The usage of archetypes for marketing

All communication and marketing have a single target – the individual recipient that should take care. Without him all communication effort is inadequate. If she or he doesn’t listen all arguments and investments have a value of zero.

Grouping target audience is always a good idea for being more effective. Finally the best communication is a highly relevant link between your offer and the recipient’s actual needs that fit into their context. 

Established market participants with their products are knowing their target group quite well. The buyers are obviously the most appropriate group of interest. But beyond buying a behavioural classification is difficult, when your data contains no more than the buyers address, the recent shopping cart and some market surveys that are maybe outdated already. The smaller the quantities – for example in B2B – the more difficult it gets.

Here kicks the idea of archetypes in. The concept of psychological archetypes was advanced by the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung.* Carol Pearson and Margaret Mark developed the concept in a more brand related way in their book “The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes”. They emphasize on the power of storytelling to provide the human context that every brand needs. Archetypes are an appropriate structuring element that provides the solid fundament of a strong brand and its effective communication.** Also science revealed that stories outperform facts by 22x according to Jerome Bruner, University of Cambridge.***

In general there are twelve different archetypes (Innocent, Sage, Explorer / Outlaw, Magician, Hero / Lover, Jester, Regular / Caregiver, Ruler, Creator) grouped into four areas – spiritual journey, leave a mark, connect to others and provide structure.

A creator positioned in the area of “provide structure” is a typical archetype for an entrepreneur. Brands like hp, Adobe, Dyson, Audi or Lego are positioned here. Statements like “if you can imagine it, it can be done” or “craft things of enduring value” are examples for creator brand message.

The concept of archetypes is not only valid for the entire brand but also for their visible players (stakeholders). Depending on their type they will judge the communication elements and expecting something that refers to their universe of thinking and believing. Keep in mind that one person can also play in two archetypes – in his official role as VP Sales he most likely has to play the role of the hero (hunter) while personally, behind the closed door, he would prefer the behavioural thinking of a regular guy for example.

In a nutshell, archetypes can help to understand the behaviour, psychological insights and mind-set of a specific target group, when your general data fundament is weak. Be aware of the levels where archetypes can play a role – external customers, internal stakeholders or entire organisations. If your product is for Joe Average the archetype of the regular is most likely 80% of the market research part – already available. Be sensitive about your communication in messaging, structuring, design and storytelling to minimalize the gap between your ideal target and the typical archetype they fit into.


**“The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetype

***Making Stories, Jerome Bruner

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