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Combining Brand Archetypes: The Secret to Great Brands

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If you’re here, it’s unlikely you’re new to brand archetypes, so I won’t bore you with a 101 on the subject. I won’t explain what brand archetypes are or why every brand needs them. I won’t bother with the history of them because no one cares who Carl Jung is anyways, right? (Sorry, Carl, my boy. points to the heavens with a smooch)

But, I will tell you something no other brand archetype article is saying, and that’s that every brand doesn’t just need an archetype to help them portray and connect with humanity, they need MANY archetypes, working together to create depth and dimension!

Archetype + Archetype = Thorough, Effective, Fleshed Out Brand.

Consider yourself. Are you one simple archetype, or do you represent many, at different times, in different places, with different people? Do you use the variances to better relate to people, or fit in?

Are you not more of a Comedian with friends, and more of a Sage with your children? Are you not a Lover with family at times, and a Caretaker at others?

Do you not sometimes feel like a Royal, some days a Hero, some a Visionary, and some maybe nothing at all recognizable?

On a good day maybe your Innocent shows, others more the Rebel, and others you just need to Explore!

The point is we’re never one thing. We’re a collection of personas and archetypal models of normal, everyday people. Some we strive for; some come naturally. Some are masks we wear for others; some are our true selves shining through. We are complex, and so too are brands; if done right.

Like us, brands should bend and evolve for the environment. They should think and emote and cause the same in others. And if they don’t, we humans sense the lack of humanity in them. We see them as bloated beasts wanting to bleed us dry. They are simple, one-dimensional play-it-safers out for one thing and one thing only — our money. We don’t relate to them. We don’t feel for them. We don’t praise them and introduce them to our friends and family. We just utilize them as needed. There is no residual impact burned and etched into our memories. They are a fleeting utility, not an enduring brand as they could be.

So, why don’t brands leverage multiple archetype combinations to better reflect their humanity and connect with fellow humans? Because it’s difficult, and in the expensive, dangerous game of branding and marketing, best make things easy and cheap, right? Well, the best ones never do.

Brand Archetype Combination Examples

As with every single brand archetype article, I have to mention Apple.

Since you’re not new to brand archetypes, you might have read multiple articles; each representing Apple differently. On some, it’s the Rebel (Think Different). On others, it’s the Visionary (because of Steve Jobs at the helm). Others, the Creator (because of all they’ve created, obviously).

Why? How? They can’t be everything! Is it just that these article writers are dumb? Sure, maybe. Or, it’s because they’re seeing a multi-faceted gem as something less than — something grossly oversimplified and stripped of its complexities to make the article an easy read.

But, remember, Apple is not one thing, as you are not. They are Visionaries in their craft and pursuit of technological advancements, and Rebels in their hearts. As Creators, they believe in not sacrificing design for simplicity but instead finding simplicity through design. And in their stores, they are Sages — geniuses using their advanced knowledge to teach and repair, while also being Caretakers, helping you through difficult times. They have dimensions, and weight, and complexity, but they are not chaotic. That is because they have form and structure to their personality. It is all strategic branding. It’s based on need and opportunity. ​​Who they are in awareness-based campaigns is different than who they are in the product experience, and the in-store experience, and the repair experience. In awareness, they need differentiation from Microsoft and other tech brands — the Rebel. In-store sales need expertise — Sages. In-store repairs need comfort and reliability — Caretakers.

However, it’s unfair to compare any brand to Apple, so let’s look at another: Harley Davidson.

They’re often the first brand attached to the Rebel archetype, but are they really rebellious? What do they do that’s at all rebellious? Nothing really. Surely the history and lore of motorcycles evokes that rebellious sense, but as a brand they are more than just the Rebel. That archetype lets the everyday rider feel like a Rebel, but the everyday aspect is what’s key for Harley. They utilize the Everyman archetype, or Neighbor, to bring the Rebel to reality, making it feel relatable and achievable. The Everyman works with the Rebel to say, “You can be on the outside of the mainstream, but you’ll be there with friends who understand you and this shared hobby.”

Creating Character By Combining Archetypes

Brands are simply characters in a story, on a journey, interacting with other characters along the way. Some of them we call consumers. So, consider your favorite characters in any story, and you’ll see archetypes. But, the best, most dynamic characters are so because they are multiple archetypes merged together. This allows them to react to their journey and the characters and conflicts they encounter. It lets them change, and that change intrigues you. You, as a story-loving animal, are entertained by the dynamics of multi-dimensional humanity and the potential for change and growth. It’s no different from how you view brands!

And, much like how Apple is the go-to example for brands, so too is Star Wars for modern stories…
Consider Luke Skywalker. He’s clearly the Hero archetype. Also called the Champion or Warrior archetype. He wields the saber, does the right thing, saves the day. But, he’s more than that, which is why he’s endured as a compelling character. He’s also the Innocent. When faced with the chance to join the rebellion, he refuses. He needs to stay with his family and do his chores. Why? Because he’s just like you, a normal person with responsibilities at home, so when he’s thrust into the action, you feel as if it’s YOU being the Hero, overcoming everyday obstacles to save the galaxy!

Two archetypes, working together to make the story more engaging.

How about Han? He’s the Heroic Maverick. At any moment he could save the day, but you can’t really trust that he will, because he is the Rebel of the group — out for himself. But, when it comes down to it — when his friends are in danger — he swoops in to blast Vader, setting the main Hero up for the win. That push and pull of Hero and Rebel make Solo the intriguing rogue character — the anti-hero — that we can’t help but be captivated by.

For Obi-Wan, he’s surely the Sage character. He has the ancient wisdom and knowledge that he uses to transform others’ understanding of the world and universe, but he’s also a Warrior Hero himself, with a lightsaber to back it up. This Hero Sage combination we often call the Warrior Monk archetype, in the biz.

Leia? She’s our Rebel Royal. A princess by day, but never delivering what you expect from one. She’s got the poise but is merely poised to kick your ass. She can lead with all her knowledge of the political and royal world, but she also fights against it, which makes her unlike any damsel in distress we’d seen, thereby, once again, making her a dynamic, multi-archetype character that we can’t ignore.

Now, I dare you. Watch TV and try not to dissect the dimensions of the characters and their multiple archetypes. Study how they evolve and grow with time and conflict. See how they work together and against each other to drive the story.

Then, look at brands. See how the great ones flex and grow to adapt to different audiences at different times in different places. You’ll see them because they’re winning, and they’re winning because they’re not afraid to be many things to people, to adopt and adapt archetypes, to blend personalities, to tell human-powered stories. And that’s the secret behind great brands.


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