All About the Hero
The Hero archetype is all about rising to the challenge, and it instinctively seeks to protect and inspire others. Whether on the battleground, ball field, or political stage, the Hero is determined to leave a mark on the world, often at the risk of great sacrifice.
The Hero often must make tough decisions and think on its feet. The quintessential Hero seeks out challenges or feels ‘called’ to right a wrong, or both. The challenge to overcome may be humanitarian — to save the world at large — but may also manifest as a grandiose personal aspiration, like a resolve to scale Mount Everest.
It’s easy to picture comic book superheros as iconic of this archetype. But in our everyday lives, we can look at Michael Jordan, Nelson Mandela, the Marines, Nike, and Red Cross as examples of the Hero.
The Hero Brand in Action
The Hero archetype is a natural fit for philanthropic organizations or businesses that have corporate social responsibility as a core tenant of their existence. Along with social initiatives, the Hero is easily manifest through athletic brands and the military. These are brands that represent or help people develop discipline, focus, and strength.
The marketing of a Hero brand will often use powerful images and strong colors to communicate. It may use nature-inspired imagery that metaphorically represents a challenge, like tall mountains or rugged terrain. Definitive lines and shapes and roughness or texture will play a part in the visuals as well. The language will be idealistic, challenging, or noble — essentially saying “I dare you”, in a manner of speaking.
The organizational culture of a Hero brand is typically achievement-oriented, holds itself to high standards, and requires dedication. In an unhealthy organization, this may foster competition and employee burnout. In a healthy organization, there is a clear sense of convictions that are lived out daily and fuels the passion to make a difference and overcome challenges.
The Different Levels of the Hero Archetype
Each archetype can be experienced or expressed at different levels. The lower levels are less mature while higher levels are more developed.
In Level 1, the Hero displays the ability to overcome — competence as demonstrated through achievement or victory in competition.
Level 2 shows the Hero archetype faithfully serving others, often out of duty, commitment, or conviction.
In Level 3, the Hero uses its strength and courage to make the world better. This requires the greatest level of sacrifice.
All in the Family
There are different aspects of the Hero archetype that can emerge, based on the strength of various attributes. The book Archetypes in Branding breaks these nuances down into sub-archetypes (including the primary Hero) for a total of five in the family.
The Hero is represented by sacrifice, courage, faith, and strength. This archetype lives to triumph over adversity, and will overcome great odds to facilitate transformation. The downfall for the Hero may be triggered by an exaggerated sense of self-importance.
In a word: fearless. The assertive Warrior has a strong sense of duty coupled with a healthy dose of bravery. Add to this a tactical mode of attack, and the Warrior is strong on strategy. The Achilles heel for this sub-archetype is a victory-at-all-costs mentality, in which the assertiveness turns a bit too aggressive.
The Athlete’s goals revolve around physical ability and mental focus. Disciplined and achievement oriented, the Athlete is relentless in pursuit of a goal. The desire to be bigger, stronger, faster, and better is natural for this sub-archetype. The Athlete must be careful, though, not to use its physicality to bully or harm.
The Rescuer swoops in with a heart full of bravery to help others in need. With intuitive sensibilities and quick reflexes, the Rescuer becomes a familiar face in times of dire circumstances. The trap for the Rescuer? The misguided need to save someone just to prove its own worth.
Fighting on behalf of the disenfranchised and powerless, the Liberator is a champion for humanitarian rights, justice, and equality. With strong convictions and a resolute hope, this sub-archetype does not accept defeat. The temptation for the Liberator is to allow the end to justify the means, however blurry the morality. Its staunch view of righteousness and justice can lead to revenge-seeking.