By Justin Biel, trends editor at Grow Wire
⏰ 6-minute read
Brand archetyping is the practice of applying traditional psychological archetypes to business strategy.
Kalika Yap and Erika Brechtel, two experienced brand strategists, have revamped the existing slate of brand archetypes for the 21st century.
The duo’s new archetypes reflect branding trends in 2019, and their descriptions provide ideas for taking your brand to the next level.
Archetypes have been applied to psychology--and subsequently branding--for years. But as with many schools of thought, some folks figured this one could use a 21st-century update.
Kalika Yap and Erika Brechtel are L.A.-based entrepreneurs who have worked with dozens of brands at their respective branding agencies, Orange & Bergamot and Erika Brechtel. They’ve riffed on the time-worn idea of archetypes to create an entirely new archetype code that can spark ideas for tweaking your brand strategy in accordance with your company’s “innate personality.”
Wait--there are archetypes in branding?!
Archetypes have appeared in stories, myths and teachings for much of human history. Psychologist Carl Jung introduced the modern idea of archetypes in 1912 as a way to understand the collective unconscious. His 12 major archetypes of the human psyche have names like The Caregiver, The Explorer and The Jester.
Nearly a century later, Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson applied Jung’s archetypes to brands in their 2001 book “The Hero and the Outlaw.” They took Jung’s 12 major archetypes and explained how brands can live them out too.
Jung’s archetypes “helped his clients connect with their deeper selves and, in so doing, with their callings and values through the individuation process,” Mark wrote.
He continued, "Similarly, the process of Archetypal Branding helps clients identify the deep human truth underlying their products, services, corporation and causes and to bring this meaning alive in a way that forms unassailable connections with both internal and external audiences."
The Brand Boss Code
Jung’s archetypes are, of course, a slightly dated set of insights. Yap and Bechtel devised their own set of 12 major brand archetypes with modern names like The BFF, The Powerhouse and The Gamechanger. (A couple of their archetypes share names with Jung’s, and consequently Mark and Pearson’s.)
Yap and Bechtel call this updated set of brand archetypes the Brand Boss Code.
The Code’s 12 archetypes are described below. Read the descriptions to determine your brand’s innate strengths, and see examples of well-known brands that are successfully flexing their archetypes with their strategies.
(Yap’s company website provides a quiz to help you determine your brand’s archetype. Yap and Brechtel’s forthcoming book, “The Little Brand Book,” describes these major archetypes in more detail along with the concept of “minor archetypes.”)
1. The Maven
Brands that fit the Maven archetype are teachers. These brands--and oftentimes the folks who run them--are considered experts in their fields and get great joy from sharing their knowledge with others.
Example: TED is a company that represents the Maven brand archetype. Its public-facing goal is to curate and spread information from experts, thus it makes its talks accessible through conferences, videos and podcasts.
TED's goal is to teach others, making it a Maven brand.
2. The Brilliant
Brilliant brands are what we might call “intellectuals.” They resemble those folks who prefer a quiet corner to a large social gathering and favor tangible facts over intangible emotion.
Example: The Economist embodies the Brilliant archetype. The company’s primary focus is acquiring data and information to develop a knowledge base, which it shares with the world in a refreshingly understated manner.
The Economist builds its brand around the sharing of data, leaning into its Brilliant archetype.
3. The Original
Originals are creative. They see inspiration around them and share it with the existing world, or they use their creativity to create their own worlds.
Example: DreamWorks is an example of the Original brand archetype. Through marketing, the company has set an expectation that it will push the bounds of creativity, so it doesn’t hesitate to try new methods of epic storytelling.
As an Original, DreamWorks is always testing new methods of storytelling, like Snapchat.
4. The Idealist
These are our eternal optimists. They choose to see and believe in the good of everyone and everything around them.
Example: Hallmark, the oldest and largest greeting card company in the U.S., has all the makings of the Idealist archetype. Hallmark products share uplifting messages, connect friends and enrich lives, and they don’t try to do anything more.
Hallmark is a feel-good brand, otherwise described as an Idealist.
5. The Gamechanger
Gamechangers are innovators. They are constantly introducing new ideas and methods that improve upon the old.
Example: Richard Branson’s Virgin Group takes pride in its Gamechanger ways. The company re-imagined the customer experience across industries including music, air travel, spaceflight, wireless communications and cruising.
As a Gamechanger, Virgin Group's brand message is that it's doing things bigger and better.
6. The Explorer
Brands that fit the Explorer archetype invite us to go on a journey with them. These wanderlusters have a natural curiosity and enthusiasm, and they love a good discovery.
Example: The North Face is a company made by and for Explorers. Its tagline, “Never stop exploring,” inspires a range of products developed to face the world's harshest conditions.
The North Face encourages folks to be adventurous, making it an Explorer brand archetype.
7. The Powerhouse
These are the rockstars of the world. They walk confidently into a room, and the rest of us follow in awe.
Example: Nike is a Powerhouse archetype. The show-stopping brand has a slate of products that always take center stage, inspiring us to go bigger, work in pursuit of our highest potential and, of course, just do it.
Nike is a bold, strong Powerhouse brand, and it doesn't hesitate to reiterate that in its social media posts.
8. The Boss
Boss brands are go-getters. They strive to be the best and look for the best. They feel their best when they’re accomplishing goals.
Example: Vogue magazine is the Boss of the fashion industry. With a 120-year history in setting the standard for fashion, beauty and style, this company has the last word--and maintains it through bold editorial pieces and events.
As a Boss brand, Vogue isn't shy about calling the shots regarding what's "in" and what's not.
9. The Rebel
These brands are our challengers. They question everything. They’re never satisfied with what they’re told and instead want to do it themselves.
Example: Harley Davidson epitomizes the Rebel archetype. The company values personal freedom above all else and appeals to adventure-seekers who prefer the road less traveled. As a result, their business strategy isn’t concerned with staying within conventions.
As a Rebel brand, Harley Davidson builds its messaging around individual freedom.
10. The BFF
BFF brands are our trusted allies. We know we can rely on them and the quality of their character, and this is what they live and work for.
Example: As a BFF brand, Subaru transmits the message that its cars are reliable, affordable and meet high safety standards. The brand’s BFF-ness includes the Subaru Love Promise to treat customers with respect while making the world a better place.
Subaru's promise to love and respect its customers makes it a BFF brand, or one you can trust.
11. The Gem
Gems are our nurturers. They love taking care of everyone around them with thoughtful, loving support.
Example: Charity Water built its brand on the Gem archetype. The organization's mission--to provide clean water to everyone on Earth--hinges on advancing the greater good, and mission-based messaging is paramount in its strategy.
Charity Water's brand always advocates for the good of others, like a true Gem.
12. The Charismatic
Charismatic brands are fun-lovers. They have a knack for winning people over with their positivity and senses of humor.
Example: Dollar Shave Club is an example of the Charismatic archetype. The brand advances a simple goal of helping men feel their best through hilarious marketing videos and lighthearted messaging.
Dollar Shave Club's marketing videos will make you giggle, as any Charismatic brand would.
📕 Want to learn more about the 12 brand archetypes in the Brand Boss Code? Harper Collins will launch “The Little Brand Book” in Spring 2020.
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