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Brand archetypes are rooted in Carl Jung, the nineteenth-century Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology. He understood that an archetype is universal and is derived from the collective unconscious and is the psychic counterpart of instinct. Patterns and images come from the unconscious.

What sounds like hocus-pocus is genuinely a substantive part of brand development.

The Exercise

Each person circles three to five words that they believe represent the aspiration of the image that the company wants to portray. They get a list of about one hundred words to choose from like wholesome, indulgent, people-oriented, joker, wise, curious, empathetic, dreamer, visionary, and so on. Then the moderator tallies up the results.

What becomes clear is that one of the twelve archetypes fits the words chosen. So if the client picks words like generous, selfless, nurturing, compassionate, empathetic, supportive, and generous -the archetype is the Caregiver.

On the archetype wheel image, you can see examples of brands that fit into each category, like Apple as the creator, Home Depot as the everyday guy/gal, and Geico as the jester.

As an example, Caregivers companies have brand promises around protection. Usually, Caregiver brands view the brand archetype as supporting families or serving public sectors, for example, healthcare and education. The Caregiver aims to make people take care of themselves.

Unconscious Brand Image

Consumers and clients make decisions in unconscious ways. In more than 80% of the choices we make, we aren’t conscious of why we do it. There are four key drivers of subconscious behavior: emotional pulls, memory hooks, stories, and archetypes.

An archetype becomes a screen or filter for brand and marketing decisions. It helps you find your voice and how you want to engage in the world.

Please think of how Disney trains its employees to behave with visitors to their parks versus how Home Depot trains its employees. As a result, Disney is steeped in its magician archetype, while Home Depot focuses on the everyday guy/gal.

If you are going through a rebranding, make sure you start to understand this archetype framework. You can begin to have a clear and well-defined structure for what you aspire for your brand to become as it grows up in under an hour.

Guest Author

Jeff Slater is Chief Listening Officer at The Marketing Sage. For more information on archetypes, you can reach him at jeffslater@themarketingsage.com or 919-720-0995.

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