What makes a brand sticky? What makes one product a thing that you own or buy and another something that you identify with, something you almost make a part of yourself?
It has to do with the emotional connection we feel for some brands, and not with others. Some brands make us feel like heroes or rebels; or make us feel comforted or included. These are the brands that have a direct appeal to something deep in our psyches, and one way they appeal so deeply is through their use of archetypes.
An archetype is a kind of basic character that appears in mythology, fairy stories, and even dreams. Carl Jung identified archetypes as the way the subconscious speaks to us. It is no wonder, then, that these figures, which form the building blocks of our identity, can have such power.
A brand that capitalizes on a Jungian archetype has an instant shortcut to your imagination, loyalty, and inner soul. It’s the difference between Dell and Apple, between Coca-Cola and a million other sodas, the difference between something with function and something with meaning.
This graphic from Allegory Studios shows the twelve basic archetypes.
Some archetypes relate to individual brands in ways that are more obvious than others.
Superman is obviously a hero. So, just as obviously, is Mr. Clean (whose aliases include Monsieur Propre, Mastro Lindo and Don Limpio!). But if you take a look at both Mr. Clean and Superman (who seem to be 100% pure hero at first glance), both contain a strong element of the nurturer too.
mages from Superman Homepage & Neatorama
Other brands – just as other fictional characters – embody elements of more than one archetype. Here’s a breakdown showing the different archetypal elements that go to make up one of the world’s strongest brands, Ikea.
Image from zeke
Classifying brands according to their archetypes is not an exact science. One analysis identifies IKEA as being a Jester, while this one declares it predominantly a Creator, just like Apple.
Image from Business Insider
However, this article and this slideshow discuss how Apple’s brand (or at least Steve Jobs’) was carefully constructed around the Magician archetype.
The lesson here is that although there is no single archetype that embodies all the qualities of an individual brand, archetypes are a useful way to consider the emotional impact of your brand.
For example, Jack Daniels has the independence of the Rebel (or Outlaw) and the authenticity of the Creator, and Starbucks appeals to the explorer, youthful, adventurous and those looking for experiences.
Now: think about your own business. What archetypes could help you connect to your customers? Are you a decisive leader? Or a jester who promises fun?
Because whether you are a sage, a lover, an outlaw – or all three – figuring out what archetypes your brand embodies can be a big step towards connecting to your public.