Archetypes in Brand Storytelling

by Bonnie Greenberg

As advertisers and marketers, we are all storytellers. As human beings, we all have basic, instinctive desires. Archetypes are some of the most powerful, yet underutilized, brand storytelling tools available to marketers. Because they tap into universal desires and reflect the human experience, archetypes can amp up our brand storytelling to create meaningful and enduring connections with the humans who interact with our brands.

So, what exactly is an archetype? The psychiatrist Carl Jung pioneered the use of archetypes, a word derived from the Greek “arkhetypos,” meaning “first imprint.” Jung’s archetypes are primitive, unconscious, and universal patterns or symbols that are innately understood by all people. We see archetypes in all forms of storytelling, including books, movies, TV, theater—and advertising and brand communications.

Brands who leverage archetypes set themselves up for success in a number of ways. Archetypes are extremely beneficial in capturing what is unique about the brand’s persona. 

Let’s take a look at the 12 Jungian archetypes, the human desires and needs each archetype speaks to, and some iconic brands which embody them. The brand examples should feel familiar to you because each of these brands weaves the archetype into every aspect of its communications, including in its brand storytelling.

Think of the brand archetype as the main character in a story. The brand can embody an archetype with its personality, its values, and how it presents itself to the world via visual, design, and language cues.

Brands who leverage archetypes set themselves up for success in a number of ways. Archetypes are extremely beneficial in capturing what is unique about the brand’s persona. This can help with brand differentiation in extremely noisy, crowded categories. The more spot-on the archetype, the more identifiable and relatable the brand. Archetypes can also be used to portray typical journeys or paths in brand storylines, engendering feelings of empathy toward the brand, as well as the belief that a brand is like-minded with its audience.

Embracing an archetype that embodies the brand’s personality and values can help with messaging efficiency. It fosters immediate recognition and familiarity, so an emotional connection can be made quickly. We want our audiences to see the archetype and say “Aaah. I get that. I know exactly what that brand is all about.” Employing archetypal branding can help save time and effort when developing creative, so the limited time we have to reach the audience, especially in TV – can be spent working as efficiently as possible on other messaging components.

Think about the brands you work on. Can you match your brand to one of the 12 archetypes? Do your brand’s personality, values, and story tap into a combination of archetypes, or any of the core human desires and needs? If so, your brand is likely connecting to people on a fundamental level. If not, I invite you to see how our team might leverage archetypal branding for your brand. Call me a combination of “The Sage” and “The Caregiver” –providing an understanding of archetypes in service of the brands I work on every day.