How channeling your inner Godzilla might help your sales figures…the power of archetypes in branding

Have you ever wondered how brands manage to distinguish themselves when there’s so many of them in one niche? How they manage to send out a particular message each time they communicate with their audience? A message that they don’t even need to spell out because it’ll come across in their appearance and style? You might just have found the well-kept secret of archetypes in branding.

Archetypes in branding add the unconscious appeal

Humans have been hard-wired to pick up subtle clues since the dawn of time. And we as brand owners can tap into this by using the power of mythology, which goes back thousands of years. I’m talking about rekindling the stories our ancestors told each other, stories that we are programmed to cling on to. These stories contain ingredients you want to add to your branding in 2018, if you really want to throw your weight around.

G ravity’s causes are unknown, but we still need to factor it in to our lives. Same with archetypes. We don’t have to understand them to leverage them. – Seth Godin

Finding and channeling your archetypes in branding will pull your whole brand together and give your business an unconscious appeal. An archetype you can relate to will be your model to emulate in your own style.

What exactly is an archetype?

All humans understand an archetype when they see one. Archetypes are symbols that keep popping up in literature, art, or mythology throughout history.

Think of archetypes as the original, first model after which all other similar persons, objects, or concepts are derived and modelled. They embody the essence of an idea, of a human being, a situation, or a place.

Take a moment to take these words in: love – the alchemist – the journey – the garden, these are all examples of archetypes.

How do archetypes appeal to humans?

Archetypes communicate through the power of symbolism, image and non-verbal communication, you understand them without the need for words, and they have a powerful impact. Archetypes show rather than tell, which makes for a deep communication. In other words, archetypes send out a subliminal message, which is a very good thing when trying to build a brand.

Take the “rebel” archetype. Every human on the planet understands the concept of rebellion and it has been with us throughout history. When I say rebel, I needn’t say any more. Even though everyone has a different mental image of what exactly a rebel is and does, you’ll all get the underlying concept. You’ll know. 

Finding and channeling archetypes in branding has a powerful effect on your business because you’ll naturally and subtly send out the right signals to your audience. You’ll communicate a universal message that hooks straight into your audience’s minds. Having this in place will give your business the edge over others who are communicating on a superficial level.

So how do archetypes go into business?

Getting clear on and embodying an archetype is a big step to sending out a consistent message.

Your business archetype will guide the way you do business. And because an archetype is such a clear concept you’ll always have a very clear yardstick pointing you in one direction only.

Start seeing your brand as an archetype, or a persona, and weave this energy into your business. 

Right – where do I discover my brand archetype?

It doesn’t have to be tricky. Start by listening to yourself. Chances are, that after reading this you know already what your business archetype is. Which one are you? Which one do you want to be? It’s determined by your personality and  by the things you’re drawn to. It’s up to you to choose the one that speaks to you, ensuring that your business is built on authenticity. 

You can back this up by completing my free brand brief exercise which will guide you to analyse a set of questions. Some of those questions are geared towards understanding your inner motivations, and will help you uncover what archetype your business embodies.

List of archetypes

the innocent, the advocate, angel, athlete, everyman/girl-next-door, father, mother, messenger, hero, caregiver, companion, engineer, explorer, rebel, lover, mentor, creator, destroyer, jester, sage, alchemist, ruler, survivor, seeker….

Why can’t I find the word 'archetype' on my brand brief?

When we fill out our brand brief we don’t talk about “archetypes” anymore. We call it “persona”. Why? Firstly, we’re brand owners and not psychoanalysts, and more importantly, we want to allow a persona to be composed of more than one archetype, and we want to allow for business owners to choose their own label. Maybe instead of thinking of you business as a “sage” you can relate to being a “teacher” (sage + lover), or a “guru” (sage + ruler) even, which is all based on the same concept, but conveys very different angles. This is an exercise to be more authentic in the end!

So go out there and create a persona for your business that appeals to the bottom of your heart and soul and you’ll have discovered your archetype.

How to work it...

Let the fun begin. You’ve identified your archetype! Well, personally, I’d go full on method acting with your archetype. Let it shine through your business and you, and your audience, always have a clear direction to follow.

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