What are archetypes? What are some examples

The 12 archetypes according to Jung: What they can and cannot do

This guest article by CRU Brand Consultancy explains what is behind the concept of the 12 archetypes and discusses its relevance and legitimacy.

There are a few evergreens in the musicians' arena of marketing: memorized hit songs that appear again and again in the presentations of the consultancies and agencies. These evergreens like to come up as a colorful diagram - and are ideal for semi-knowing foreign word festivals.

The Sinus-Milieus are such an example that cannot be killed. But Sinus has at least a serious foundation - that is, a well-defined theory and clean methodology (even if this type of target group research is long outdated by digital).

The real air numbers in the steamy chatterbox repertoire are undoubtedly the "12 archetypes of marketing". What they stand for, where they come from and why they are problematic - I would like to go into this in this post. And finally, in order not to be grumpy, I want to give suggestions on how to use the model consciously and in a controlled manner.

Table of Contents

What archetypes are there?

What's the matter?

According to legend, the “12 archetypes” were developed (not to say: discovered) by the Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung. They should describe twelve character archetypes that we humans unconsciously associate with the same emotions and behaviors. To put it more simply: the archetype is a role model that has structured our history and informed our cultural knowledge accordingly. And because even fairy tales follow their style, the archetypes are plausible and understandable even for children.

The 12 archetypes are commonly named and interpreted as follows:

  1. The rebel: rebellious, disruptive, combative
  2. The Wizard: visionary, idealistic, magical
  3. The hero: courageous, sincere, with integrity
  4. The lover: passionate, sensual, beneficial
  5. The fool: playful, teasing, optimistic
  6. The Jedermann: humble, friendly, authentic
  7. The supervisor: caring, selfless, compassionate
  8. The ruler: dominant, cultivated, self-confident
  9. The creator: inspiring, provocative, creative
  10. The innocent: honest, indecent, humble
  11. The wise: knowing, leading, reinforcing
  12. The discoverer: fearless, adventurous, independent

And as befits a sub-complex method, there is a wonderfully symmetrical diagram:

What are archetypes?

In contrast to Stereotypesthat work from the outside to the inside - so that the viewer's ascriptions result in an image - the effect Archetype from the inside out: as irrefutable constants of human storytelling. At least that's the story.

The supposed highlight is now to locate the personality of your own brand within an archetype. From this, the tonality and attitude for your own brand communication could be inferred.

And so that you definitely don't get anything wrong, the same examples are prayed down for each archetype. Apple is the creator, Chanel is the lover, Nike is the hero, Harley Davidson is the rebel, Disney is the magician, The North Face is the explorer, etc.

These examples suggest the relevance and validity of the twelve archetypes. Look here, they say, even the biggest brands in the world fit in nicely! You just have to do it the same way - and your brand marketing is done.

And what's the problem?

The fallacy of the archetype apostles can be wonderfully described using the brands that are referenced there over and over again. It starts with the fact that probably none of these brands has thought about the appropriate archetype and the archetype attribution therefore takes place after the fact.

And it ends with the insight that these attributions are inevitably snapshots that cannot take into account the developments of brand personalities. For example, Apple was originally more of a rebel than a creator - and, by the way, could easily be called a discoverer or a magician.

But the problems start with the origin of the model. Because the twelve archetypes are based neither on research nor on any reality. They are a myth, invented by marketers and passed on until they have become an unquestioned standard. If used innocently, the superimposed archetype hinders constructive branding and replaces it with quasi-esoteric boom. But one after anonther.

Even the founding legend of the twelve archetypes is humbug, with all due respect. Carl Gustav Jung is without a doubt a great poster boy: after all, he was the colleague of none other than Sigmund Freud and popularized psychoanalysis in the United States. And he actually writes about archetypes as "original images", which he locates at the intersection of mythology and the interpretation of dreams.

Read up in: Carl Gustav Jung, Man and his symbols. Patmos Verlag 2012

But these are by no means the twelve characters from the Marketing Musikantenstadel. Jung describes only four archetypes, namely ›anima / animus‹, ›the self‹, ›the shadow‹ and ›the persona‹. Good luck finding your brand in it!

We do not know who transformed these four horsemen of the apocalypse into the twelve advertising clichés that we know today. In any case, that it turned out to be a dozen of all people is telling. Because the only 'branch of research' that the twelve archetypes are reminiscent of is astrology with its twelve zodiac signs.

The marketing horoscope

Each of us knows our zodiac sign; many people even have their ascendant. Even for the skeptics and agnostics, one's own horoscope has an almost irresistible charm. As science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke is said to have put it so nicely: “I don't believe in astrology. Protect like me are skeptical. "

Astrology - that is, the identification and reading of earthly properties based on the sun's trajectory through the "signs of the zodiac" - seems to be the natural model for the twelve archetypes in many ways: starting with the perfect number of the dozen, which we also find with the apostles or King Arthur Round table encountered. About the vagueness and elasticity of the attributions (several equivalents can be found for almost every property). Right down to the combination options that have been precisely calculated: be it which zodiac signs supposedly match each other or how a company should recruit based on its archetype.

What has made horoscopes successful for centuries is their meaningful element, which aims to make the complicated world understandable to us. In fairness very few “believe” body and soul in what astrologers serve them every day. For most people, their horoscope is more of a meditation, motivation or simply entertainment that is no longer taken “literally” than the joint pouring of lead on New Year's Eve.

And therefore enough of spoiling the game. Yes, the twelve archetypes are an unscientific, popular invention that is very reminiscent of horoscopes. Nonetheless, they have prevailed over the decades. Yes, as a model they are vague and under-complex - but how do they say it? All models are wrong; but some are useful.

This beautiful aphorism goes back to the statistician George Box, who first used it in a paper published in 1976.

So can the twelve archetypes also make sense? Are there use cases for which they are suitable?

The missing instruction manual

A plausible use of the model could be to question existing self-images of a brand. Because they often have more to do with the industry than with the brand itself. A company in the medical field quickly sees itself as a “supervisor” or “wise man”; a start-up will readily identify itself as a “rebel” or a “explorer”. Ironically, the archetypes can help recognize and break through these self-images to allow for new perspectives and narratives.

Another constructive use of the twelve archetypes lies in the overview and in inspiration. Despite all its flaws, the model gives many ways to see self-description and address at a glance. One would like to imagine how the juice manufacturer innocent, inspired in this way, decided on the spot to build the entire brand around the archetype of the innocent - with some success.

But even then, innocent would at most be the exception that confirms the rule. Because when simple models such as the twelve archetypes (or the Limbic Map) have to shoulder the entire branding work, it becomes problematic. Anyone who wants to give a company its own voice and style must first and foremost listen and ask the right questions. A superimposed archetype does not replace this work - it makes it more difficult.

Lasse Giese is the author of this article. He is the founder and managing director of CRU Brand Consultancy - a Berlin agency for exceptional branding. His focus is on strategy and advice. The agency creates meaningful brands that are characterized by their sophistication and find a deep response from people. CRU promises its customers to strive for the extraordinary - from planning to history to design and experience. The agency values ​​professionalism and close cooperation with its customers.

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