Brand archetypes are a great way to align your book design with your overall personal and business brand.
In this episode of The Entrepreneur to Author Podcast, Scott MacMillan offers a foundational primer on brand archetypes and how to identify which is the best fit for your business (and by extension, your book design).
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Please note: The transcript is produced by a third-party company from an audio recording and may include transcription errors.
Scott A. MacMillan:
You're listening to The Entrepreneur to Author Podcast.
Welcome to The Entrepreneur to Author Podcast, the podcast that brings you practical strategies for building authority and growing your business. And now here's your host, Scott MacMillan.
Scott A. MacMillan:
Beyond writing your book, there's a whole other effort that goes into publishing a world class book. The design process includes both cover design and interior layout and typesetting. If you are publishing traditionally, you won't likely have much input from this point on at all. But if you're publishing with a professional service publisher, then an important aspect of getting your book designed right is the creative brief. Now different designers and publishers approach this differently, but in all cases, the goal of the creative brief is to articulate to the design team who the ideal reader is, what the author wants to communicate non-verbally to this reader, and the author's design preferences, including if and how the design should relate to the author's personal or business brand.
At Grammar Factory, we begin with an author questionnaire that helps uncover these, and one aspect of this questionnaire that some authors are unfamiliar with is the idea of brand archetypes. "A what?" You might be asking. A brand archetype. I'll tell you about all 12 of the core brand archetypes, why they're so useful, and help you figure out which one is best fit for you, your business, and your book in this addition of Entrepreneur to Author.
A brand archetype is a personification of your brand. It associates your brand with one of 12 archetypes described by Carol S. Pearson in her 1991 book Awakening the Heroes Within. Your brand archetype is not your brand identity. Rather, your brand archetype answers the question, what type of person would your brand be if it were a real human being? As a result, it helps inform how your brand interacts with people: your clients, your prospects, your team, and stakeholders at large.
So what then does brand archetype have to do with your book? Well readers, believe it or not, are people too; and so it's important to articulate how your books designed will come across to its readers. This is especially important for entrepreneurs writing a book to build their authority and grow their business. While your book need not and often should not mirror your corporate identity, matching the brand archetype will achieve the right outcome without your book looking like a marketing white paper or corporate report.
So let's jump in and learn about each of the 12 brand archetypes, and then I'll share some ideas that will help you figure out which one best reflects how you want your book to speak non-verbally to your readers. For each of the 12 archetypal brand personas, I'll share a quote that sums up the archetype's perspective on life. I'll highlight the basic human desire that it taps into, identify the key characteristics of the archetype, and then share a few examples of brands that associate with it.
So let's start with our first brand archetype: The Outlaw. The Outlaw's view on life is, rules are made to be broken. The outlaw craves liberation, perhaps even revolution. They're contrarian by nature, and they hate being fenced in. So that core desire that The Outlaw taps into? Liberation. And some key characteristics of The Outlaw: well they're viewed and they see themselves as disruptive rebellious and often combative.
Okay, examples are really helpful to bring these archetypes to life, so for The Outlaw archetype, I want you to think of popular brands like Harley Davidson, Diesel, and Richard Branson's Virgin. You see, each of these brands have a personality to them that feels rather outlaw-ish don't they? And notice that Richard Branson himself taps into that same archetype too. Remember that, because I'm going to come back to that idea later.
All right, next we have the magician. The Magician says, it can happen, just believe. They crave power. Not power over others, but power over the world we all live in. You see, they believe that anything can happen, and that they can be the ones to do it. So that core desire of The Magician, it's power, and magician brands are commonly mystical, informed, and reassuring by nature. This archetype is often found in entertainment brands, so think of brands like Disney, but you also see it in other industries like Coca-Cola and even Dyson.
Our third archetype is The Hero. The Hero's going to tell you, hey look, where there's a will there's a way, and they are about being number one. They will take on any challenge and all challengers. For them, nothing is impossible. The core human desire here is mastery, and Heroes are typically as honest, candid, and brave. This is a common archetype in sportswear brands, and so you'll see this with Adidas and Nike, but FedEx is also a hero brand.
Archetype number four is The Lover, and their motto is, I only have eyes for you, dear customer. You see, the lover seeks and gives intimacy. They focus on the senses and on maximizing pleasure, and for this reason you'll commonly find the lover archetype in brands like wine, fragrance, cosmetics, and certainly clothing like lingerie brands. So that core human desire for The Lover is intimacy. They're sensual, empathetic, and soothing. And some examples of Lover brands, think of Alfa Romeo, Chanel, and Victoria's Secret. Those are obvious lover brands, but maybe also do Dos Equis, right? The Most Interesting Man In the World.
Okay, The Jester is our fifth brand archetype. The Jester says, hey if I can't dance, I'm simply not interested. They're entertainers, pure and simple, and they're all about bringing the fun. It's always a party time or joke time, and maybe even a little bit of time for mischief. So naturally the core desire here is all about pleasure, right? Jesters are fun loving, they're playful, they're optimistic, and you can see this Jester archetype show up in brands like M&Ms, Old Spice and Dollar Shave Club.
Next we have The Citizen archetype. This is sometimes called The Every Man or The Every Woman. They're going to tell you, hey, you're just like me and I'm just like you, and so they are just like the boy or girl next door. They're warm, they're friendly, they're humble. And so as a result, this is quite a common archetype, and it's one of the more flexible ones. The Citizen taps into the core desire for belonging and being part of a group or a community. They're friendly, they're humble, and they're authentic, and you can clearly see this archetype exemplified in brands like Ikea and Target, and for our Canadian listeners, Canadian Tire and Tim Hortons.
Okay, the next archetype is The Caregiver. They live life by the motto, love your neighbor as yourself. The Caregiver is all about service, and so it's a common archetype for nonprofit organizations or brands with big sustainability components. You see, the main theme here is altruism, and the core human desire is of being service to others. Caregivers are caring, obviously. Warm and reassuring, and unsurprisingly brands like UNICEF and World Wildlife Federation are caregivers. Hospitals obviously use this archetype too, and another less obvious one is Tom's, the shoe brand.
All right, the Ruler or Sovereign is our next archetype. The Rulers say power isn't everything' no, it's the only thing. You see, they thrive on control and they love to lead, valuing power, and status, and organization. So that core desire here is control. Rulers are commanding. They're refined and they're articulate. And so you'll see this as a common archetype in luxury brands. So some good examples are Louis Vuitton, Mercedes-Benz, and Rolex.
Now The Creator is our fourth archetype. If it can be imagined, it can be created is what you'll likely hear from the Creators. So The Creator innovates. They are not afraid to boldly try new things. Tech brands like Apple and Adobe are perfect examples here. Same with certain toy brands like Lego. The core desire is innovation, and they're inspirational, they're daring, and they're often provocative. Now let's go back to Apple. Steve Jobs was all of this too wasn't he? Inspirational check, daring check, provocative, definitely a check there. So both the company brand and the founder's brand were consistent.
Our 10th brand archetype is The Innocent. They're going to tell you, hey, life is simple, and simplicity, wow. That's elegant. The core desire of The Innocent is safety. They'll happily look at the world through rose colored glasses. Now this archetype is all about happiness and trust and purity, and they're optimistic. They're honest, and they're humble. Think about brands like Aveeno and Dove.
Okay, next we have The Sage. The Sage will say, the truth will set you free; oh and by the way, I've got it. They seek understanding. Knowledge is paramount, and so they themselves present as knowledgeable, assured, and guiding. News, professional services firms, and educational institutions commonly associate with this archetype. So some examples are Google, BBC and Boston Consulting Group.
The Explorer is our final archetype, number 12. The Explorer's motto is, hey, don't fence me in. They love freedom, and that is the core human desire that they tap into. You see The Explorer is exciting, daring and fearless. And that's why it's a common archetype for outdoor and adventure brands. Some examples, The North Face, Jeep Patagonia, and of course, Red Bull nails this one too.
So there you have it, 12 archetypes that help brands position themselves in the minds of their customers, and by choosing the archetype that best fits with how you want your book to present itself, to readers, you, your publisher, and your book design team can use the power of archetypes to evoke the right emotional response with your readers. But how do you choose a brand archetype for your brand and for your book design? Well, I have a few tips for you. First, consider your unique value and perspective. Your industry may push you in a certain direction, and there's nothing wrong with that. Take Patagonia for example. It makes perfect sense that a company that offers outdoor wear and equipment would choose The Explorer as its archetype. However, if your unique selling proposition, your USP bucks the norm in your industry, that's an important indicator that your brand archetype may be different as well, right? That's the tack that apple took in the PC space, carving out the role as Creator archetype in an industry, littered with Rulers and Sages.
Second, think about actors and characters. Brand archetypes are effective because they help us articulate emotion in a way that can be difficult when talking in terms of logos, color palettes, and the like. But actors are expert at infusing emotion into characters to tell a story and engage in audience, and we can borrow from them to help identify the right archetype for our brand. So think about characters in movies, TV shows, books, and even in commercials. Is there a character that you would hire to represent your brand? What type of person are they? What would be their archetype? In fact, many brands take it a step further and actually do pay actors to endorse their product or service so they can transfer these associations to their brand. Think of Michael Jordan and Nike, Hero. George Clooney and Nespresso, The Lover. Or Ryan Reynolds and Mint Mobile, right? The Jester. Now I told you earlier I was going to come back to Virgin and Richard Branson, because that's a great example of seeing the thread of a brand archetype, The Outlaw in this case, run through both the company Virgin and the front man Branson.
Finally, as always think of your audience. As with most things, your audience or your reader should be key in identifying your brand archetype. Think about who it is that you serve and how they see you. Do they come to you for expert knowledge? Well then think Sage. Do they come to you for unexpected ideas? Think Magician. Do they come to you because you're contrarian? Think Outlaw. Or maybe you just make them laugh. Well then think Jester. All of these tips can help inform your decision about which brand archetype is the best match for your brand and your book design, but don't be afraid to use your judgment. As the founder and/or owner of your business, you probably have a good sense of the type of person that you'd like your business to be. Don't dismiss that intuition. Run with it.
When you finally reach the design phase of publishing your book, and you need to communicate your vision to the design team, remember this. A creative brief is important for communicating the author's vision to the designers working on the project. Brand archetypes are an effective shorthand in creative briefs that help personify many of the emotional aspects of a brand. By choosing and communicating the right one to your reader through the design of your book cover and internal design, the visual elements of your book will reinforce the words you've written, resulting in a holistically consistent impression to your readers.
Now is the time. Time to write, time to publish, and time to grow. I'm Scott MacMillan, until next time.