How brand archetypes can help focus your business storytelling...

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So, following on from the last piece on brand archetypes, we’re going to take a closer look at the first four. The remaining eight are coming your way over the next couple of weeks.

Keep in mind that no one person, brand, company or product is covered by just one. While one may predominate, life is never that simple. We are nearly always a mix of several.

The key to any discussion of archetypes is not to try and over complicate them and build them up to be more than they are. They pretty much do what they say on the tin. However, all that said, they’re a really useful tool for helping you position your business and brand in relation to your target audience, especially if you are in the early stages of building or scaling up. So here we go …

THE INNOCENT, THE HERO, THE EVERYMAN AND THE CAREGIVER

THE INNOCENT

The Innocent archetype is all about openness and simplicity and optimism. The emphasis is on the natural and genuine. These brands will often draw on the power of nostalgia.

So what kind of story will an Innocent brand archetype favour? Well, the danger is being too naïve or overly idealistic. Is there a darker hue here? Actually, yes there is. There is a strong inference that while the wholesome and pure will prosper and flourish, wrong-doers must be punished. It’s a pretty judgmental archetype which in cynical hands can be spun in any manner of unsavoury ways. It supports the status quo, and in some cases is the status quo, and isn’t given to questioning. It can be the Forrest Gump of archetypes.

Brand Examples: No surprises here. Coke, McDonalds, Disney. Behemoths who have been selling you the dream for so long, you probably don’t think of it as a dream anymore. No matter, even in the uber-cynical age we live in, they’re still as big and as bad as it gets. Underestimate the Innocent at your peril.

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THE HERO

The Hero brand archetype, you will receive precisely no points for guessing, emphasizes superiority and quality. It’s all about competing, about strength, courage, goal-setting, triumph over adversity, rising to the challenge …. You get the idea.

What kind of stories might Hero archetype brands go for, then?  Clearly, they will be idealistic and challenging. But the danger lies in slipping over in to being overly macho, competitive and meat-headed. The Hero brand can hoist itself on its own aggression and self-importance, so guard against coming over that way. That story may appeal to some of your target audience, but risks alienating others. Remember that there is a fine line between championing justice and seeking vengeance.

Hero brands will often appeal to people of conviction and strong moral beliefs or those who are out to make the best of themselves and release the champion within. Perhaps the greatest ‘Hero’ slogan of all time is ‘Just Do It’.

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THE EVERYMAN

Everyman brands look their customers square in the face. They are totally on the level. All about empathy and direct, effortless connection. They help the consumer to define themselves and to feel comfortable with who they are. They are the sweet spot between being an individual and being part of the pack.

Again, hardly rocket science here, but useful nonetheless. An Everyman brand story is people-focused, it makes ordinary special. It is powered by the fact that most of us like to be thought of as regular, down-to-earth and friendly. The Everyman loves you for being you and loves that you’re one of the gang. Normal is cool.

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THE CAREGIVER

Rounding out our first tranche of brand archetypes is The Caregiver. Again, explanation of is of limited requirement here. But in a world that can feel increasingly harsh, unforgiving and riven, qualities such as altruism, selflessness and optimism sit on a spectrum between niche and aspiration. They mean more to people who are concerned with remaining connected to their humanity.

A Caregiving brand story will be one that speaks to parental concerns and the instinct to nurture and protect. It is anything that relates to fixing and caring for something that is broken, be it a person or a thing.  It will be a tale about making the world a better place, told by a company that prides itself on looking after its employees and caring about its customers.

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As noted at the top, no single brand comprises just one archetype. It’s an interesting exercise to mix and match them and see what you come up with, to think about how your own company and brand story positions itself in relation to the 12.

Next time out we’ll look at the more adventurous archetypes – The Explorer, The Rebel, The Lover and The Creator. Looking forward already!