image courtesy Michel Jansen’s, “Brand Prototyping”.

If you took Psychology 101 back in the day, you might recall a Swiss chap named Carl Jung who wrote extensively about dream symbolism, the collective unconscious and a cool thing called, “Archetypes”. Turns out, understanding more about archetypes, can help us understand a lot more about ourselves and why we choose the companies and brands we do.

Archetypes, simply put, are reflections of images and patterns that are programmed into our unconscious minds and that are common to us all. Regardless of our culture, language, generation or gender, we innately recognize and relate to these universal themes, “archetypes”, that have existed since – well – forever.

Examples include The Hero, The Villain, the Mother, and The Ruler. Jung identified 12 distinct Archetypes in all. Each is driven by an underlying and fundamental motivation like desire for control, belonging, freedom or enjoyment. Turns out that not only do people and fable characters have archetypes, (think Snow White / The Innocent vs. The Wicked Witch / The Villain), but companies and brands have them too, which is what drives us to choose certain characters and brands over the others.

Campbell’s Soup and Johnson & Johnson, for example, are aligned with the classic Caregiver/Nurturer archetype, while Patagonia and National Geographic are aligned with The Explorer. By taking a close look at your own organization’s motivations and archetype, you can authentically and distinctively begin to develop and articulate your brand’s unique personality and align it with the underlying motivations of your customers. That’s important because it helps customers choose your brand. A research study supports that people make purchasing decisions emotionally and then justify their decisions rationally. Therefore, it just makes good business sense to help customers “feel” their way to your products by the way you consistently present your brand. Whether you do that through your advertising, packaging, web content, or product innovations – thinking about how to bring them to market, through the lens of archetypal storytelling, facilitates customers in recognizing and relating to your brand. Knowing – and remembering – what your brand stands for allows you to believably craft “sticky” vocabulary and imagery, over time and media channels, and build customer loyalty.

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