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Brand Archetype FAQ: "Will my brand archetype ever change?"

Nyla Smith | Monday, October 30, 2017

The strongest brands thrive due to three important factors: authenticity, visibility, and… consistency. Yet, in life it seems the only constant is change. How does a brand's archetype fit into 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.)

The answer lies in relevance.

A better way to think about our question is not “will my brand archetype ever change?” but “why might my brand archetype change?”

Archetypal branding is about managing meaning. What does your brand mean to people today? Will it mean the same thing in ten years?

Go with the flow.

Times change, and brands often have to change with it or risk being left behind to wither away. (Blockbuster, anyone?)

But it’s not just outside pressure that prompts change. Over time, brands mature naturally. Just like people, the lived experiences that come with the passage of time have the power to influence our personalities. As brands mature, they may discover alternate or new depths of meaning that they can provide to people simply due to the experience they’ve racked up.

Stay true to yourself.

However, if your brand archetype is really a reflection of your essence, then it should withstand the fickle changing tides. Personality simply reflects who you are – your true self. What makes you uniquely you is ingrained in your soul, regardless of time, place, or situation. Shouldn’t this be true for brands as well? Isn’t that what it means to be authentic?

Oh, what to do...?

With these two seemingly contradictory notions at play, what does this actually look like out in the real world? How do we answer our initial question “Will my brand archetype ever change?”

Nature vs. Nurture

Our question has direct ties to the age-old "nature vs. nurture" debate. What impacts us more, our genetics or our environment? Does our DNA determine our personality and behavior, or does our upbringing and our experiences?

The reality is, it’s both. Our genes set the parameters, laying the groundwork for our potential, but our environment is key in shaping and molding that potential into what is actually expressed. What’s more, we now know our environment can even alter our genes, which we then pass down to the next generation. And around we go.

In applying this to brands, we understand that while the essence of our brand is deep-seated, it must be adaptable to its environment; and that our environment can indeed alter our brand personality. The two work in tandem, and this does not negate your brand’s authenticity.

So, why might a brand’s archetype change?

A brand’s archetype might change if:

  1. The environment changes.
    Environment can include technological advances, broad societal changes, economic or political concerns, cultural shifts, market disruptions, etc. Because this world is in a constant state of flux, there will likely come a point when the environment causes a brand to rethink its positioning or offerings. When that happens, a brand’s archetype may also be affected.
  2. The brand matures and develops a new direction.
    Physiologically, you’re still the same person as you were twenty years ago. But as you’ve matured, different aspects of your personality may have emerged. The same holds true for brands. Typically, they mature, they develop, they learn, they grow, they refine their offerings and play to their strengths. They overcome some challenges and fail others. They figure out what’s really working and trim away everything else. And through that maturation process a whole other side of the brand may be revealed.
  3. It never had a strong archetype to begin with.
    Some brands feel like they are a bit wishy-washy. Perhaps, in serving the general public instead of a niche market, they have diluted their branding to the point where they don’t have a strongly expressed archetype. Once this realization hits, a brand may be prompted to consider its archetype intentionally, and it may be different than first expected.

A diamond is forever. Your brand's archetype may not be.

There are a lot of well-known brands that have reinvented themselves. Sometimes that resulted in a change in brand archetype; other times it didn’t.

Today, we don’t give a second thought about how “magical” our cell phones are. They’re simply a part of our everyday lives that we take for granted. But when Alexander Graham Bell first introduced his talking machine to the public, the Magician archetype was in full effect. The environment has since changed, and for telecommunications companies of today, the Magician is hardly seen. Instead we have Verizon the Ruler, and T-Mobile “The Un-Carrier” channeling the Outlaw.

In another case, the demise of the printed newspaper was hailed as imminent in the wake of a society that was rapidly evolving toward digital consumption. To remain relevant, newspaper publishers had to evolve or risk becoming extinct. For most, incorporating digital publishing, or even fully rebranding as a digital media company, was the answer. And it required a major operational shift for these companies to do so. But doing so didn’t necessarily result in a change of brand archetype. The core of who they were and what they provided (knowledge/information) hadn’t changed, and they would remain the Sage archetype regardless of how the news was delivered.

Branding requires consistency. And there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to “Will my brand archetype ever change?”, but the thing to remember is that given the appropriate circumstances it definitely can, and perhaps even must.

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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