It was 1am and I was cuddled up in a warm blanket, guiltily pouring over a book that I couldn’t put down. It was a famous brand archetypes book: Margaret Mark and Carol Pearson’s The Hero and The Outlaw. Just. Too. Good. And when I got to the part about the Innocent archetype, it was like they were reading my mind (or soul, or both). I felt completely seen. It quickly made me understand things about myself and my brand that I had been trying to figure out for a long time.
I bet you’ve also been struggling to find out your authentic voice and message. Today, almost everyone who shows up online is. How do you stand out in a grey sea of noise?
Cue brand archetypes. These are something lots of coaches and creatives have never heard about. Even if they have, many think brand archetypes are something a little abstract or even woo.
But heads up! Most major, global brands have used brand archetypes for decades. Coca-Cola? Yes. Dove? Uh-huh. Disney, Wholefoods? Yes and yes. They have clear archetypes that help them connect quickly. You get what each brand is about instantly.
Archetypes are “universal personalities” that all humans share and instinctively recognize. The Rebel wants to change things about society that don’t work. The Caregiver is all about being welcoming, warm, and nurturing. These are two examples, and you can for sure think of brands and people who fit these archetypes.
And today, if you want your brand to catch your client’s interest, you need to do it FAST. We have ever-shrinking attention spans that make our eyes glaze over after 3 sentences and reach for our smartphones.
Studies have shown that people decide whether to stay or leave a website in less than a second. They need to immediately get what the brand is about, its vibe. Then, if they stay, they’ll spend about 8 seconds trying to figure out what the site is about and how it can help them.
So having a clear brand archetype is more important today than ever. And this is especially true for coaches and creatives like you, who need to connect and stand out in a sea of noise. And with competitors who often have similar services.
Where do brand archetypes come from?
Famous psychologist Carl Jung developed the concept of archetypes during the 20th century. He recognized 12 kinds of universal and timeless personalities (he’s also the guy that came up with the terms introverted and extroverted).
The same 12 archetypes come up in stories in all kinds of cultures and historical periods. This means that, as a human, they’re essentially imprinted into your brain before you’re born. They aren’t subject to trends and fashions. They’re truly timeless. We all recognize or “get” an archetype in a good brand instinctively and effortlessly. For example, a personality that’s all about achieving and winning (Nike). One that’s more creative, and helps people express themselves and create (Lego).
So, your brand has to clearly communicate one primary archetype (and maybe a secondary archetype – more on that below). That way, your ideal clients recognize and get what you’re about (and decide to stay around for more).
This is why coaches and creatives need archetypes
1. Brands with strong archetypes are instantly recognizable by their ideal clients.
Look at 2 examples of websites:
These brands clearly communicate an archetype. The first is the Creative archetype, with lots of color and energy. The second is the Leader, communicating power and affluence.
Two very different brands and archetypes. You quickly get the brand’s vibe. And, if you’re the brand’s ideal client, hopefully, you’ll be interested to know more.
2. Brand archetypes help filter out the noise.
We are complex people with a lot going on. This means that it can be hard to decide which parts of our life to communicate. What makes our brand stronger? What makes it weaker?
I’ve worked with clients who have said “I have no idea what to post! My wedding anniversary? Photos of my trip to Brazil? Or a book review?! For coaches and creatives, it can get really hard to choose what to show in their brand.
Some people are intuitive geniuses and develop strong brands based on gut decisions. But most of us need some kind of north star to guide our way in the branding universe. Your brand archetype can act as that compass, giving you clear guidelines as to what to use and what to do (and ditch) in your brand.
3. Brands based on archetypes are timeless.
Today more than ever, we need brands that are based on something deeper and with more meaning than passing trends and fads.
Many brands on Instagram are quick to replicate videos and images that are trending. Although this makes sense in the short term to get a hit of visibility, the problem is that all brands start to look and feel pretty similar. When you have a really clear picture of what your brand is and is not, it’s much easier to keep consistency and clarity. Is it right for your brand? Does it play on your and your brand’s strengths?
Then, maybe you’ll avoid the temptation to do that pointing video that’s everywhere on Instagram. Unless of course your archetype is Entertainer, but more on that later.
Can a brand have two archetypes?
Yes… Kind of. Research has shown that the most effective brands have one primary and easily recognizable brand. Now, if you have a personal brand, you may kick and scream and hate being “boxed” into only one archetype. And that’s completely understandable… It’s pretty straightforward to fit an abstract/corporate brand neatly into one archetype. But things get messier when it’s actually a real person behind the brand.
It was like that for me: although I clearly recognize myself as an Innocent, the Intellectual/Sage archetype really pulls my strings. Big-time nerd over here.
The solution? Having a primary and secondary archetype. It’s important to choose one primary archetype, the most important and recognizable one for your brand. But you can also incorporate things from your secondary archetype. This can help represent you more fully and add depth to your brand, without confusing your ideal client.
Here is a quick rundown of the 12 archetypes.
What are the 12 brand archetypes? With examples
Brand Promise: That life can be simple, happy and uncomplicated.
Brand Vibe: Simple, happy, upbeat.
Strengths: Faith and optimism.
Brand examples: Taylor Swift, Meg Ryan, Wholefoods Market, Aveeno, Dove, Coca-Cola.
I'm obsessed with branding, and have been doing it for +15 years. First, working with luxury brands at L'Oreal, then at an agency with some big-name clients. But when it came to creating my own brand - it was a lot harder. Too many ideas and inspiration. Too much confusion and overwhelm. Until I discovered brand archetypes, and got the beautiful clarity and direction I needed.
Today I love helping women create timeless, clutter-free brands that focus on the essentials. And that give you the confidence of knowing exactly how to grow your brand and businesses.