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Brand Archetype FAQ:“How can I stand out from my competition if we’re the same brand archetype?"

Nyla Smith | Tuesday, June 27, 2017

So this is a pretty frequent question, because, well, do the math, right? There are only 12 brand archetypes and…. hundreds (thousands?) of others in your industry. So, how do you differentiate from your competitors who may also be the same archetype as you?

(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.)

Know thy competition

First, you may need to redefine what your “competition” is. If you are a painter, you may assume that every other painter is a competitor. This is not necessarily true. If one painter focuses on commercial contracts and another focuses on residential jobs, they have different target markets, and are therefore not competing for the same audience. Between two residential painters, one may specialize in faux finishes on interior spaces, and another may be more suited for large exterior spaces. In short, the more targeted your audience is, the less competition you face. If you’re trying to serve "everyone", then you’re also competing with everyone, and that makes doing business (and marketing that business) a lot harder.

Keep in mind that you’re also “competing” against the intangible factors of time, money, and mindset. For example, a DIYer who believes they don’t need a painter at all, or thinks they can do it faster/better/cheaper themselves – in this case, the “competition” is the lack of perceived value in your services, budgetary constraints, or timeliness.

This is one reason why archetypal branding is so powerful. The psychographics of your audience (interests, needs, hobbies, beliefs, worries, etc) are what drive them to make decisions. As you express your archetype, you will naturally attract those who share your same archetype, or strive toward your archetype. You’re not trying to coerce and convince people to do business with you; you are drawing them to you organically. Archetypal branding allows you to speak to the intangible needs/desires/pain points of your audience in a very intuitive way. Having a framework of just 12 brand archetypes allows you to stick to the simplicity of focusing on core motivations, and not get caught up in less important factors that may complicate or muddy your brand expression.

With that being said, there are two ways that brand archetypes allow you to differentiate:

  1. supporting archetypes
  2. sub-archetypes

How your supporting archetypes help you stand out from your competition

It is rare that a brand will fit totally and completely into one archetype. Most brands will have a dominant archetype, and other archetypes that also apply to a lesser degree. These supporting archetypes are a key in differentiation. For example, two advertising agencies may be Creator archetypes. One may have a secondary archetype of Outlaw, which is expressed by an edgier, more rebellious culture. The other may have a secondary archetype of Sage, expressed by a foundation of data-driven research methodologies. The brand personality quiz results give you your top three archetypes. The combination that these are expressed helps you to express your brand’s personality more fully and uniquely.

How sub-archetypes help you stand out from your competition

The book Archetypes in Branding takes the original 12 brand archetypes and expands each one into a family of five. The result is a total of 60 brand sub-archetypes. The Magician, for example, includes sub-archetypes of Alchemist, Scientist, Engineer, and Innovator. If your brand is a Magician archetype, but with a structured approach to problem-solving (the Engineer), your brand will stand out from an intuitive Magician archetype that is an Alchemist, even as you both focus on transformation, the core of the Magician.

Differentiating is not difficult if you remain authentic

Even if two companies have the same brand archetype, or even the same supporting archetypes and sub-archetypes, the way those things are expressed will still be different. The proof of that is in the world around us. If you think of brands as people (since that is how people relate to brands, after all), each person (brand) is far too complex to be limited to a rigid box as the only way to definitively understand it. How can the Myers-Briggs personality assessment, with its mere 16 personality types, account for all of the 7 billion people in the world? We understand that even two people with the same personality type are not going to be confused for each other – they look different, talk differently, have their own little quirks and unique combination of attributes. More than that, each person has their own story and experiences, which will never be the same as another’s. This is where our differences lie; and the same is true of brands. When you tell your story, with your combination of sub- and supporting archetypes, you position your brand to stand out from your competition.

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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