Struggling to make an emotional connection with your audience? Trying hard to differentiate your brand in a cluttered landscape? In a world of constant communication and too many choices, how can a brand stand out and leave a lasting impression? By building an emotional connection based on universal human desires, that’s how. But how can we do this? Well, there are twelve ways to do this: they’re called archetypes.
Welcome to part one of our two-part series.
What are archetypes?
Archetypes are a symbolic framework for understanding patterns of thought and emotional engagement or reactions. The Rebel. The Magician. The Explorer. The Innocent.
Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell famously used archetypes to interpret psychological observations. Considered universally present in all ideas, archetypes can be used to analyze the emotions or personality traits embodied by an attribute, a brand, or a person.
At Northbound, we use them to discover new pathways and core themes for companies, brands, and customers. There are 12 archetypes, each with their own motivations, desires, tones, and points of view.
Why use archetypes?
Archetypes build emotional connections. People have an instinctual understanding of archetypes because they speak to a universal human desire. For example, the Rebel archetype embodies liberation. The Innocent embodies safety. Making this kind of emotional connection is an obvious advantage over other brands that don’t cleanly and clearly communicate who they are and what they do.
Archetypes also differentiate brands and experiences using unique personalities, tones and – most importantly – points of view. Effective differentiation based on these innate, instinctual archetypes means that audiences quickly understand what a brand seeks to accomplish in this world and how. Furthermore, when an audience knows what to expect from a brand and the brand delivers on that, it forges an even stronger emotional connection, as mentioned above.
How to use archetypes
Whether developing a new brand identity or exploring opportunities for an existing one, archetypes allow brands to clearly articulate what they want to accomplish in this world and how they do it.
Look at your brand, its goals, and its actions through the lens of the 12 archetypes. Starting at the center of the circle, what is your brand’s goal in this world? Does it want to make a lasting mark? Does it want to provide structure? Moving further out, how does it accomplish that goal? For example, if your brand wants to help people find paradise and it does that by providing understanding of the world around us, your brand is likely a Sage.
Archetypes can even be used to understand your audience’s motivations. What archetype best embodies them? What emotions drive them, and what desires are they trying to fulfil? Knowing how your audience views the world through this framework will help your brand meet them where they are and give them what they’re looking for: whether it be safety, freedom, or intimacy. For example, if your audience wants to connect with others and feel a sense of belonging, they are likely a Citizen.
Once you’ve determined which archetype – or combination of archetypes – most truthfully embody what your brand does and is capable of doing, use them as a framework to guide your future actions and communication style. Starting from this place of innate understanding lays the groundwork for clear, deliberate, brand connections based on universal human emotions.
In part one, we’ll take a closer look at six of the archetypes. Three want to make their mark on the world: the Rebel, the Hero, and the Magician. The other three want to connect with others: the Jester, the Lover, and the Citizen. Read below to learn who they are, how they talk, and the best strategies to connect with them.
Making a mark - These three archetypes share the common goal of leaving a legacy. When they’re gone, they want others to remember what they’ve done. Everything they do, and how they do it, is in service to this goal.
- The Rebel wants to make a mark on the world via liberation. Their purpose is to overturn what isn't working.
- They’re an activist, gambler, maverick, or reformer always looking for a fight: partly to change the world for the better, and partly just for the fun of anarchy. The Rebel has a disdain for rules, conformity, and those who would limit anyone else's freedom of choice.
- "Rules are made to be broken."
- Disruptive, Dynamic, Outspoken, Shocking, Willful
- Airbnb, Casper, SpaceX, Virgin, Harley-Davidson
- Marie Curie, Clint Eastwood, George Washington, Henry Ford
- How to connect with the Rebel:
- Prove you are one of them. Show disdain for the status quo and conformity while empowering and facilitating revolution.
- The Magician wants to make a mark on the world via transformative powers. Their purpose is to make dreams come true.
- They’re an alchemist, scientist, engineer, or visionary who brings things to life in a mystical way. They believe we are only limited by our imaginations and bring people on a transformative journey to prove the possibilities. While they may not always reveal the magic behind their actions, they use it to show and share their vision.
- "I make things happen."
- Accepting, Clever, Mysterious, Charismatic, Confident
- Disney, Intel, Pixar, Absolut Vodka, Axe
- Doc Brown, Gandalf, Houdini, Steven Spielberg
- How to connect with the Magician:
- Take them on a journey of change. They’ll resonate with a brand whose product or service can help them grow as a person or evolve their outlook.
- The Hero wants to make a mark on the world by mastering something. Their purpose is to prove their worth through courageous acts.
- They're an athlete, liberator, rescuer, or warrior who takes pride in developing the skill sets that will set them apart. They are driven by success and won’t let a defeat stand. The Hero wants to save the day, not just for to prove they are capable to themselves, but also so the whole world knows.
- "Where there's a will, there's a way."
- Brave, competent, competitive, honorable, proud, strong
- Duracell, Gatorade, Nike, US Army
- Batman, Joan of Arc, Rosie the Riveter, Robin Hood, Babe Ruth
- How to connect with the Hero:
- The Hero understands people that rise to their ambitions, so state those ambitions clearly. Challenge yourself and inspire others to achieve their goals. Always stand up to the bully.
- The Jester wants to connect with others through enjoyment. Their purpose is to have a great time and lighten up the world.
- They’re an entertainer, clown, trickster, provocateur who lives life in the moment. A lifelong optimist, they feel it's their duty to bring happiness to everyone around them. However, they aren't merely flippant: their levity can serve a greater purpose in a world that sometimes takes itself too seriously.
- "You only live once."
- Adaptable, carefree, fun, humorous, unpredictable
- Cheetos, Fanta, Hulu, Old Spice, Taco Bell
- Jim Carrey, Tina Fey, Steve Carrell, Key and Peele
- How to connect with the Jester:
- Show people a good time. Explore the light-hearted side of your industry with a healthy dose of humor.
- The Citizen wants to connect with others through belonging. Their purpose is to support and promote social change to improve the world we live in.
- They’re an advocate, everyman, networker, or servant who understands that we're all in this together. They don’t like to stand out in the crowd because they believe the many - not the few - are most important. Above all, the citizen wants to create a welcoming community.
- "Do the right thing."
- Accountable, down-to-earth, driven, energetic, functional
- Crate & Barrel, IKEA, Target, TOMS
- Erin Brockovich, Harvey Milk, Rosa Parks, Homer Simpson
- How to connect with the Citizen:
- Take an honest approach to communication with a humble tone. Be inclusive and make customers feel part of the brand. Avoid any elitism: the Citizen is not about being better than others, they're about a rising tide raising all ships.
- The Lover wants to connect with others through intimacy. Their purpose is to be in a relationship with others.
- They’re a companion, a matchmaker, a romantic, even a hedonist. The lover wants to be wanted, and they want others to know they're wanted. They're motivated by becoming more and more attractive - both physically and emotionally.
- "Follow your bliss."
- Charismatic, committed, idealistic, open, passionate
- Chanel, Porsche, Victoria's Secret, Haagen-Dazs
- Thelma and Louise, Madonna, Count Dracula, Jane Austin
- How to connect with the Lover:
- Make them feel desired. Beyond a sense-driven tone, the use of visuals is especially important to the Lover archetype. Show them how you want them to feel.
Archetypes are an effective tool for understanding audience motivations. At Northbound, we also use them to discover new pathways and core themes for companies and brands. Ask yourself if your brand or your audience are looking to make a mark on the world or to connect with others. If so, use the above archetypes to determine how to make that happen, and how to resonate with the right people in the right way.
Click here to jump to Part 2, where we look at the 6 remaining archetypes: those who want to provide structure and those who want to find paradise.
Drop us a line if you want to learn more about how archetypes can differentiate your brand and help you reach the right people. We even have a handy booklet with all the archetypes. We’re happy to send one your way if you’d like.
Adam Shigem | Senior Strategist