331. Archetypes 🧡
The 12 brand archetypes and how to choose one for your business
Hi there 👋
Thank you to everyone who wrote in after my interview with myself last week (in hindsight, one of the more pretentious things I’ve ever done). I’ll have more interviews with more people — not me — in the coming days and weeks. They’re gonna be good!
At Oyster this week, we announced the lineup for our one-day virtual event, Ascent. You all are welcome to attend for free if you’re interested to see how we run marketing events or if you are interested in some really fascinating topics on the future of work. Here’s the registration link.
Wishing you a great week ahead,
Say hi anytime at email@example.com. I’d love to hear from you.
Inside the world of Brand Archetypes: The full list of 12 and how to pick one
On a scale of 1-10, how important would you rate brand for a B2B software business?
Dave Kellogg says a lukewarm 7.
Dave’s hesitation is around the difference between brand for a B2B business versus a B2C business. Certainly brand looks different in different contexts. Dave’s points seem reasonable — no one has ever bought a $1,000 software tool because the website looked cool.
Or at least no one has ever said the website was what won them over. But in reality, brands win hearts, which makes the job of winning minds so much easier. In fact, many RFP processes (Request For Proposal) end up being exercises to justify the emotional decisions that buyers have already made. Our work as brand builders is to help people identify with us and to build affinity for our company so that when they are ready to buy, we are at the top of their list.
I would argue that every brand component that matters to consumer businesses also matters to B2B. Check out Dave’s list of brand work, which is wonderfully complete and succinct.
(Based on this.)
These eight elements of brand strategy will give you a pretty complete picture of brand for your business. We’re in the middle of some brand exercise at Oyster and have found Dave’s list a helpful reference point to the work we’re doing.
One thing missing from his list — and included on ours — is brand archetypes.
What is a brand archetype?
In life, an archetype is a model for a particular type of person, behavior, or personality. Therefore, in branding, the archetype framework helps us build human-like brand personas that our audience can identify with.
They also help us differentiate. Just as no two humans are exactly alike, no two companies are either. And when you embrace the brand archetype for your business, you carve out your unique space in the market.
Here are the twelve brand archetypes:
Can you see your brand in one of these archetypes?
Have you run this exercise before?
There’re some great articles written about brand archetypes, which go much deeper into the concept:
Brand Archetypes: The Definitive Guide by Iconic Fox
Brand Archetypes by March Branding
Each archetype has a host of descriptions, emotions, even color palettes attached to it. Here is an example of some of the characteristics of the Magician archetype:
Cool, so how do I choose an archetype for my brand?
Well like most brand exercises, the archetype exercise requires a lot of research and discussion. First and foremost, any archetype discussion should begin from the foundation of your company’s values and mission, your Why.
One of the most important exercises in developing a brand strategy is the Why Test. There’s a great book called Obsessed by Emily Heyward, a partner at the famed branding firm Red Antler and co-creator of brands like Warby Parker and Allbirds. Emily describes the Why Test with this fictional example of the 1900s-era Ford brand:
Why does it matter to people that their horses are slow?
“It takes me too long to get places and I can’t travel very far.”
And why does that matter?
“I spend more time getting myself places than enjoying my life and accomplishing things.”
And why does that matter?
“Because I’m going to die pretty soon and I have so much I need to achieve first! I can’t waste my short life on the back of this horse!”
And there you go.
The why test always ends with fear of death! Fear of death is the indicator that you’ve reached the end of the “why” chain. That’s because everything we do as humans, whether we know it or not, is ultimately motivated by knowledge of our own mortality.
The Why Test should lead you toward your company’s mission (you can stop a step or two before “fear of death”) :) In coming up with an archetype for Oyster, we started from the foundation of our mission: to create a more equal world, to create opportunity for people around the world to find amazing jobs with amazing companies.
From there, you talk to people.
Talk to customers, to understand how they perceive you
Talk to your marketing team, to get feedback on how you wish to be perceived
Talk to internal teams, to understand the internal framing of your brand
You can even talk to your brand. March Branding suggests these questions:
What are your values?
Which 3 brands do you aspire to?
Which 3 brands are enemies/opposites to your brand?
How should you talk to your audience (tone of voice)?
What emotions do you wish to generate within people when they interact with you?
What adjectives best describe you?
We recently completed this exercise at Oyster, going through a series of 90-minute workshops to discuss our brand values, brand personality, and ultimately our archetype.
We’re in an interesting place with archetype work at Oyster. There are a couple of archetypes that resonate, so we may end up picking and choosing parts of a couple to make a Frankenstein archetype of our own. This jives with some of the popular advice on brand archetypes, called the Archetypal Mix.
Basically, you choose a core archetype that represents at least 70 percent of your brand and dictates things like brand personality. Then the other 30 percent comes from a different archetype and allows you to differentiate from any other business out there that might share the same archetype as you. Imagine a mostly Creator archetype with a little bit of Outlaw. Or an Explorer - Jester.
Brand archetype can become the rallying flag for everything else you build around your brand. At Oyster, the archetype sits alongside our brand attributes (adjectives), our mission statement, and our brand positioning statement (which is slightly different than a product positioning statement). We also have a visual identity and voice and tone that we care a lot about. All of this must fit within how we describe our archetype.
The most important thing is to choose.
To be consistent.
And then to bring it to life.
Why humor and playfulness matter for brands — now more than ever
Growth Stories — like this one about Descript — from Top of the Lyne
About this newsletter …
Hi, I’m Kevan, a marketing exec based in Boise, Idaho, who specializes in startup marketing and brand-building. I currently lead the marketing team at Oyster (we’re hiring!). I previously built brands at Buffer, Vox, and Polly. Each week, I share playbooks, case studies, stories, and links from inside the startup marketing world. Not yet subscribed? No worries. You can check out the archive, or sign up below:
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