The most successful brands all have something we can identify with. We have an unspoken connection with them and it’s almost like we know them. But what is it about these brands that fascinates us? Why do we show loyalty to their products and services? 

Trade is a relatively simple concept: customers who need a company’s product or service will accept to pay a certain amount based on how valuable it is to them. But what happens when several companies are active on the same market/sector and need to differentiate themselves from one another? This is where brand archetypes come into play. People will generally trust the brand that feels closest to their needs and values, and this process actually comes down to a list of universal themes dominating human consciousness. These are the lenses through which we understand ourselves and the other people we encounter. 

One archetype to express your uniqueness

Renowned psychologist Carl Yung originally developed twelve archetypes to characterise people. Communication and marketing agencies then adapted these to provide brands with unique identities and started to develop more, with some existing models using up to 35 archetypes to allow for more refined brand profiling.

Besides these existing profiles, we can also create custom archetypes based on a brand’s values and motives, which will feed communication strategies where audience personas and brand archetype are aligned. While the personas help you understand what your audiences want, the archetype provides your brand with the characteristics most likely to appeal to these audiences.

There are about as many different archetype models as there are agencies creating archetypes, but all build upon Carl Yung’s theory. In the above chart from data and insights company Kantar, for instance, the archetypes are spread across six main groups or colors that are sentiment-related. Orange if for brands with a sense of community. Brown is for caring brands, blue for knowledgeable brands, purple for brands seeking admiration, red for independent brands, and yellow for the fun and carefree. These groups can help in the definition of suitable archetypes, especially when in need of custom archetypes where more than one group is suitable.

A five-step process

Fastlane uses various models to define archetypes for clients and usually defines them in five steps: 

  • An analysis of your past and current communications to help us define your current positioning
  • A benchmarking to define your main competitors’ archetypes (even if not defined officially, many brands follow one or several archetypes without even knowing it)
  • An online survey allowing us to indirectly gather information on archetype preferences based on key characteristics and dismiss the most irrelevant archetypes from our list.
  • A guided brainstorming session during which relevant members of your staff express their views on suitable and non-suitable archetypes. This step helps us refine our initial list by excluding non-suitable archetypes as perceived by management and coms/marketing people.
  • A analytical comparison between brainstorming and survey results: this helps us define suitable archetypes with two key objectives: staying true to your own views and exploring opportunities for your communications to stand out.

All in all, archetype-based communication strategies drive stronger and more impactful messages. They present many advantages, such as:

  • Shorter decision-making time in communication campaign creation and day-to-day communication efforts
  • Greater consistency across all brand communication and marketing 
  • A clearer (albeit mostly inconscious) characterisation of the brand among audiences 
  • A clear positioning that differentiates yourselves from competitors
  • Higher brand value and stronger business in the long run

This post will be updated regularly to keep up with relevant trends. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to contact us if you are interested in the development of an archetype for your organisation.