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Brand Archetype FAQ: “What if I identify with more than one brand archetype?”

Nyla Smith | Wednesday, March 29, 2017

You've been introduced to brand archetypes and are trying to determine which one you are, yet you see more than one archetype that your business could align with. How can this be? What gives?

(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.)

"What if I identify with more than one brand archetype?"

In short, you will, and that’s okay. It’s very rare that a brand does not display attributes of other archetypes. Especially because some archetypes may have overlapping attributes themselves. Think about the Outlaw and the Explorer: both take the path less traveled. Or the Hero and the Caregiver: both look out for others. The Lover and the Everyman: both place great value on being liked. However, it’s also possible to identify with two seemingly opposite archetypes, like the Caregiver and the Outlaw. In that case, your brand is either waffling and unsure of its identity (a bad thing) OR you’re actually in a very unique place in the market (a good thing!). How do you know the difference? And what do you do about it?

Grasp the following principles and you will be on your way to wielding the power of your dominant brand archetype.

#1: Every brand will have supporting archetypes.

When you take the brand personality quiz, your results include a secondary and tertiary brand archetype. The amount and method that these are expressed in combination are part of what make your brand unique. So it’s not necessarily a bad thing to identify with more than one archetype. But if we reference a six-year study conducted by Young & Rubicam, it appears that the kicker is how strong your primary archetype is compared to your supporting archetypes. In the study, brands that were most clearly a single archetype also were the ones that were most profitable. While you don’t necessarily need to doggedly force your brand to adhere to a single archetype at the expense of losing its personality, you do want to keep in mind that a clearly defined primary archetype will enable your audience to connect with you more instinctively and passionately. And that is what causes them to choose you over someone else.

The results of the brand personality quiz indicate how strongly you correlate with each of your archetypes. If you end up with each correlation being more or less equal, that's a clear sign that you have a muddled brand and need to do some (brand) soul searching to identify which of your archetypes is primary.

If your archetypes are vastly different, you may need to revisit your branding and you definitely want to prioritize. As mentioned earlier, it is possible to identify with being both a Caregiver and an Outlaw — you could be the home care company that has set out to revolutionize the industry. The services you provide place you as a Caregiver, while your methodology is that of an Outlaw. Because this is such a departure from other home care companies, it gives you a unique differentiator that can be the foundation of your branding efforts and allow you to stand out from your competition. However, in this case, with such divergent archetypes, your branding would need to be handled carefully so you don’t wind up trying to appeal to two opposite ends of the spectrum and end up with confused, ineffective marketing.

#2: It’s important to know the core motivations for each archetype.

At the heart of each archetype is a core motivation. Motivation is important because that’s what is going to resonate with your target – not the what, but the why. A thief steals. Nobody likes a thief, right? Yet the popularity of Robin Hood says otherwise… because people connect with the why – the motivation that his actions are based upon. Giving to the poor and restoring justice? That’s a different motivation than stealing because you want to make yourself rich. And while nobody condones the action of stealing, a shared motivation is what allows your audience to identify something similar within themselves that they can connect with.

While the Outlaw and the Explorer share some tendencies in expression (i.e. nonconformity), the core motivation is different. The Outlaw is motivated by mastery or change, whereas the Explorer is motivated by fulfillment. These are two different starting points, and will impact everything that each archetype does. Consider a duck-billed platypus and a goose. They both have bills and webbed feet, right?... But only one is a mammal. Despite similarities, at the core they are fundamentally different. In the same vein, two archetypes may appear to be similar in certain respects, but only until you look past the surface.

Give it to me straight.

So, the short answer to the question "What if I identify with more than one brand archetype?" is:

  1. Recognize that it’s okay, but make sure you can identify which is primary. Fully and wholly expressing a single archetype has been shown to be the better strategy. Dig down until you can get to your motivation: the reason for your brand existing. You will probably have more than one. So then ask yourself these questions: Is our motivation focused on belonging and inclusion or on individual fulfillment and achievement? Is our motivation focused on stability or on change? All twelve archetypes will fall into one of those four categories, so if you can determine your motivation, you can hone in on your primary archetype.

  2. Remember that this is branding, so in the end what you think doesn’t matter – it’s all about what others’ perceptions of you are. If you can, survey your current customers or desired target audience to try and feel out what you actually mean to them. Then you can either hone in on your archetype, or pivot and completely re-evaluate your brand.

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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