Archetypes in branding: How to build a consistent archetype-based brand strategy

Often in our lives, we find ourselves playing different roles depending on the context we find ourselves in; how we behave may vary when we are in the office, with our friends, or in the classroom. Just as certain circumstances may dictate that we play specific roles in our daily lives, the brand strategies we develop for clients are also specific and nuanced, and should reflect the company’s role within its market.

To help a brand stand out from competitors and create a unique position in its sector, it must define a set of attributes and beliefs that express its personality while maintaining its core DNA.

Once these attributes and beliefs have been established, companies may find that their employees—who come from diverse backgrounds and work across myriad roles—interpret the defined attributes and values of the brand uniquely.

It’s perfectly normal to have varying interpretations of an attribute or belief based on a person’s culture or background. But in branding, this variance can lead to inconsistent outputs and representations of the brand, not only with how it communicates, but also with its products, services, and brand experiences.

When a brand has inconsistent outputs, it prevents consumers from understanding the strong, cohesive brand narrative we wanted to deliver. This mismatch between strategy and execution can require significant investment to fix—and it creates a substantial dip in brand value with customers.

Air Action Vigorsol—the jester of consumer goods: Even knowing little about the Vigorsol brand, it is easy to identify the archetype it embodies. With it’s wicked humor and irreverent, exuberant personality, the attitude of this brand is clear: life is a wild and crazy playground of opportunity to be faced with humor—transcending tradition, convention, and societal norms.

How can we help brands correct this issue?

At Landor, we use an archetype-based brand strategy to help solve this problem. But what does “archetype” really mean in this context?

An “archetype” is a concept or model on which other, related concepts are based. Many archetypes have evolved over history, from the ideas of Plato to the philosophies of Jung. For the purposes of branding, we created our own definition of an archetype.

In branding, an archetype is:
“The role, immediately recognizable and subconsciously familiar, a brand plays in the market due to its offer, communications strategy, identity, and customer experience.”

What is an archetype-based strategy?

In an archetype-based brand strategy, we not only feature the brand’s personality, attributes, and beliefs, but we give them human form. The brand becomes a character with a clear personality that informs the way it looks, behaves, and speaks. This makes the brand easier to understand and the strategy more actionable, influencing all outputs and establishing stronger consistency across execution and implementation.

To create a strong archetype-driven strategy, brands must consider:

  • The archetype description: The personality traits, common behaviors, and brands and characters (fictional or real) that embody this archetype
  • The brand idea: How does it tie to the archetype?
  •  The brand’s personality attributes, which should be based on the archetype
  • The brand’s beliefs and values, which should represent the archetype

Archetype-based brand strategy is also strongly supported by hard data. BrandAsset® Valuator (BAV), Landor’s proprietary database of consumer brand perception data, allows us to understand, based on personality attributes, which archetype every single brand represents in consumers’ minds. As a result, we can see which brands are most effective.

Why does this approach work better?

Archetypes have a specific function: They allow audiences to relate more strongly to brands because the brand becomes a character people can identify with both socially and culturally. This creates stronger realism and better connections with consumers.

Want to learn more about archetype-based brand strategy? Here are some recent examples from Landor Milan.

Tying a brand idea to an archetype makes it easy to immediately relate to the brand in human terms. A few lines of a description and a visual mood board are enough to convey its personality, and thus the role the brand will have in the market. Let’s say we want the brand to be a confident, charming, and passionate man: How will it behave? How will it appear? How will it speak? Each of the below prototypes represents the qualities of confident, charming, and passionate, but in very different ways.
Prototype 1: The Lover
Prototype 2: The Warrior
Prototype 3: The Hedonist
Emilgroup—the ceramic tile alchemist: If my brand is a male alchemist, what type of space would he inhabit? Where would he live? Where would he work? What would happen around him? How would elements react to his presence? This archetype easily informs how an environment could evolve.

It’s clear: Archetype-based brand strategy drives stronger brands. Its main benefits are:

  1. Saving time with decision making, both during brand development and in day-by-day management of the brand
  2. Stronger brand consistency across all brand expressions and experiences
  3. Clearer understanding of the brand in consumers’ minds
  4. Higher brand value—driving stronger business over the long term
Air Action Vigorsol “Stepping out”- new spot 2017 - 45


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