How Brand Archetypes Sprout from Storytelling

Standing out from the crowd in the bustling marketplace of brands can feel like scaling Mount Everest in thongs (flip flops). But what if there was a secret weapon, a storytelling superpower, that could help your brand resonate with its audience on a primal level?

Enter the fascinating world of brand archetypes.

These are different from your typical marketing buzzwords. Archetypes are narrative blueprints, deeply ingrained in the human psyche since the dawn of storytelling. Think back to the myths and legends that captivated us as children – the brave heroes, the wise mentors, the mischievous tricksters. These enduring characters, with their core motivations and universal desires, represent the fundamental aspects of human experience.

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One of my favourite thinkers, Carl Jung, the renowned Swiss psychiatrist, was one of the first to explore these archetypes in the early 20th century. He believed they were universal patterns, woven into the fabric of our collective unconscious. He saw them not just in myths, but also in dreams, art, and even in our personalities.

Marketers, known for their sharp insight into human connections, swiftly recognised the potential of archetypes. They understood that by leveraging these pre-existing narratives, they could endow their brands with significant emotional resonance. As one of these marketers, I have seen, experienced, and utilised this in my two decades of marketing. 

Think of the iconic Harley Davidson Bikie, the rugged individualist who embodies the Outlaw archetype. Or consider Apple, the Innovator, constantly pushing the boundaries of technology and design. These brands don’t just sell products; they evoke deep-seated desires for freedom, progress, and self-expression.

So, how did these ancient storytelling tools become the marketing secret weapon we know today? Let’s delve deeper into the fascinating journey of brand archetypes:

✅ From Myths to Marketplaces: We’ll explore how Jung’s theories laid the foundation, and how marketing pioneers like Carol S. Pearson translated them into practical brand-building frameworks.

Before I continue, may say that I learned brand archetypes from this book. I highly recommend you read and get a copy of it because it is truly handy when analysing and understanding a brand that you’re working with.

✅ The Power of 12: We’ll unpack the 12 core archetypes, from the Ruler who craves order and control to the Magician who transforms and inspires.

✅ Finding Your Fit: We’ll discover how to identify your brand’s archetype, ensuring your messaging and visuals resonate with your target audience’s deepest desires.

From Myths to Marketplaces: How Archetypes Leapt from Jung’s Couch to the Brand Battlefield

Imagine Carl Jung, the tweed-clad pioneer of analytical psychology, sitting in his leather armchair, meticulously dissecting the human psyche. His gaze pierces through layers of consciousness, unearthing a hidden realm – the collective unconscious.

In this primordial soup, he discovers swirling patterns, recurring narratives, and echoes of universal human experience. He calls them archetypes – the Magician, the Ruler, the Jester – figures that dance through our dreams, myths, and even our brand choices.

Fast forward several decades. Enter Carol S. Pearson, a marketing scholar with a twinkle in her eye and Jung’s theories dancing in her head. She sees the potential – to bridge the gap between the ancient and the modern, between the hero’s quest and the consumer’s desire. Pearson, like a translator of forgotten tongues, takes Jung’s archetypes and whispers them into the ears of marketers.

Suddenly, the Ruler isn’t just a mythical king, but a CEO commanding brand loyalty. The Magician isn’t just a mystical figure pulling rabbits from hats, but a tech startup disrupting industries. Brands, once mere logos and slogans, morph into living, breathing characters, each embodying the essence of an archetype.

Pearson’s work, like a Rosetta Stone, unlocks the secrets of archetypal branding. She lays out the 12 core archetypes, each with its own set of values, motivations, and fears.

The Innocent seeks purity and belonging, the Caregiver craves to nurture and protect, the Explorer thirsts for the unknown. These become the building blocks of brand personas, the guiding stars for crafting messages that resonate with the deepest parts of our being.

But Pearson doesn’t stop there. She gives marketers tools – frameworks, quizzes, exercises – to help them discover their brand’s archetypal essence.

Is your brand the stoic Ruler, exuding authority and control? Or perhaps the playful Jester, breaking the mould with wit and whimsy? Knowing your archetype is like understanding your brand’s DNA, its core identity that informs every decision, from logo design to social media banter.

The Archetypal Arena: Where Brands Battle To Get Your Attention

Ah, the archetypes. Those seductive shadows dance behind the logos, whispering promises of power, belonging, and transformation. Like Machiavelli’s princes, each archetype possesses a distinct “virtù” – a potent cocktail of strengths and weaknesses that can be wielded for branding mastery.

Let us dissect these beasts, one by one, revealing their hidden desires and the brands that embody them.

  1. The Ruler: Think Queen Elizabeth II, steely-eyed and draped in ermine, demanding respect with a regal sniff. This archetype craves control, order, and a touch of tradition. Think Qantas, the king of the skies, promising a journey as smooth as a lamington on a velvet cushion.


  1. The Sage: Picture Gandalf, eyes twinkling with ancient wisdom, dispensing knowledge like a perfectly brewed billy tea. This archetype seeks to educate, guide, and perhaps offer a healthy dose of existential angst. Think UQ, the bearded professor of the brand world, challenging minds with lectures sharper than a boomerang.


  1. The Innocent: Imagine a koala, wide-eyed and cuddly, yearning for safety and a dash of nostalgia. This archetype craves purity, simplicity, and a warm hug. Think Specsavers, the bespectacled guardian of clear vision, promising a world free of blurry cricket matches and Vegemite mishaps.


  1. The Explorer: Channel Indiana Jones, whip cracking and fedora tilted, forever chasing the next thrill. This archetype craves the unknown, the untamed, the taste of salt spray and freedom. Think Red Bull, the adrenaline junkie of brands, urging you to “give you wings” and conquer that Great Barrier Reef on a jet ski.


  1. The Outlaw: Picture Mad Max, leather-clad and wild-eyed, defying authority with a guttural roar. This archetype is the rebel, the rule-breaker, the Vegemite on a lamington kind of brand. Think Harley-Davidson, the black sheep of motorbikes, promising a ride that’s loud, fast, and unapologetically different.


  1. The Magician: Imagine Elon Musk, eyes gleaming with impossible dreams, bending reality like a seasoned boomerang thrower. This archetype is the innovator, the alchemist, the brand that weaves spells and transforms lives. Think Canva, the blank canvas of possibilities, empowering you to paint your dreams into existence, like a pavlova masterpiece.


  1. The Lover: Think Marilyn Monroe, lips pursed and eyes smouldering, promising passion and a touch of indulgence. This archetype craves beauty, sensuality, and perhaps a bite of the forbidden Tim Tam. Think Lindt, the chocolatier of desire, whispering promises of silky smooth encounters and moments as sweet as a fairy floss kiss.


  1. The Caregiver: Picture Mother Teresa, arms outstretched and eyes filled with compassion. This archetype nurtures, protects, and offers a warm, fuzzy Ugg boot of comfort. Think the Red Cross, the Florence Nightingale of brands, always there to lend a hand (or a blood bag) in times of need.


  1. The Jester: Imagine Robin Williams, a whirlwind of wit and absurdity, poking fun at everything with a licorice whip. This archetype is the prankster, the life of the party, the brand that makes you laugh until you snort your beetroot dip. Think M&Ms, the mischievous candies with technicolour personalities, promising a sugar rush of silliness that’s as fun as a game of backyard cricket.


  1. The Everyman: Picture your next-door neighbour, sharing stories over a barbie or at the club. This archetype is relatable, down-to-earth, and just wants to make life easier, like a pair of Blundstone boots and a stubbie of beer. Think Bunnings, the DIY haven for the regular Aussie battler, promising solutions as simple as assembling a flat-pack Billy bookcase.


  1. The Hero: Imagine Captain America, shield raised and jaw clenched, ready to save the day. This archetype fights for justice, inspires courage, and makes you want to be a better person, like an underdog Aussie sporting team facing the Ashes. Think WWF, the brand with a heart as big as the outback, promising to protect the planet, one cuddly koala at a time.


  1. The Creator: Picture Frida Kahlo, brushstrokes bold and heart laid bare, leaving her mark on the world. This archetype craves originality, self-expression, and the freedom to be a total dag, like painting your Ugg boots with fairy floss designs. Think YouTube, the canvas for a billion creators, empowering everyone to share their stories, one unboxing video at a time.

Finding Your Brand’s Archetype

Right, listen up legends! We’ve talked about these archetypes, these primal forces that make your brand tick. But how do you, the savvy marketer, the social media sultan, find your own brand’s archetypal mojo? How do you speak the language that makes your target audience’s ears perk up and their thumbs hit “follow”?

Let’s crack the code, mates. It’s not just about slapping a label on like a Coles sticker on a watermelon. It’s about digging deep and understanding your brand’s core desires, fears, its bloody personality.

Think of it like sussing out a new bloke at the pub. You wouldn’t just blurt out about your stamp collection, would you? No, you’d gauge his vibe. Is he a larrikin like a stubbie of XXXX, or a quiet observer like a glass of pinot noir?

Same with your brand. Is it the stoic Ruler, exuding authority like a Bunnings manager in a high-vis vest? Or maybe the mischievous Jester, cracking jokes like a pack of exploding fairy floss?

Here’s the trick:

  1. Ask yourself the tough questions. What makes your brand tick? What problem does it solve? What’s its ultimate goal? Is it the Explorer, guiding lost souls through the digital jungle like a Kookaburra leading tourists to Uluru? Or the Caregiver, offering a warm hug and a cuppa like a vegemite sandwich on a cold day?


  1. Channel your inner detective. Analyze your audience. Who are you talking to? What are their hopes, anxieties, and deepest desires? Do they crave the stability of the Ruler, the thrill of the Outlaw, or the wisdom of the Sage? Think of them like the mates you’d invite over to hang with – the ones who’ll dig your brand’s vibe and spread the word like wildfire.


  1. Let your visuals scream your archetype. Ditch the stock photos and generic logos. Craft visuals that embody your brand’s essence. Is it the sleek minimalism of the Magician, like an iPhone ad with a single spotlight on a new gadget? Or the playful chaos of the Jester, like an M&M campaign with candies doing a conga line across a rainbow?


  1. Speak their language. Ditch the jargon and marketing mumbo jumbo. Talk to your audience like you’d talk to a mate over the phone. Is your brand the down-to-earth Everyman, using everyday words and relatable stories like a Bunnings ad with a bloke fixing his lawnmower? Or the eloquent Lover, weaving tales of passion and beauty like a Lindt chocolate commercial with a touch of mystery?

Remember, your brand archetype ain’t a costume you wear for a day. It’s your core identity, your DNA. Embrace it, own it, and let it shine through everything you do. Be the Ruler who commands respect, the Explorer who ignites wanderlust, the Jester who makes ’em laugh until they snort.

And when you do, your audience will hear you. They’ll understand your message. They’ll feel the connection, the emotional click that makes them choose you over the bloke selling the same thing down the street.

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