Just think where we’d be without structure and order in our lives. While power, control, and authority may be easy to abuse, chaos still needs to be managed. Brands that are able to provide the world with the security and stability we all desire are the ones that earn the title of Ruler.
This post is a part of a series on the 12 Brand Archetypes and how to use them to build a stronger brand. To learn more, read the introduction here.
All About the Ruler
- Promise: Power makes the world go 'round.
- Core desire: Control
- Goal: To create prosperity and success
- Fear: Chaos; being overthrown
- Strategy: Exert leadership
- Gift: Responsibility and leadership
- Motivation: Stability
The Ruler archetype seeks to prevent chaos by taking control. Motivated by the desire for safety and security, the Ruler works to get (and keep) power. A lover of policies and procedures, the Ruler is drawn to things that are substantial, timeless, and high quality. This archetype sees itself as a role model for others to emulate and seeks to help others secure prosperity and security.
As the name implies, Rulers tend to follow the rules and behave "properly", while expecting the same of others. At one end of the spectrum, think about a protective mother raising a child responsibly. At the opposite end is a ruthless dictator, power hungry for control over nations. In between those two extremes is a whole spectrum expressing the archetype at different levels.
For examples of the Ruler archetypes around us, we can look at Donald Trump, Verizon, Microsoft, Rolls Royce, Rolex, and Hugo Boss.
The Ruler Brand in Action
Ruler brands are clearly evident in industries such as security, technology, finance, and government. They are also appropriate for any brand offering high-end products or services. The marketing techniques they use will appeal to the consumers’ desire to be important, influential, and successful. Imagery is often classical, traditional, statuesque, noble, or sophisticated. Pricing is moderate to high.
As you would expect, organizational structure is hierarchical within Ruler brands and roles are clearly defined. These organizations tend to be highly stable, functional, and orderly, but are often incapable of quick response or adaptation because decisions have to go through a chain of command. Ruler brands tend to grow by acquisition, taking over their competitors and swallowing up the little guys.
The Different Levels of the Ruler Archetype
Each archetype has levels. The lower levels are less advanced, while higher levels are more evolved or developed.
Level 1: Taking responsibility for one’s own life.
Level 2: Being the leader of a family or group.
Level 3: Becoming a leader at a higher level within the community or government.
All in the Family
The book Archetypes in Branding includes the Ruler as one of five related sub-archetypes. The different aspects of the Ruler archetype emerge based on the strength of various attributes.
Rulers possess a high degree of confidence and have an innate desire to be leaders. They need to be in control and feel qualified based on proven expertise or competence. This sub-archetype strives to create environments that are productive and harmonious. Its weakness lies in the fear of losing control, and can therefore overcompensate by becoming too authoritarian.
The Sovereign carries an air of prestige and rank. Holding fast to tradition, the Sovereign is controlled and proper in the public eye. While the Sovereign can fall into the trap of entitlement, it carries a great deal of responsibility and strives to act accordingly.
The Judge uses discernment and wisdom to challenge wrongs that need to be righted, thus providing structure to society or environments. With a balance between compassion and justice, the Judge is strong on communication, research, and strategy. However, it can be seduced by power, so the Judge should make a conscious effort to remain objective and impartial.
Acting as a diplomat, the Ambassador sub-archetype works to resolve disputes. The Ambassador strategically maneuvers complex issues or relationships to restore stability on common ground. The challenge for this sub-archetype lies in the potential to misuse its influence.
The Patriarch acts as head of the family, maintains order, and provides protection. With leadership and courage, this sub-archetype takes care of those under it, inspiring feelings of security. However, the Patriarch should be careful not to fall into a tyrannical leadership style.
The Ruler Consumer
Ruler consumers are typically concerned with image, status, or prestige. They gravitate to Ruler brands because they want the powerful impressions associated with those brands to influence how others perceive them. Often natural leaders, Ruler consumers are high achievers with a long list of accomplishments to their name. As such, they also have a lot of responsibility and don’t like taking orders from others. Often Ruler consumers are very patriotic and have a deep appreciation for their country’s laws, traditions, and heritage.
At the lower level, Ruler consumers feel as if the world should cater to them. No waiting in lines, no second-tier status, no asking twice. At the higher level, those that don’t expect special treatment will at least appreciate it.
Brands that want to reach Ruler consumers should consider how they can make them feel important (through VIP status or a platinum club membership), as well as focus on the stability they can give them.
Real world Examples of the Ruler Brand
Verizon believes “There’s only one number one” and they’re it. Their stance is consistently backed up by several sources and independent studies that support their claim of being better than all the rest, no matter where you are in the nation.
But Verizon would do well to remember that the weakness of being a Ruler is the temptation to be tyrannical, especially in light of recent headlines. For a company that has profited $39 billion in the past three years, Verizon’s Ruler tendency to overlook or mistreat “the little guys” has caused workers to strike, resulting in some bad press.
Microsoft is known the world over, and due to its integration in our lives, is overall considered a necessary and trustworthy brand with a broad appeal. In its meteoric rise to dominance, however, Microsoft has been hit with several antitrust lawsuits over the years.
Even though the company treads more cautiously these days, they cannot easily shake the unfavorable impressions created by their abuse of the Ruler archetype. While, fortunately, they are now viewed more as the “class president” rather than the “schoolyard bully,” not everyone is entirely convinced that they aren’t still trying to continue their monopoly.
Luxury and power combine and are enhanced by a very fitting audio track of Everybody Wants to Rule the World in this commercial for Rolls
Royce. What could be a more fitting status symbol?
The name says it all. Hugo Boss, a retailer specializing in designer clothing and fragrances, uses power phrases like “go all the way", "stay noble", and "man of success” in this commercial for men’s cologne. (Gerard Butler’s alluring Scottish brogue doesn’t hurt, either!)
Is Your Brand a Ruler?
Do you sell high-status products? Or ones that promise safety and security? Are you a market leader? Or is your long-term plan to achieve market dominance? Do you prefer highly structured organization? Do you serve a regulatory function in your industry or community? Answering yes to any of these questions can make you a Ruler brand.