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Brand Archetype FAQ:“The what, the why, or the how – which determines my archetype?”

Nyla Smith | Friday, May 26, 2017

The brand archetype quiz gives you your top three results. Inevitably, it will be some combination of your what, how, and why. How do you make sense of this?

(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.)

There are three big things that will influence your brand archetype.

  1. What you do: your category
  2. How you do it: your method
  3. Why you do it: your motivation

Factors that make up a brand

The biggest reason why existing brands have difficulty determining their brand archetype is because they are looking at their brand as a combination of these three things, and can’t pinpoint which one is "most important."

The good news: you don’t have to choose one and ignore the others. The combination of your category, your method, and your motivation is what makes your brand unique.

But, it can contribute to a lack of focus in branding and marketing, and that’s why it’s still a good idea to flesh out a primary archetype. Theoretically, particularly as a new brand, you could probably pick any one of these archetypes to focus on as your primary. So how do you make sense of it all?

You want to focus on the one that is going to make you stand out and allow the most intuitive connection with your audience. The single factor that will influence your brand archetype most is the one that allows you the greatest freedom of authentic expression. Here’s what I mean by that.

I scream, you scream...

Say you make ice cream. Your recipe isn’t especially inventive; I mean, how many different ways can you make basic vanilla ice cream, right? But, you take great pride in keeping it simple (pure wholesome ingredients), without any fillers, artificial sweeteners, or hard-to-pronounce words. A large part of your business model is social responsibility. For every cone of ice cream you sell, you donate a portion of the profit to helping others in need, specifically, funding a microloan to empower impoverished farmers in developing nations to make a living raising cattle. So let’s dig into this briefly:

  • “What” (your category): Food, specifically dessert, specifically ice cream
    By nature of what you do, you could be a Lover brand (which focuses on sensual pleasure, among other things).
  • “How” (your method): Simple and pure
    Using only the purest ingredients with no added fillers, preservatives, or anything else to pollute our bodies could place you as an Innocent archetype.
  • “Why” (your motivation): Help empower others
    Depending on your core motivation and end goal, your drive to improve the world at large could make you a Hero or Innocent archetype.

In this case, while you’ll never be able to escape your Lover category completely, your "why" and your "how" are the aspects that actually impact your brand's personality more, present bigger opportunities to set you apart from others in the industry, and allow others to connect with you more intuitively.

By contrast, another ice cream maker may claim to have the best tasting ice cream in the world (sinfully delicious!), due to their mixtures of exotic and rich flavors. Their only goal is to make you blissfully unaware of your worries, for at least as long as you are indulging in their ice cream. By nature of category, method, and motivation, this brand is a Lover archetype. They’ve got it easy. ☺

People buy for the why (usually)

Your category is sometimes your primary archetype simply because it offers the high-level answer to meeting a need that people have. N-Vision Designs is primarily a Magician brand, with secondary and tertiary archetypes of Sage and Creator. In this case, the Magician reflects the "what", whereas the Sage and Creator stem from the "how" and the "why". But, as seen in the first ice cream example, what you are does not solely define you. In fact, people buy for the why and the strongest brands start from the place of purpose (motivation), which only then informs their methods and products. So if your why and your how loom larger than your what, this is where your primary archetype is, and this is where your branding efforts should lie. If you find you are floundering a bit in determining your archetype, start with your why.

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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