Psychology-Driven Brand Design. Creating and Refining Remarkable Brand Identities.

Brand Archetypes — Meet the Ruler

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 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

Table of Contents

All About the Ruler

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.

  1. Ruler

    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.

  2. Sovereign

    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.

  3. Judge

    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.

  4. Ambassador

    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.

  5. Patriarch

    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

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 headlines from recent years. For a company that profits billions, Verizon’s Ruler tendency to overlook or mistreat “the little guys” has caused workers to strike, resulting in some bad press. 

Microsoft

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.

Rolls Royce

Luxury and power combine and are enhanced by an intense audio track of Everybody Wants to Rule the World in this commercial for Rolls Royce. What could be a more fitting status symbol?

Hugo Boss

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.

Still not sure which archetype defines your brand? Take the brand archetype quiz to find out your results and then check out an overview of the 12 brand archetypes to learn more.

Nyla Smith

Nyla Smith

Nyla is a Graphic Designer, Web Designer, Front-End Web Developer and Consultant with over 15 years of experience. She is the owner of n-Vision Designs, LLC in Hampton Roads, Virginia, which exists to provide marketing support and brand consulting to small- and medium-sized businesses needing 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.

More Like This...

Signing Off! Email Signatures the Right Way

In this high-tech age, something as simple as an email signature should be a breeze to create on your computer. Think again! Although all email clients support these signatures, each interprets it differently. This causes the HTML email signature to be one of the most unpredictable beasts in the digital world.

Read More »

Branding Mistakes: Overlooking the Little Moments

Have you ever been to a magic show?It’s pretty captivating, right? The conclusion of every magic trick is that special moment — the prestige, the climax of the trick — that leaves you mesmerized with delight and amazement at What. Just. Happened?! As a brand, you want to do the same thing. No, not deceive people with smoke and mirrors, but delight your audience. How do you do that? By capitalizing on the little moments.

Read More »