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Brand Archetypes - What Are They?

Guest blog by Ivana Drinkovic.

Imagine having no personality. It would be impossible to make an impression or for people to get to know you. The same applies for a brand.

If your brand lacks a personality, then your brand equity is in trouble.

Brand Equity is tricky to manage. It’s all about perception. This means that knowing who you are as a brand and portraying that clearly and consistently is critical.

Brand Archetypes, though not a new concept, have recently evolved in the commercial world, allowing marketing departments to establish a method to the madness.


Categorised into 12 major ‘personalities’, Archetypes symbolise basic human motivations, meanings, values and traits. Used since ancient times, 20thC psychologist, Carl Jung, further developed this concept. He advanced Archetypes as a model of universal patterns that derive from the collective unconscious and find expression through behaviour, imagery, myths, and religions. In other words, our surface actions are an expression of our unconscious feelings, fantasies and visions.


Now, what has that got to do with a brand?

Think about the commercial world today. Thousands of similar products offered to informed, demanding and skeptical consumers. These consumers do not simply search for ‘a solution’ but for ‘a solution for me’. So, how is one brand in a thousand to differentiate itself to the discerning consumer?

The answer is to employ the concept of Archetypes into your brand development strategy.

Knowing your brand Archetype means you can develop a strong brand personality in a crowded market. You add meaning to your brand which enables you to create a genuine connection with the consumer. Have look at these brands that have successfully utilised their Archetype:

Archetype                             Qualities                                        Brand

Caregiver               Compassionate, Nurturing, Dedicated       Red Cross

        Everyman                Empathetic, Resilient, Unpretentious     Swiss Army Knife

Jester                        Playful, Spontaneous, Humourous             M&M'S

Magician                     Intuitive, Insightful Inspiring                        Apple

          Outlaw                    Risk-taker, Bold, Provocative Thought     Harley Davidson



I know what you’re thinking. Kiwibank – that one with that little green car – an outlaw? Hardly. But, follow me on this one.

When you walk into a bank, it’s not hard to feel the sterile and impersonal sentiment of ‘corporate’ in the air. There’s lines to be herded into, forms to fill out, you’re not even trusted with a pen.

So, imagine the heads that turned when Kiwibank drove in with that speaker-topped little green car. Its aim: to make New Zealand Banking a kiwi affair again. Playing the role of the Robin Hood of the banking world, it tells consumers “we didn’t set out to be a bank, we set out to change banking”.

Kiwibank understood its Archetype and from that developed a unique and meaningful brand personality – employing a clear and consistent image and voice.

The effect this has had on brand equity is clear when we consider the time line below:

2002: Kiwibank launched

2004: The number of Kiwibank branches increases by 16 to 301

2006: Kiwibank acquires a 51 percent shareholding in New Zealand Home Loans.

2008: Signup rates for new customers averaged at 2100 per week.  

2013: The Kiwibank Banking Group makes after-tax profit of $97.1 million (increase of 22.8% over 2012)



However, there is always a difference between theory and practice.

Firstly, an Archetype is a guideline, not a rule. For instance, an Outlaw may not necessarily mean a ragged, middle-finger-to-society, leather clad non-conformist. Consider the difference between Kiwibank and Harley Davidson – clearly different but both Outlaws.

Expanding on this, there is never just one aspect to a person. It’s the same with a brand. This is where primary and secondary archetypes come in. Kiwibank, while being an outlaw can also be said to be the Everyman as well – empathetic, unpretentious, and resilient.

The point here is that it is not enough to just know your archetype. You must understand it in conjunction with your brand so that you can create a personality that creates meaning in lives in your customers.

So, who is your brand?


Archetypes in Branding: A Toolkit For Creatives and Strategists

The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes

For an overview of the 12 major archetypes visit our Discovering Corporate Personality page.

Also, keep an eye out for our Archetype Profile Blogs and our Archetypes Quiz coming out soon.


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