The courageous hero. The wise old sage. The rebellious outlaw. From The Iliad to Gone with the Wind to Star Wars, universal character types have lived within our culture since the beginnings of civilization. They are part of our collective consciousness, permeating not only the stories we tell each other, but our everyday lives. Who in your life is “The Jester,” always making you laugh? “The Innocent,” the one you seek to give guidance to?
Just as we can use these archetypes to drive storytelling, and unconsciously categorize people we know, we can also use archetypes to help define, understand, and guide brands. For new brands, staking out an unclaimed space among peers can be a powerful means of differentiation. For existing brands, knowing your “type” can help you stay true to who you are, and achieve a cohesive vision throughout all your touch-points and communications. In all cases, they can provide a north star to help guide you through the decision-making processes
Psychologist Carl Jung outlined 12 classic archetypes in his theory of the human psyche. Which one best represents your company? Which one best represents you? Let’s take a look:
Pure, well intentioned. Just wants everyone to be happy, but is that just being naïve?
Snow White / Coca-Cola
Easygoing, ready to please. Happy to be a part of the group. Might be a bit on the boring side but gets along with everyone.
Channing Tatum / Budweiser
Dedicated to making the world better, through courageous acts—and willing to take on the bad guys, or die trying.
Jon Snow / Tesla
Selflessly looks after others, heal wounds, and take us all to a better place (but hopefully not getting exploited by the bad guys).
Atticus Finch/Red Cross
Exploring strange new places, seeking out new adventures, willing to boldly go where no one has gone…yeah, you get the idea.
Captain Kirk / The North Face
That loveable rascal who’s always getting into a little bit of trouble, but is irresistible just the same. They always do the right thing—but do it their own way.
Han Solo / Virgin Airlines
Pulling your heartstrings and inciting deep desires that are impossible to ignore—what makes us more human than love, that most basic of emotions?
Helen of Troy / Häagen-Dazs
They have the means, and they have the vision. When Creators have a new idea, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes reality.
McGyver / Lego
Relying on their quick wit and infectious cheer, they bring a smile to all who cross their path—but beneath all the jokes are the hidden truths we afraid to speak aloud.
Monty Python/Mountain Dew
Trusted and true, these wise ones hold the key to unlocking a world of knowledge and understanding.
Gandalf / Google
They can make your dreams come true and bring the most fantastic stories to life. They hold the most powerful talent of all: tapping into our imaginations.
Willy Wonka / Disney
The one on the top. A natural leader. Whether benevolent or ruthless, they are always held in high esteem.
King Arthur / Rolex
There are 12 main archetypes to consider, but they can be combined into a multitude of combinations. Which best describe you? Your company? You might find that giving that question a bit of thought can help guide your decisions, and in the process build a stronger brand.
—Matt Birdoff, Director of Brand Strategy, SJI Associates