There are many different ways to look at and define a company’s brand. My personal favorite is covered in the book The Hero and The Outlaw, written by Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson, Ph.D. This hefty tome outlines a system for identifying brands by comparing them to archetypal personalities.
So what’s an archetype? Well, it’s a universally understood symbol or pattern of behavior that’s used in myths and storytelling across different cultures. It’s sort of like a stereotype or a generic personality. For example if I talk about a hero, it doesn’t matter if I’m thinking about Harry Potter and you’re thinking about Luke Skywalker, because we’re both thinking about the same archetypal qualities like bravery, action and expertise. In the 20th century, Carl Jung (his work inspired the Myers-Briggs personality test) wrote extensively about how we can use archetypes to illuminate personality and literature. Since brands have personalities, it makes sense that we would be able to categorize them by archetype.
Here’s a list of the 12 master archetypes from The Hero and The Outlaw with real life examples from Union (formerly Studiobanks)’ own portfolio.
Think: Coca Cola, McDonald’s, Ben & Jerry’s
Core Desire: To experience paradise
Goal: To be happy
Real Life Union Example: We celebrated Blynk Organic's healthy lifestyle with a website design that fits the Innocent archetype, oozing goodness and wholesomeness.
Think: Starbucks, Rockport, Jeep
Core Desire: To define one's self by exploring the world with freedom
Goal: To experience a better, more authentic, more fulfilling life
Real Life Union Example: Only in Old Town, a website dedicated to supporting the growth of the historic downtown area of Rock Hill, SC, is a call to action to fellow explorers, encouraging them to experience new places.
Think: Barnes & Noble, PBS, CNN
Core Desire: To discover the truth
Goal: To use intelligence and analysis to understand the world
Real Life Union Example: The Sage is a fitting archetype for the Charlotte Nature Museum's website, with a focus on capturing the fun of learning in a hands-on, creative environment.
Think: Marines, Nike, FedEx
Core Desire: To prove one’s worth through courageous and difficult action
Goal: To exert mastery in a way that improves the world
Real Life Union Example: The website of Hendrick Motorsports embodies the Hero archetype with a brand identity that celebrates their need (and ability) to win.
Think: Harley-Davidson, Diesel, Apple
Core Desire: To seek revenge or start a revolution
Goal: To destroy what is not working (for the Outlaw or the society)
Real Life Union Example: As one of NASCAR's top drivers, Greg Biffle has a reputation to live up to. His site is unconventionally sleek and helps him flaunt his rebel persona.
Think: Chanel No. 5, Polaroid, Oil of Olay
Core Desire: To have knowledge of the fundamental laws of how the world or universe works
Goal: To make dreams come true
Real Life Union Example: With a contemporary animation style and tranquil music, the website for Charlotte’s premier upscale salon and spa, Varji & Varji echoes the salon’s ability to create magical moments and transformational experiences.
The Regular Guy/Girl
Think: Purdue, Wendy’s, IKEA
Core Desire: To form a connection with others
Goal: To belong, fit in
Real Life Union Example: Dilworth Billiards' website fosters a sense of belonging in a comfortable, laid-back atmosphere where people can relax and be themselves.
Think: Guess Jeans, Godiva, Jaguar
Core Desire: To attain intimacy and experience sensual pleasure
Goal: To be in a relationship with the people, work, experiences and surroundings that one loves
Real Life Union Example: Specializing in luxurious massages in a relaxing environment, Urbana's website is a serene and intimate reflection of their elegant brand culture.
Think: Pepsi, Hampton Inn, Fanta
Core Desire: To live in the moment with full enjoyment
Goal: To have a great time and lighten up the world
Real Life Union Example: Bojangles’ website speaks to their loyal, wacky and passionate fans with an infectious, irreverent attitude.
Think: Marriott, Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, GE
Core Desire: To protect people from harm
Goal: To help others
Real Life Union Example: In partnership with BooneOakley, we tapped into our inner Caregiver to create JapanSaver.com, a site designed to sustain awareness and encourage donations to the earthquake and tsunami victims.
Think: Lego, Movado, Crayola
Core Desire: To create something of enduring value
Goal: To give form to a vision
Real Life Union Example: Reaching Quiet's website is a reflection of the firm's forward-thinking products and innovative designs.
Think: Microsoft, Mercedes, American Express
Core Desire: To control
Goal: To create a prosperous and successful family, company or community
Real Life Union Example: Edgeview Partners' website exudes brand characteristics similar to that of the Ruler, including leadership and responsibility.