Branding is an art and a science. It is also something that can harm your product or company in the long-run if you don't give it a lot of thought at the start. Today, branding is a key phase in early product development and in the launch of new companies. The earlier you understand your brand, the easier it will be to make marketing decisions and keep your communications consistent.
These days brands are becoming a lot more like people. Branding experts now talk about a brand as a “personification of a product, service or entire company.” Like a person, a brand has a name, personality, character, and reputation. You can respect, like, even love a brand. You can also hate, despise, and never want to be associated with a brand. There are brands that you warm to and those that turn you off.
Emotion vs. Reason
Branding at its core is EMOTIONAL! We don't respond to brands with our rational minds and reason. We respond because a brand makes us FEEL a certain way. Like it or not, we feel before we think.
Just ask Dan and Chip Heath. In their book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, they dissect how we make decisions with their analogy of the “rider” and the “elephant.” The rider represents our logical brain, the one that uses reason and evaluates features and benefits. The elephant is our emotional brain, the one that feels, trusts, and gets scared. But here's the thing — the rider’s logic and reason can only get the elephant to move when the elephant feels like it.
As marketers, if we don't understand the Heath Brothers' point, then it's hard to know what customers will respond to when they experience our brand. The reality is that customers buy when they trust a brand. They buy and become loyal when they believe what a brand portrays. To become more believable, a brand must become more human.
“You now have to decide what ‘image’ you want for your brand. Image means personality. Products, like people, have personalities, and they can make or break them in the marketplace.” — David Ogilvy (branding genius)
That's where brand archetypes come in. And there's no one better at describing brand archetypes than Dr. Carol S. Pearson and Margeret Mark's book, The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes. If you are a brander or marketer, this is a book worthy of your shelf. It is one of the seminal texts on the power of archetypes in branding.
Pearson and Mark articulate 12 master archetypes: Innocent, Explorer, Sage, Hero, Outlaw, Magician, Regular Guy/Gal, Lover, Jester, Caregiver, Creator, and Ruler. These archetypes serve as a short-cut to meaning and are understood across time and place. Assigning an archetype to a brand can help you develop a compelling brand personality that your buyers can identify with and are willing to trust.
Let's consider four examples:
Brands that align with the Outlaw Archetype include companies like: Apple, Harley-Davidson, Virgin Group (Atlantic, Mobile, etc.), PayPal, and E-Trade. For this archetype, rules are meant to be broken. The goal is to disrupt what is not working in society, even if it means shocking or destroying something.
The Regular Guy/Gal (Everyman)
The core desire of the Regular Guy/Gal archetype is to connect with others. This brand personality is based on ordinary solid virtues and celebrates the common man/woman. This archetype is realistic and lacks pretense. Examples of Regular Guy/Gal: IKEA, eBay, Disney, and Trader Joe's.
The Ruler archetype is all about command and control. With a goal of creating prosperity and being successful, the Ruler is all about responsibility and leadership. Examples of Rulers are: Microsoft, Consumer Reports, Brooks Brothers, and British Airways.
Brands that align with the Explorer archetype include: Patagonia, REI, NASA, National Geographic, and Corona. These brands are adventurous, yearn for paradise, and seek freedom. These brands are on a journey to seek out and experience new things, and they value autonomy.
Determining Your Brand Archetype
While there are many advertising agencies that use these 12 archetypes as part of their core branding process, you can also find online assessments that can help you and your team identify your brand's personality. Check out Allegory Studio's online quiz as well as Kaye Putnam's Brandality Quiz. Both are based on Mark and Pearson's work. I suggest having all of your teammates take the same quiz and compare results, then make a final decision about your brand archetype together.
This chart from Emily Bennett's slideshare presentation is also helpful in describing the core commonalities and differences between and across the 12 archetypes.
Consistency is Key
There is no best brand archetype… they are all important in the marketplace. Once you have identified the best one for your product or company, it is important to be consistency in how you use your brand personality — every communication from the company needs to reflect the archetype from the website, to the ad copy, to the blog. Your brand archetype is your face to the world. It gives your buyer something to relate to and identify with, and maybe the only thing that differentiates you from the competition.