What the heck are archetypes and why do we use them?

October 11, 2021

You’ve crafted your brand using the tenets of a strong story, a clear set of values, and a continuity of message. Sometimes this is going to have the broadest appeal possible; we would all rather that everyone liked us after all. More likely, however, the authenticity of your brand simply won’t be for everyone, and that’s OK. Not all products or services are designed for everyone, nor should your brand be. A strong story describing immigration and pulling oneself out of poverty may not inspire locals born into wealth. A conscientious environmentalism might even rub some people the wrong way (believe it or not, some people don’t give a $%^& about the environment!).

It is imperative that your brand reaches the people you most want to affect, and to do that you must know your target audience.

Think back to math class (if you dare). Kids felt like they could goof around, or talk, or doodle, or otherwise ignore the active lesson going on despite the class being only 25 students and the teacher standing right there. Of course, part of it is that they didn’t feel that the lesson was for them—math sucks, and I’m going to be a famous skateboarder—but it’s also that the teacher wasn’t speaking directly to them. Responsibility and attention are diffused when the message is too broad. You can’t speak directly to someone while trying to speak to everyone.

Your target audience is the specific group you want to reach: the last Star Trek movie was for the action and Sci-Fi enthusiast. But remember, the more personalized, the more your audience will feel that your brand is just for them. For this reason, it is important to create subsets of your target audience. This generates a key audience. The last Star Trek movie was especially made for Trekkies. This taxonomy within your target audience is part of a marketing strategy known as audience segmentation. 

Understanding the different subgroups within your target audience can help you craft tailored messages and ads, which will foster stronger personal connections with your brand. To develop this understanding of your target audience, marketers turn to psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung, and his famous 12 archetypes. Each of us tends to adhere to a dominant archetype, which will define a range of our deep-rooted, and often unconscious, motivations. So, unsurprisingly, marketing your brand effectively to your target audience will be very concerned with which archetypes are being targeted. What motivates you target audience? What motivates your key audience? And how can your brand be designed to empower and satisfy these motivations? Your audience should be able to quickly and effectively identify the symbols and narratives that speak to their archetype, and when this identification is made a strong connection to their core personas can be fostered. 

The 12 Jungian Archetypes can be categorized based on four primary motivations.

It should be noted that the exact words used to define the categories may be imprecise based on a person’s preconceived notions. This is particularly true because these archetypes attempt to define an ‘unconscious knowledge’ that Jung believed we all have, but obviously this unconscious knowledge may carry different labels in different minds. The so-called “Every person”, for example, probably isn’t going to find a home with about half of the population. 

Taking the terminology with a grain of salt, the first set of archetypes are Innocent, Sage, and Explorer, and their motivations are categorized under an exploration of spirituality. The motivations that group these three archetypes surround a personal quest for freedom and self-betterment. They seek paradise in one form or another, and to be fulfilled in their life.

Let’s take the Innocent, who seeks safety, comfort, and simple happiness. A brand that targets this audience is Coca-Cola, with a slogan like “open happiness”, and advertisements depicting moments of simplicity, and finding happiness in casual time spent with family and friends.

The Outlaw, Magician, and Hero are united by their desire to leave their mark on the world. These archetypes value legacy and the strength of their identity. The Outlaw, for example, is disruptive and rebellious, never wanting to settle for the status quo, and brands like Harley-Davidson target them by highlighting freedom from the rigid fetters of society: “All for Freedom. Freedom for All”. 

The Every-Person, Jester, and Lover are all in pursuit of connection. These archetypes are defined by their desire for social interaction and acceptance. Hilarious commercials that capture the zeitgeist are ideal to target the Jester, a fun loving, playful archetype that seeks enjoyment in all things. M&Ms targets them by diabolically making their characters the delicious victims of humans seeking an irresistible snack.

The Creator, Ruler, and Caregiver attempt to provide structure to the world. They prize order and attempt to help humanity in some way. For the Creator, imagination and inspiration are defining features. They seek to be daring and original. Apple attracts the Creator with its slogan “Think different”, marketing its products as cutting-edge tools for creative types. 

To target your customer’s archetype is to target their unconscious persona. An unconscious affinity will develop; they will feel for your band, because they see themselves reflected in it. These archetypic desires and drives are instinctive, and hardwired, more so than consciously learned, and so have a strong impact on your customer’s agency and drive. But which archetype should you target? This will depend on the product or service you offer. Huggies and Pampers target the Caregiver, because they sell a product designed for babies, and the parents that care for them. At Elevin Elevin, we identify the specific archetype that your product or service most speaks to, and then use this information to craft a brand that can be readily identified as sharing this archetype.

Your brand will develop its own personality.

Through colour, logo, messaging, it will become a beacon that transmits to those who share similar unconscious personality traits, and to those who have an affinity for those traits. Pursuant to this, every aspect of your brand must emit an energy that aligns with the correct archetype. Archetypes are not a collection of details that happen to coincide, but deeply rooted personalities with opinions, beliefs, and drives. After fully adopting an archetype, your brand will connect to your customers as if a human-to-human personal connection has been made. 

Know your target audience, and especially know what motivates them. Their motivation should be a road that leads directly to your company, and the signposts are your brand. Will you attract those who want order and safety, human connection, self-betterment, or to leave their mark on the world? And to help understand your key audience, the 12 Jungian archetypes provide more specificity. Tweak their characteristics, give them different names, and craft a brand that your audience will feel speaks directly to them. This is the strongest tool for generating a true personal connection with your customer.

  • Author: Greg Brown


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