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Brand Archetype FAQ: Do my target customers have the same archetype as my brand?

Nyla Smith | Thursday, August 31, 2017

We’ve heard the familiar saying “opposites attract” but we've also heard “like attracts like.” When it comes to brand archetypes, which is true regarding our target audience?

(Brand archetypes are the secret sauce to creating stronger brands, and are an essential tool for any marketing toolbox! To learn more, read the introduction here.)

Brand relationships imitate human relationships.

To answer the question, let’s think about human behavior. Studies have shown that birds of a feather flock together. “This ‘like attracts like’ conclusion extends beyond personality to our attitudes and values,” says the Association for Psychological Science.

But we don't need a scientific journal to tell us this; we see this principle in our everyday lives, don't we? Look at your closest friends or the people that you voluntarily surround yourself with (or just your Facebook feed!). Chances are you share similarities in values and/or personality, and your world is shaped most by those most like you.  

Brand archetypes follow this principle as well. If your brand is a Creator, you will attract consumers who are Creators. The stronger your brand is in a particular archetype, the stronger the attraction will be for people who identify as that same archetype.

Archetypes connect us all.

To answer this question further, let’s take a step back for a refresh on archetypes. Remember that archetypes are universal and shared, which is what makes them so powerful! That means that we all have some of every archetype within us. The extent to which they are activated within us and expressed by us is dependent upon and reflects our personality, experiences, genetic makeup, learned behaviors, culture, and frames of reference. We can identify with all archetypes in varying degrees, but will resonate strongly with certain ones. I personally don’t identify strongly as a Ruler, but I appreciate security and stability as much as the next person. I don’t see myself as an Outlaw, and yet, I value nonconformity and even believe revolution is necessary at times. The Jester in me is situational moreso than the rule – it’s not a driving force in my everyday life, even though I certainly like to have fun! My point is that each one of us can identify to some extent with the values and attributes of each archetype, whether or not we identify primarily as such.

But whoa, don't go overboard!

So does that mean that "everybody" can be your brand's target audience, if every human being has your brand's archetype within them? Nope, nope, and I'll say it again, nope. "Everybody" is never a good answer to who your target audience is. BUT, this is where the "opposites attract" logic comes into play. While it may or may not be the exact opposite archetype that you attract, and even in the face of "like attracts like", the principle still holds that we are drawn to that which we aren't or things that don't have — things that make us feel complete or can serve as a means to an end. So if your brand is an Innocent archetype, you will attract those who identify strongly as Innocent archetypes themselves; but you will also attract those who don't! Perhaps they are more of a revolutionary, and because they are always fighting against the system, at times they are drawn to the simplicity of an Innocent brand — simply because that unexpressed part of them needs an outlet. Or a conservative office worker is drawn to Outlaw brand Harley-Davidson… not because she's an Outlaw herself, but because there is a part of her that feels so repressed that she seeks out a way to break free and let off some steam every once in a while.

There are aspects of our personality that can lie dormant or have low expression in our everyday lives. External situations or internal shifts are able to activate those dormant aspects, which creates a yearning to fill that void. For example:

  • hitting a milestone birthday may trigger a mid life crisis, activating the Explorer or Outlaw
  • getting fired from a job triggers one's entrepreneurial juices to flow, activating the Creator
  • a natural disaster triggers people to give sacrificially of themselves to help others, activating the Caregiver
  • a sudden threat to our nation triggers a desire for security, activating the Ruler

If you can foresee these types of situations or life events, you can theoretically focus on this segment of people as a secondary audience for your brand. So, while complete opposites may or may not be attracted to your brand, you do have to remember that you can and will attract more than just your primary archetype. It's important to keep this in mind. As your brand grows or the marketplace changes, you may find yourself in a position of expanding focus to a secondary or tertiary audience — either by luxury or necessity.

An example from an iconic brand...

Harley-Davidson logo

Let's revisit Harley-Davidson. Their core audience has always been white males over 35 who can afford the high-end bikes, who buy into the “American by birth, Rebel by choice” Outlaw mentality. However, that core audience is growing older, and Harley-Davidson found that their sales stagnated because (in addition to getting hit hard by economic recession) 70-year-old men just weren't buying more motorcycles. As a result, Harley-Davidson needed to expand their target audience in order to remain relevant in the marketplace. They still use their Outlaw brand positioning to attract other Outlaws and speak to the Outlaw in all of us. However, they have poured measurable resources into appealing to other segments: women, young adults, and people of color. While a shift in demographics doesn't necessarily mean a shift in psychographics, it likely always does have some impact. For Harley-Davidson, these other segments may not be as high in Outlaw as they are in other archetypes, like Explorer or even Caregiver. So Harley-Davidson has to make sure their Outlaw is tempered with archetypes that resonate with these other segments of their audience.

What this means for your own audience segmentation:

Your primary audience will be your archetype. You may find some exceptions, but this is generally the rule. If you have a close secondary or tertiary archetype that is also strongly expressed in your brand, you will also heavily attract those archetypes. Then you want to focus on demographics within those archetypes. Prioritize these demographic segments as it makes sense for your business, and that becomes your core group of consumers. As you make decisions for your brand, focus on these people – the demographics that share your archetype(s). Don’t worry about the “opposites” so much. They will come, if your archetype is crystal clear and your brand expression is compelling, but they're not your core. Unless you are to the point where your brand is established and well-known enough (or until the marketplace demands it), and you are able to effectively reach other segments without compromising your brand integrity, just focus on your primary audience. Simply be authentic in your archetype and let like attract like.

Go Deeper

Do you have a burning question about brand archetypes? Want to dig deep and explore the hidden potential of your brand's personality? Let us know! We will be happy to schedule a consultation to find out how you can use the power of brand archetypes in your marketing. Still haven’t taken the quiz? Set aside ten minutes and do it here: brandpersonalityquiz.com.

Nyla Smith is a Graphic Designer, Web Designer, and Front-End Web Developer with over 11 years of experience. She is the owner of n-Vision Designs, LLC in Hampton, Virginia, which exists to provide marketing support to small- and medium-sized businesses that need creative solutions. Contact Nyla if you'd like to discuss your next creative project. She can usually be bribed to a meeting with a cup of green tea and an oatmeal cookie.
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