The concept of psychological archetypes was advanced by the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, c. 1919 – more recently they are applied to company brands. We sometimes get quizzical looks from clients when we introduce archetyping to our brand strategies but there are some immediate, useful and penetrative insights archetyping can give, that often have application well beyond what many people would believe is the function of brand development and management.
Brands are a basic human social concept – and, as with people, the same patterns and ideas tend to repeat themselves over time, such that what we now consider brands are roughly equivalent to archetypal characters in literature, religion, folklore, mythology, etc. They’re a way for us to understand ourselves and affiliate with others, and by associating them with common themes and characters, we can better understand how consumers connect with brands.
The brand archetype is a construction through which to understand the make-up and communication of a brand. It is never used overtly in campaigns.
Different brand strategists use different schemes. Let’s look at an example of a common archetype for health and care sector: The Caregiver.
The caregiver is an altruist, moved by compassion generosity and desire to help others.
- Desire: protect people from harm
- Goal: to help others
- Fear: selfishness, ingratitude
- Strategy: do things for others
- Trap/Shadow: martyrdom of self, entrapment of others
- Gift: compassion, generosity
The Caregiver is good for brands:
- For which customer service provides the competitive advantage
- That provide support to families for services in the health care, education and government
- That help people stay connected with, and care about, one another
- That help people care for themselves
Archetyping is a very useful first step on the journey to developing a highly differentiated brand. One of its great benefits is that it acknowledges internal stakeholder opinions, builds a strong sense of collaboration and assists in explaining why branding is so powerful.