Branding

Brand Archetypes: The Science Of Strategic Brand Personality

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You may have heard of brand archetypes before, but have you ever really stopped to consider how they apply to your brand? Or how they might influence your positioning strategy and communication? From my research on the topic, I get a sense that archetypes are still widely undiscovered and those who have briefly encountered the subject are somewhat dismissive of them as a strategic tool.

Primarily, I feel, this is because of a lack of understanding of their application. When used correctly, however, brand archetypes have the power to place your brand front and center, not just in your customer’s mind, but in their hearts.

The Secret of the Most Loved Brands

We all have an emotional connection with at least one brand. Think of the brands you love. If you’re not a brand fanatic (like many Apple users), then ask yourself a question: What one brand do I use, where the alternative just won’t cut it?

If you think about it, I’m confident there’s at least one. Maybe it’s your iPhone, your Converse trainers, or your Diesel Jeans, or something that’s even more specific to who you are.

Whatever the brand, your connection with it goes beyond simply features and benefits. Your favorite brand has created an emotional bond with you, through strategic positioning and communication.

Why We “Love” Our Favorite Brands

Whether you go so far as to say that you “love” your favorite brands or not, you do feel a connection with them that is “human” and is based on “feelings.” But how can we feel human connections for inanimate objects or corporations that manufacture those objects?

The answer lies in how they make us feel. The most beloved brands are the ones that understand their audience better than others. They tailor their communication (through personality) to evoke the exact desire within them, which their brand satisfies.

The Key Is in The Heart, Not the Mind

We all think that we’re logical people and that our buying decisions are calculated, that we consider all the options on the table and make an informed decision.

The reality, however, is that 95% of our purchasing decisions are made in our subconscious, according to Gerald Zaltman, Harvard Business School professor.

He goes on to say that even those who report that they actively compare competing brands, never actually consider the alternative. In other words, our decisions have been made long before the point of purchase.

Desire Gave Birth to the Archetype

We all have basic human desires (beyond the obvious ones). We don’t learn to want certain things, it’s instinctive. Because we as individuals are all different, we all have different levels of desire for different needs. Psychologist (and once a good friend of Sigmund Freud) Carl Jung, who coined the term “archetypes” said we all have a “collective unconscious” that channel experiences and emotions resulting in typical patterns of behavior.

In other words, there are specific personalities that we instinctively understand, that evoke specific desires within us.

Whether you have a desire for power, freedom, intimacy, safety, or understanding, a particular collection of behaviors (or a certain personality) will evoke those desires within you, more than others. There are 12 distinct personalities (12 Jungian archetypes), which evoke 12 core human desires. These that act as the primary colors for all personalities and desires and can be used to make strategic emotional connections.

Loved Brands Are Tangible

Brands with no emotional connections with their audience are traded like commodities and as such, are immediately replaced when better or novelty options become available. Brands that make emotional connections foster brand loyalty as well as the holy grail of branding, brand advocacy.

Making these connections is not just a case of plucking a handful of traits you believe your audience admires. To make a real connection, your brand needs to become human. A brand that knows who it is, what it stands for, voices opinions, promotes beliefs, champions a cause or brings a certain life to the party is a brand with personality.

These are the brands that make connections, so their audience “feels something” for them. They are alive, they inspire us, they guide us, we trust them and, in some cases, we love them.

How Can I Use This in My Brand Strategy?

Using brand archetypes is not an afterthought in the strategic branding process. It should be a core part of your brand and positioning strategy.

As such, you need to start with your audience, though this is where a lot of confusion lies. It’s not simply about asking which archetype your audience is, like a multiple-choice question.

When you know your audience intimately, their aspirations, fears, desires, and expectations, you can begin to shine some light on the personality (or archetype) that will best appeal to them. Your industry and competitors will also have an influence on your position and how you want to differentiate in your space.

Once you have a clear picture of your competitive landscape, you will have insight into the position you want to take, the emotion and desire you want to evoke, and which fully formed archetypal personality will help bring your brand to life.

Have you used brand archetypes in your strategy? Tell me about your best practices in the comments.