Different designers and publishers have a different approaches to getting input from an author about their design preferences. But in all cases, the goal is to get a clear sense of a) who the ideal reader is, b) what the author wants to communicate non-verbally to this reader, and c) if and how the design should relate to the author’s personal or business brand. At Grammar Factory, we begin with an author questionnaire that helps uncover these, and one aspect of this questionnaire that some authors are unfamiliar with is the idea of brand archetypes.
A brand archetype is a personification of your brand. It associates your brand with one of twelve archetypes described by Carol S. Pearson in her 1991 book Awakening the Heroes Within. Your brand archetype is not your brand identity – rather your brand archetype answers the question, “What type of person would your brand be if it was a real human being?” As a result, it helps inform how your brand interacts with people – your clients, your prospects, your team, and stakeholders at large.
So, what then does brand archetype have to do with your book? Well, readers are (believe it or not) people too, and so it’s important to articulate how your book’s design will present to its readers. And this is especially important for entrepreneurs writing a book to build their authority and grow their business. While your book need not (and often should not) mirror your corporate identity, matching the brand archetype will achieve the right outcome without your book looking like a marketing white paper an no more.
In this article, I’ll describe each of the twelve brand archetypes to help you determine which one best reflects how you want your book to speak (non-verbally) to your readers.
The 12 brand archetypes
Here are the twelve archetypal brand personas, each with a quote that sums up its perspective on life, the basic human desire it taps into, key characteristics of the archetype, and a few examples of brands that associate with it.
Brand archetypes: Leaving a legacy
1. The Outlaw
“Rules are made to be broken.”
The Outlaw craves liberation…perhaps even revolution. They’re contrarian by nature and hate being fenced in.
- Core desire: Liberation
- Characteristics: Disruptive, rebellious, combative
- Example brands: Virgin, Harley-Davidson, Diesel
2. The Magician
“It can happen.”
The Magician craves power…not over others, but over the world we all live in. They believe anything can happen and that they can be the ones to do it. This archetype is often found in entertainment brands.
- Core desire: Power
- Characteristics: Mystical, informed, reassuring
- Example brands: Coca-Cola, Disney, Dyson
3. The Hero
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
The Hero is about being #1. They’ll take on any challenge. Nothing is impossible. This is a common archetype in sportswear brands.
- Core desire: Mastery
- Characteristics: Honest, candid, brave
- Example brands: Adidas, NIKE, FedEx
Brand archetypes: Connecting with others
4. The Lover
“I only have eyes for you.”
The Lover seeks and gives intimacy. He or she focuses on the senses and maximizing pleasure. For this reason, you commonly find the Lover archetypes in brands like wine, fragrance, cosmetics, and certain clothing (like lingerie) brands.
- Core desire: Intimacy
- Characteristics: Sensual, empathetic, soothing
- Example brands: Alpha Romeo, Chanel, Victoria’s Secret
5. The Jester
“If I can’t dance, I’m not part of it.”
The Jester is a pure entertainer and is all about bringing the fun. It’s always party time or joke time (and maybe even time for a bit little mischief).
- Core desire: Pleasure
- Characteristics: Fun-loving, playful, optimistic
- Example brands: M&Ms, Old Spice, Dollar Shave Club
6. The Everyman/The Citizen
“You’re just like me and I’m just like you.”
The Everyman (or Citizen) wants to belong. They’re just like you: warm, friendly, and humble. This is quite a common archetype as it’s one of the more flexible archetypes.
- Core desire: Belonging
- Characteristics: Friendly, humble, authentic
- Example brands: IKEA, Target, Canadian Tire
Brand archetypes: Providing structure
7. The Caregiver
“Love your neighbour as yourself.”
The Caregiver is all about service and so it’s a common archetype for non-profits or brands with big sustainability components. The main theme here is altruism.
- Core desire: Service
- Characteristics: Caring, warm, reassuring
- Example brands: Unicef, World Wildlife Federation, Tom’s
8. The Ruler/The Sovereign
“Power isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”
The Ruler (or Sovereign) loves to lead and control. They value power and status and organization. This is a common archetype in luxury brands.
- Core desire: Control
- Characteristics: Commanding, refined, articulate
- Example brands: Louis Vuitton, Mercedes-Benz, Rolex
9. The Creator
“If it can be imagined, it can be created.”
The Creator innovates. Creators aren't afraid to boldly try new things. Tech brands like Apple and Adobe are perfect examples of this archetype…same with certain toy brands like LEGO.
- Core desire: Innovation
- Characteristics: Inspirational, daring, provocative
- Example brands: LEGO, Apple, Adobe
Brand archetypes: Exploring knowledge and spirituality
10. The Innocent
“Life is simple, and simplicity is elegant.”
The Innocent craves safety and happily looks at the world through rose-coloured glasses. This archetype is all about happiness, trust, purity, and the like.
- Core desire: Safety
- Characteristics: Optimistic, honest, humble
- Example brands: Aveeno, Dove, Innocent
Brand archetype 11: The Sage
“The truth will set you free.”
The Sage seeks understanding. Knowledge is paramount. News, professional services firms, and educational institutions commonly associate with this archetype.
- Core desire: Understanding
- Characteristics: Knowledgeable, assured, guiding
- Example brands: Google, BBC, Boston Consulting Group (BCG)
Brand archetype 12: The Explorer
“Don’t fence me in.”
The Explorer loves freedom. It's all about being daring and exciting, which is why it’s a common archetype for outdoor and adventure brands.
- Core desire: Freedom
- Characteristics: Exciting, fearless, daring
- Example brands: The North Face, Jeep, Patagonia
How to choose from among the 12 brand archetypes for your brand (and your book design)
If this all feels a bit overwhelming, here are a few tips for choosing the right brand archetype.
Consider your unique value and perspective
Your industry may push you in a certain direction, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Take Patagonia for example. It makes perfect sense that a company that offers outdoor wear and equipment would choose The Explorer as its archetype. However, if your unique selling proposition (USP) bucks the norm in your industry, that’s an important indicator that your brand archetype may be different as well. That’s the tack that Apple took in the PC space, carving out the role as a Creator archetype in an industry littered with Rulers and Sages.
Act it out
Brand archetypes are effective because they help us articulate emotion in a way that can be difficult when talking in terms of logos, colour palettes, and the like. Actors are expert at infusing emotion into characters to tell a story and engage an audience, and we can borrow from them to help identify the right archetype for our brand. Think about characters in movies, TV shows, books and even in commercials. Is there a character that you would hire to represent your brand? What type of person are they? What would be their archetype?
In fact, many brands take it a step further and pay actors to endorse their product or service so they can transfer these associations to their brand. Think of Michael Jordan and NIKE (Hero), George Clooney and Nespresso (The Lover), or Ryan Reynolds and Mint Mobile (The Jester).
Think of your audience
As with most things, your audience or your reader should be key in identifying your brand archetype. Think about who it is that you serve and how they see you. Do they come to you for expert knowledge? Think Sage. Do they come to you for unexpected ideas? Think Magician. Do they come to you because you’re contrarian? Think Outlaw. Or maybe you make them laugh? Think Jester.
All of these can help inform your decision about which brand archetype is the best match for your brand and your book design. But don’t be afraid to use your judgment. As the founder and/or owner of your business, you probably have a good sense of the type of person you’d like your business to be. Don’t dismiss that intuition…run with it.