Brand Archetypes: 5 Simple Steps to a Distinct Corporate Identity

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Archetypes, in a general sense, are the original patterns after which all things are modeled. In a recent conversation with a filmmaker, I was introduced to the more specific concept of character archetypes in movies. To connect the audience to a character, roles are written intentionally to fall into one of the twelve main character archetypes. But archetypes existed long before we created categories and labels and called them “archetypes”.

Archetypes are the natural, or instinctive way we as humans categorize characters, especially in a story. They are the natural line of demarcation that tells us what we should expect from that character. Are they a hero or a caregiver? A lover or a ruler? A rebel or a magician? We categorize characters because that's how we remember and make sense of them.

But character archetypes aren't just confined to movies and books. We naturally categorize companies and brands through this framework as well. It is part of our intrinsic response to humanize and categorize corporate brands to help us connect with them.

Therefore, positioning your brand as an archetype allows your prospects to take a mental shortcut to identify the character of your brand. If you take the initiative to align and identify your brand with your desired archetype, you’ll be able to differentiate yourself from competitors while setting helpful expectations for interactions with your product or service.

 

Ready to clarify your brand identity? Follow these five steps to identify your brand’s archetype:

STEP ONE: Familiarize yourself with the brand archetypes

As you review all twelve archetypes, found here, it’s important to remember that archetypes are not inherently good or evil, but each balances strengths and weaknesses that could be applied in many different situations.

STEP TWO: Identify your competition

Write down a few of the leading brands that you would consider direct competitors. For example, in the coworking market, the best known brand nationally is WeWork. An interesting and up and coming brand in New York is a woman-owned workspace The Wing. Within our geographic market of Austin, we'll cite Capital Factory as a well-known local brand.

STEP THREE: Identify your brand’s archetype

Try to pick out the top 2-3 archetypes that you feel accurately represent your brand. To start, listen to how people talk about you and pay attention to the descriptors you hear. Your marketing messages set the tone, but ultimately how people actually interact with your brand determines how they truly see you. If there’s a disparity between your messaging and the actual customer experience, it’s easy to become muddled in the minds of clients.

STEP FOUR: Identify your competitor’s archetypes

Try to pick out the top archetype for each of the competitors you listed in step two. Most brands will announce exactly who they are via their mission statement or tagline. WeWork's mission to "Create a world where people work to make a life, not just a living" telegraphs that they consider themselves "creators".  The Wing offers a place of comfort and security and are categorized as caregivers. Capital Factory emphasizes the mentorship and experience and fall squarely into the Sage archetype.

STEP FIVE: Find your brand’s place in the landscape

Now that you’ve identified your top 2-3 archetypes as well as those of your direct competitors, it’s time to see where there are potential overlaps or opportunities. If the market leader is dominating an archetype in your industry, it's likely best not to fight them head on. Instead, choose an archetype for your product that will differentiate you from them. If they are the jester, become the everyman.

 

If your company's personality is different from the others in the marketplace, there should be plenty of room for your brand to shine. While few customers want to settle for the pale imitation of another company's archetype, they are happy to identify with and support a unique brand. Archetypes makes it easy to tip your hand on these differences and give people a reason to prefer you over the competition. Plus, you might just find it simpler to define and streamline your brand identity as you associate yourself with the characteristics of an archetype.