What makes customers gravitate towards certain brands over others? High-quality goods or services is important, but it's not why consumers will continually patronize one brand.
Think about characters in a book or movie: People identify with certain characters—the rebel, the lover, the brain, etc. We know these as archetypes and, in business, we refer to them as brand archetypes.
By figuring out which identity best represents your brand, you’ll accomplish a number of things. For starters, you can easily create a logo, build your website, and set up a marketing strategy since you’ll have a crystal-clear picture of your brand personality. In return, you’ll form a stronger bond with your audience. They’ll feel like they really know your brand, which will lead to greater trust.
In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of categorizing archetypes, break down the 12 brand archetypes, and provide some examples to help you define your own.
What is a brand archetype?
A brand archetype is one of 12 brand identities or personalities that consumers will automatically recognize. The concept of the archetype comes from the psychologist Carl Jung.
In the 1940s, Jung came up with a set of common personality types. He believed that people couldn't organically develop an archetype and environments wouldn't influence them either. Instead, one’s archetype was innate.
Because these archetypes are built into who we are as humans, we can easily recognize them when we see them—even if it only takes place subconsciously. However, we don't just recognize the archetype identity, but we also expect certain behaviors, motivations and values from them as well.
Jung’s personality archetypes became the framework upon which brand archetypes were developed. They operate in much the same way, too. Late in the 1900s, Dr. Ernest Dichter was credited with applying Jung's archetypes to marketing and advertising. His reasoning, from his Madison Avenue based ad agency, was that Jung's archetypes were so universal that applying them to branding allowed consumers to find products earlier in their search and fostered stronger brand loyalty.
Once you tap into your brand archetype, you can decide how you’ll flesh out your branding. Do it effectively and your audience will feel a deeper connection and loyalty to your brand as it feels familiar and safe.
Why should you use brand archetypes?
Embracing your brand archetype is important for the following reasons:
Create a more effective branding strategy
A brand archetype differs from a brand image. Your archetype is an inherent quality that people will automatically associate with your brand. Your image, On the other hand, you can carefully mold your brand image.
That said, the two are intertwined and will impact your brand reputation. By understanding your brand’s innate identity and personality, you can define a style, choose imagery and write messaging that bolsters your archetype throughout your brand strategy.
Improve brand perception
Knowing and using your brand archetype will benefit your business, no matter if you're a new or old company. The sooner you realize it, though, the more time you’ll have to position yourself as a relevant archetype in your niche.
Having a solid brand positioning strategy is critical. In the beginning, it will help you cut through the noise and generate brand awareness. Later, it will help you to strengthen brand recognition. It also plays a role in building brand equity as consumers personally connect with your brand through shared goals and values.
Tell more relatable stories
Archetypes are a valuable storytelling tool. They enable storytellers to craft characters without having to mark them as the Hero or the Innocent, for instance. Yet, the audience will emotionally respond to them because they inherently know them.
Brand storytelling is the same. You don’t need to litter your site with the word “hero” or with illustrations of superheroes wearing capes to clue people into your archetype. When your branding embodies the your archetype's traits, your audience will instinctively know what your brand is all about.
Build stronger relationships
Owning your brand archetype will make your company more relatable not only to people who share your values and behaviors, but also for people seeking out that archetype in their lives.
When people relate to your brand, they feel good about their relationship with it. In a world where people often feel pressure to buy and often make rash and regrettable purchasing decisions, this is an invaluable way to connect with your customers.
The brand archetype wheel
There are 12 brand archetypes. An archetype wheel offers a clear visual breakdown of:
What the 12 brand archetypes are
What they’re best known for
What their ultimate goal is
The 12 brand archetypes (with examples)
We'll delve into each archetype’s unique traits and include examples of brands that embody them:
01. The Caregiver
A Caregiver brand helps, nurtures, and/or protects people. They offer their customers a sense of safety and comfort. The Caregiver brand’s words and imagery will carefully reflect its protective and empathetic nature.
The Caregiver archetype examples:
General Electric has a ton of projects and innovations in the works. That said, a single force drives everything it does: To build a better world that serves humanity. Even if the brand imagery sometimes feels cold or mechanical, the messaging is full of hope, optimism, and humanity.
The Honest Company
Jessica Alba founded the company after struggling to find natural products for her sensitive skin and her newborn baby’s skin. The Honest Company sells clean and sustainable health and wellness products. This brand devotes itself to bettering its customers and the planet. It combines simple and honest imagery, transparent messaging, and sustainable mission statements to reinforce their promise.
YourTable describes itself as “Networking for Foodies.” However, its has a more compassionate mission. The mobile app connects people who might otherwise eat alone at home. It also enables business connections to remotely meet over food and drinks when they cannot feasibly eat together in person.
02. The Creator
A Creator brand is a visionary that innovates and disrupts, often offering a solution to a very modern problem or situation. They take a unique approach to easing a common pain and evolve and innovate their solutions as their users’ needs change over time.
The Creator archetype examples:
People haven't always viewed Apple as a creative genius when it comes to computing and mobile technologies. However, when Steve Jobs returned to the company and announced the iMac, that changed. Apple became the innovator in the space, as well as a master of branding and packaging.
Carvana has transformed the way people buy, sell and trade vehicles. People no longer have to go to a dealership, local car lot, or an online listings site and haggle with a sales rep, owner or buyer. Carvana has simplified the process while improving the security and savings of its customers.
Mobile ordering apps have made it easy to order delivery or pickup from local restaurants. However, users often have to comb through dozens of categories and hundreds of establishments to figure out what they want to eat. ZipLunch offers a new and less stressful option, offering users a curated list of menus to order from.
03. The Everyman
An Everyman brand is down-to-earth and dependable. They create good products so that everyone can enjoy the same benefits and advantages. They probably don’t have the flashiest or most luxurious branding, but this makes them feel more like a familiar friend or family member.
The Everyman archetype examples:
People have long known Ford for its unpretentious, rugged and practical vehicles that take you wherever you want to go. While they've expanded into electric vehicles, the brand continues to offer something for everyone at a reasonable price point.
Robinhood aims to level the playing field when it comes to stock trading and investing. The app’s branding feels both fun and youthful, which takes a lot of the pressure and intimidation out of investing. Its messaging is equally relatable and reassuring.
Teachable enables anyone to create and sell online courses as well as coaching services. The brand imagery and messaging doesn’t exclude anyone. You don’t have to work at a major university to teach or coach through Teachable. You just need a computer and a skill or knowledge that others find valuable.
04. The Explorer
An Explorer brand lives for freedom—to discover, to travel, to experience life without boundaries. They create products and solutions that equip independent people to take the road less traveled.
The Explorer archetype examples:
Virgin has branched out with travel-related brands like Atlantic, Galactic, Hotels, Holidays, Hyperloop and Orbit. For those that don’t have the money or time to pursue international or space travel, Virgin also dabbles in media that will transport customers’ minds.
Patagonia makes high-quality products for outdoor enthusiasts, athletes, and adventurers. People know them for creating good products that enable exploration, and its environment-first mission. The brand recently made headlines when founder Yvon Chouinard decided to donate $3 billion of the company’s current and future profits to fight climate change.
Sojrn (from the word sojourn) empowers people to travel to places like Greece, Bali, South Africa, and Columbia. This company doesn't just sell stays at far-flung locations. They promote slow and mindful travel so that people can truly immerse themselves in the experience and get the most from it.
05. The Hero
A Hero brand seeks to improve the world and, often, fight on behalf of others. In addition to doing good themselves, these companies inspire others to contribute to their cause. There is no room for weakness, cowardice or injustice. These brands speak confidently and bravely address the problems and challenges they see in the world.
The Hero archetypes examples:
Nike has long been a positive force for change and inspiration in sports and fitness. Everything from its inspiring brand slogan “Just do it” to its transparent mission demonstrate the company’s commitment to leveling the playing field so that anyone can become a hero. It’s also devoted to leaving this world a better place.
Carrier Global Corporation
Carrier Global is a leader in the building and cold-chain solutions industry. They guarantee that their HVAC, refrigeration and fire and security solutions are healthy, safe and sustainable. They don't just offer high-quality and healthy products, though. Carrier aims to inspire others to adopt more sustainable lifestyles.
06. The Innocent
An Innocent brand is one that is optimistic, honest, and virtuous. They typically have a singular and simple mission: To provide happiness. They may sell products, services or experiences that bring joy and peace to their customers' lives.
The Innocent archetypes examples:
Walt Disney World
There’s a reason why the Magic Kingdom is known as “The Most Magical Place on Earth” and why tens of millions of people flock to Walt Disney World parks every year. The brand promises happiness via thrill rides, good food and unique interactions with many of the beloved places and characters that people have known throughout their lives.
TOMS is more than just a company that sells comfortable shoes and accessories for women, men, and children. Its customers invest in the brand because the brand invests in others. One-third of its profits go towards grassroots initiatives, including cash grants for communities that need it. What’s more, TOMS publishes an annual impact report to remain transparent about everything it does.
BarkBox sells monthly boxes of curated treats and toys for dogs. The product itself is a huge hit with its target audience, and their social media accounts back this up. In addition to making lots of dogs happy, BarkBox’s digital branding and content bring smiles to the owners' faces.
07. The Jester
The Jester brand is fun and funny. They don’t take themselves seriously and they want to bring joy to their users’ lives. Some are outright comedians, while others take a more subtle, almost sarcastic approach to making their audience laugh.
The Jester archetype examples:
Moosejaw is an eCommerce company that sells outdoor gear. While you might be tempted to call this brand an Explorer, its comedic prowess ensures that people known it for random and sometimes hidden jokes. For instance, someone visiting the website might notice that their browser window tab reads: “Moosejaw: Backpacking | Climbing | French Kissing | Skiing…”.
Incontinence is no laughing matter to the people who suffer from it. However, bringing levity to the situation has worked well for MoxyPatch, a company that has developed a solution for bladder leaking. Their website and branding isn’t too over-the-top with the humor, but you’ll encounter it usually when you least expect it.
08. The Lover
A Lover brand is in the business of love, passion, and/or intimacy. To properly tend to these matters, Lover brands will take a softer and more intimate approach. Some may go over-the-top with their messaging while others gently infuse their branding with warmth and emotion.
The Lover archetype examples:
Decadent chocolates. Hand-crafted touches. Dreamy packaging. People know GODIVA Chocolates for all this and more. Whenever a special occasion comes up—Valentine’s Day, Mother’s or Father’s Day, etc.—GODIVA offers delicious, gourmet treats to share with your loved ones.
Just as Bumble challenged the unwritten rules of dating and love, it also helped people make friends and business partners. While these connections may not be full of intimacy and passion, they do require similar levels of support and respect as romantic relationships to thrive.
Simply Eloped recognizes that not everyone wants an expensive and elaborate wedding. This brand offers elopement packages for couples that would prefer a fun and hassle-free way to get hitched. Their branding is equally simple and care-free.
09. The Magician
A Magician brand pushes the limits of reality and exceeds expectations. Unlike magicians like David Blaine, Magician brands don’t create wonder and excitement out of illusion or trickery. They offer real solutions to transform their customers lives in ways they might not have previously imagined.
The Magician archetype examples:
When you look at the Amazon eCommerce website, it might not seem magical. However, this company has revolutionized how consumers and businesses get physical products, ebooks, streaming entertainment, groceries, web hosting and much more. It’s also transformed consumers’ expectations when it comes to fast and free shipping, product reviews and convenient online shopping.
Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, is a bit of a magician. From PayPal to SpaceX, he’s developed solutions that seem like something we only used to dream about. Now, with companies like Tesla, Musk has made electric vehicles and solar energy a very real part of our lives.
Ora-3D is more than just an electric toothbrush. This 3D toothbrush was designed specifically to improve people’s brushing technique. In addition to upgrading the toothbrush, the brand has made an electric toothbrush that doesn’t require regular charging, which also makes it a more sustainable product over the long run.
10. The Rebel
A Rebel (or Outlaw) brand is a risk-taker that disrupts an entire industry with a new way of doing things. They don’t do it as a means of causing harm or chaos. Like many of the other brand archetypes, they challenge the status quo to make much-needed improvements to long-stagnated areas.
The Rebel archetype examples:
While Uber was technically founded first, it didn’t become a rideshare company until after Lyft paved the way. Before these companies emerged, people had to rely on cab companies or expensive car services to get around if they didn’t have their own transportation. Thanks to the rise of the sharing economy, this concept took off and Lyft has made getting around faster and easier for everyone (while also creating a new revenue stream for many people).
Unlike apps like Instacart or Shipt, though, Misfits Market sends customers the “reject” produce or goods that grocery stores would most likely throw out. To prevent unnecessary waste, Misfits Market sells these ugly, misshapen, or otherwise unattractive foods to customers at a reasonable price. Its fresh and funky branding showcases the company's unique and rebellious nature.
Sidecar Health is a newcomer to the health insurance field, and it aims to shake up an industry that consumers have long been frustrated with. In addition to providing fair and transparent pricing for services, Sidecar is a tech-friendly company, empowering customers to research providers, compare prices and get reimbursed through an intuitive app.
11. The Ruler
A Ruler brand desires control and thrives as a leader. Even if they’re not the first in their industry, they will do everything they can to become the standard bearer. These brands are confident, stable and trustworthy, which is why other brands will fall in line when they set the new rules or trends for their space.
The Ruler archetype examples:
How did Netflix beat Blockbuster at its own game and become the leader in the movie rental space? Because Netflix could envision the future and built a product for it. As time’s gone by, Netflix has revamped its interface, added custom programming, and experimented with new technologies to increase customer satisfaction and always stay one step ahead of the competition.
Rocket Companies is the largest mortgage lender in the U.S. and a major mover and shaker in the field of fintech. The CEO’s confidence and leadership skills have made the brands successful over the years, as has the company's staunch dedication to 20 philosophies—including hard work, investing in employees, and giving back to the community.
HUEX has taken the increasingly popular voice technology and merged it with an automated AI assistant to revolutionize the drive-thru ordering process. While they might not have achieved Ruler-like status in the field yet, they have all the makings of one.
12. The Sage
A Sage brand is devoted to knowledge and truth, which is why you often find these brands working in the fields of media, publishing, and analysis. While they don’t generally seek out power and control over information, their devotion to it often garners them a loyal and dedicated following.
The Sage archetype examples:
Google is much more than an Internet search engine these days, though that alone does put it in the category of Sage. From its analytics tools (e.g. Google Analytics, Search Console, Keyword Planner) to its Think with Google data insights publication, Google has become the master of data and information in the digital age.
News Corp is a media and publishing company with a number of high-profile brands beneath its umbrella, like The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones, Barron’s and MarketWatch. Not only do many News Corp publications share the news of the day with readers, some of them have carved out a unique niche in spaces like real estate and finance.
Substack is a different kind of Sage brand archetype. Its publishing platform empowers writers—many of whom are journalists and researchers—to develop a newsletter subscription. Instead of being the knowledge sharer, Substack equips the world’s Sages with a tool that allows them to disseminate their thoughts, data, and message in a user-friendly format.
How to define your brand archetype
As you explored the brand archetypes examples, you probably realized you already thought about those companies in those ways. No one needed to tell you that Netflix was the Ruler type or that Misfits Market was a Rebel. You already knew.
So, how do you define an archetype for your own brand? Let these steps guide you:
01. Research your audience
Brand archetypes don't just make it easy for people to recognize what role you play in society. They’re effective because people relate to them.
If your brand archetype can’t connect with the personality archetype of your audience, then you could have an issue forming relationships or even attracting them to your brand in the first place. That’s why it’s important to research your audience.
Find out your audiences:
This research will help you sort out your target audience’s personality archetypes. You can then research what brand archetypes they’re drawn to.
Find out how they feel about your industry and relevant solutions. What words do they use to describe them? How do they make them feel? Then, ask them to look outside of your industry. What companies do they like the most? How about trust the most? Why?
By understanding things from their perspective, you’ll know what kinds of brand archetypes they’re drawn to. This will help you narrow down your archetypes if you feel as though you fit into too many categories.
02. List out your brand’s traits
You can’t just pick a brand archetype that you like the sound of and go with it. If it doesn’t naturally fit what your brand does, your audience will know right away.
To figure out which archetype your brand belongs to, list out your brand’s traits:
What three to five adjectives describe your brand best?
Who or what does your brand’s voice sound like?
Who inspires your brand?
What drives your brand to do what it does?
What is your brand’s big picture goal?
What strategy will you use to achieve your aims?
What three to five things does your brand hate or fear the most?
This exercise will help you figure out your brand's core. Once you start to see patterns in your responses, this will lead you towards which brand archetypes fit. The research on your users should then help you define your brand's one archetype.
03. Create a brand archetype profile
Just as you amalgamate your business’s identity in a brand style guide, you should create a formal brand archetype profile for your brand. Web designers, writers, marketers, product designers and more will find this a valuable point of reference.
You should include the following components when creating a brand archetype document or card:
3-5 brand voice descriptors
3-5 personality adjectives
2-3 famous people or brands that share your archetype
Even though your brand may clearly fall into one archetype category, this profile will still allow its uniqueness to shine through. You can see that in many of the examples above, some of the brand archetypes within the same category have differing goals, strategies and even audiences. So, let this document set the tone.
Brand archetypes FAQ
What is Jung's theory of archetypes?
Jung's theory of archetypes expounds that archetypes are made up of unconscious patterns of thought and behavior that connect to or make sense within an individual's environment.
What are the 12 brand archetypes?
They are - the Innocent, Everyman, Hero, Outlaw, Explorer, Creator, Ruler, Magician, Lover, Caregiver, Jester and Sage.
What brand archetype is Disney?
The Magician! Disney leans into creating a sense of wonder and magic.