As a marketer, you’ve likely heard of the 12 brand archetypes and maybe even used them in your work. The premise came from Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung’s personality archetypes in the 1940s. Each Jungian archetype takes certain innate human tendencies or behaviors and represents them as a model of a person (Jung’s original archetypes included the Mother, the Father, the Child, the Hero, the Trickster and the Animus, among others). Because these tendencies are present in all human beings, the models are universally recognizable and relatable.
How does Jung’s work translate to today’s business world?
The 12 brand archetypes are an extension of the Jungian concept and provide a framework for defining a brand’s personality by expressing otherwise abstract brand qualities as a recognizable human character. Marketers use them to shape their brand identity, voice and campaigns (and actors even use them to construct characters — Margot Robbie chose the Child archetype for her lead role in Barbie).
But archetypes can also be useful for technology PR practitioners. PR can and should be an expression of a brand’s values and personality. So it follows that any PR strategy should at least consider the brand archetype.
But first, a look at the 12 archetypes and their respective qualities
Companies That Use It
Brings deep insight and wisdom; is a thoughtful mentor or advisor
Google, PBS, Philips
Creates order from the chaos; is dominant, serious, trusted
Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft, British Airways
Mission-led, courageous, bold, inspirational
Nike, BMW, Salesforce
Fosters a sense of belonging; is approachable, down-to-earth and pragmatic
IKEA, Home Depot, eBay
An inventor and builder; is imaginative and inspires others to create
Lego, Crayola, Adobe
Enables transformations; is powerful, visionary and sometimes spiritual.
Apple, Disney, Absolut
Protects and cares for others; is compassionate, nurturing and generous.
Johnson & Johnson, Campbell’s Soup, UNICEF
Fun, irreverent and sometimes a little mischievous
Old Spice, Ben & Jerry’s, M&Ms
Exhibits goodness, optimism, youth; is often associated with a sense of safety or wholesomeness
Coca-Cola, Nintendo Wii, Dove
All about intimacy; inspires love, passion, and commitment
Victoria’s Secret, Chanel, Haagen Dazs
Inspired by travel and discovery; takes risks and pursues new experiences
Jeep, Red Bull, REI
Rule-breaker, disrupting the status quo, not afraid to speak their mind or do things differently
Virgin, Harley-Davidson, Diesel
How B2B tech startups can use the 12 archetypes for PR
There are plenty of resources online to learn more about the brand archetypes, how to discover yours, and how to apply it. But we’re here to talk specifically about how B2B tech startups that have already identified their archetype can use it in their PR efforts.
- First it’s important to note that an effective brand is authentic. In other words, all your actions — including products and services, the way you treat your employees and the experience you give your customers — should be consistent with your brand. Since PR’s job is to communicate those actions, you’re already reinforcing your brand archetype.
- You can also use your brand archetype to inspire creative PR campaign ideas. If you’re a Hero, for example, you may devise a social purpose initiative. But if you’re a Rebel you may develop a thought-provoking opinion campaign or a street activation.
- Your spokespeople should reflect the qualities of your brand archetype. If you’re a Sage, you’ll want to put forward knowledgeable experts, perhaps with academic backgrounds. If you’re an Everyman, you’ll want an approachable spokesperson who demystifies topics.
- Your content marketing strategy can also be guided by your archetype. For example, if you’re a Ruler, you’re more likely to use authoritative white papers, while if you’re a Creator, you may employ more visual storytelling techniques.
- Collaborate with third parties that reinforce your brand archetype. A travel influencer may be an ideal partner for Explorer brands, while a Ruler might choose to partner with the largest relevant trade association or industry analyst.
- Remember that brands can often be a combination of two or even three archetypes, although there is usually a dominant one. Your PR strategy should aim to reflect that unique mix and you may draw on each character to guide your program.
The Sage: A natural choice for many science-led or B2B tech brands as well as for professional services companies. A PR program for a Sage brand will emphasize deep expertise:
- Research and data reports will be cornerstone of your program. Repeatable studies that establish you as a defacto authority on your topic should feature highly.
- You’ll want to cultivate a deep bench of expert spokespeople and a mechanism to offer commentary to media and place contributed articles.
- The Sage is well-placed to launch an academy or certification program.
The Ruler: Ruler brands are often leaders in their industry and seek to convey authority and control:
- Hosting your own events — whether a full-blown user conference or a panel discussion that you facilitate — is a tried and true way to convey authority.
- Demonstrate your powerful, premium positioning by using invite-only models for product launches or exclusive events.
- Tone of voice is important for Rulers. You don’t comment on the competition and you back up your messages with strong proof points.
The Hero: Tech brands that are solving societal problems often choose the Hero. It’s also a popular archetype for security providers that are saving the world from cyberthreats:
- As a mission-oriented business, your PR program will emphasize your impact via case studies, testimonials, awards and end-user stories.
- Show leadership by making a commitment to meet a bold goal, issuing a call to action to the industry to raise standards, or urging fellow businesses to take action on an issue.
- Honesty and integrity are central to your brand – be candid in your communications, and always own your mistakes.
The Everyman: The Everyman brand is one that is friendly and inclusive, ideal for brands that stand for simplicity and affordability and whose products make life easier:
- Educational content will be a foundation of your marketing efforts, with plenty of pragmatic tips and how to’s. But keep the tone light: video and infographics are your friend rather than weighty papers.
- Spokespeople should be accessible, approachable and diverse — no leaning on a rockstar CEO here. You could even deploy end-users as ambassadors, showing how your product plays a role in their daily lives.
- Consider newsworthy initiatives that demonstrate your commitment to affordability, accessibility and inclusion.
The Creator: A popular choice for tech brands in creative industries, this archetype is all about innovation and inspiration:
- Format is vital for Creators. Use innovative, visual media for your PR, such as infographics, videos, immersive digital experiences, or photo stories. Your content should be a source of inspiration.
- Creators are innovative, so a key feature of your PR program will be regular product news and an ability to articulate a strong product vision.
- Use tactics that allow your audience to engage and co-create, for example with user-generated content and social media campaigns, or by inviting participation from other creatives in a podcast series.
The Magician: The Magician brand is a visionary that inspires wonder. It’s a popular choice for highly innovative companies (especially startups) whose ‘magic’ stems from a technological breakthrough. ‘Magic’ can also come in the form of transformation and can suit brands that want to convey the transformational effect they have on the lives and businesses of their customers:
- Communicate a strong vision for the future through your content, messaging and spokespeople.
- Your vision should be communicated in such a way that it inspires and evokes emotion rather than relying on logic alone to persuade. Create physical or digital experiences that transport the audience and enable them to see your vision.
- Highlight technical breakthroughs and advances, but create a little mystery around them — like pre-launch countdowns, teasers, or ‘reveals’ at an event.
The Caregiver: While a natural fit for tech vendors operating in the healthcare or non-profit space, this archetype suits any brand that is warm, reassuring and supportive:
- Customer service must be a strength for Caregiver brands — truly exceptional customer experiences, where buyers feel genuinely supported and cared for — will generate good PR on their own, but you can help things along by highlighting heart-warming stories, showcasing investment in customer support and emphasizing awards and reviews.
- Build PR programs around your CSR (corporate social responsibility) efforts or, better still, show how social purpose is built into your business, for example with a Buy One Give One model or with a commitment to sustainability in your supply chain.
- Emphasize a positive employee experience using social media or by discussing your employee initiatives in the media.
The Jester: Playful and fun-loving, the Jester may seem a more natural fit for B2C brands, but B2B tech startups that convey optimism or display a quirky sense of humor fit the archetype too:
- Inject a little fun into your media strategy. For example,release survey findings with eye-catching headlines, consider an April Fools’ story, or launch a limited edition product that reflects pop culture.
- Generate attention at events with witty activations — like a cheeky hashtag, interactive mural, or t-shirt printing station.
- Create content that entertains, such as a LinkedIn Live series or podcast with interesting guests.
The Innocent: Sometimes known as the Child, this archetype is for brands that stand for simplicity, purity, safety, and wholesome values:
- Adopt an optimistic tone in your messaging. Never market with fear, but instead emphasize how your products make life simpler and more joyful, for example, by freeing people up to spend more time with their family or on simple pleasures.
- Share authentic stories — not overly produced — of employees and customers.
- Emphasize a commitment to safety, like ethical practices, clean and sustainable ingredients, and data privacy.
The Lover: The Lover archetype is all about intimacy, empathy and human relationships:
- Make your customers feel special with exclusive offers and events.
- Tell human stories, for example with surveys that relate your product to themes such as empathy, belonging, friendship or even romance.
- Create sensory experiences, for example accompany a product launch with an immersive digital experience or build a content campaign around Valentine’s Day.
The Explorer: This archetype takes risks, is adventurous, and pushes the boundaries of what’s possible, without restrictions or limitations. Their customers are often inventors, builders, and thrillseekers in their own right:
- Create exciting content that makes readers feel part of the action. For example, pitch a ‘from the frontlines tale’ from a cybersecurity researcher or a ridealong story following a CEO.
- Showcase the myriad things customers have done with your product as a source of inspiration.
- Use gamification to engage your audience, building campaigns that give users an opportunity to earn points or prove their skills while they try your product.
The Rebel: Also known as the Outlaw, this archetype is for challengers, disruptors and breakers of the status quo:
- The tone of your comms, including spokespeople, will be more irreverent and outspoken than most. Your message will call out competitors or the industry as a whole.
- Use stunts and guerilla tactics to make your point and capture attention. For example, insert yourself into the news with a well-timed social post or staging an activation at an event.
- Your organization will need to be geared up for rapid response. When the news agenda requires it, you’ll need to be able to develop a timely response, get the necessary input and approvals and act.
As a tech startup, you’re building your brand. The more consistent you are across all facets of your marketing communications, including PR, the more effective your brand-building efforts will be. The 12 brand archetypes can be an incredibly valuable way to ensure you’re staying true to your brand, as well as a powerful source of inspiration to keep your PR campaign fresh and impactful.
About the Author
Lucy Allen is a Principal at Firebrand with two decades of technology communications experience. Lucy leads client operations, from executing programs that help clients grow their business, to developing Firebrand’s team and services. Prior to joining, Lucy held leadership roles in global agencies including US tech sector chair and Bay Area GM at Edelman and chief strategy officer at LEWIS.