If you’re not familiar with the concept of “brand archetypes,” check out our earlier breakdown of the 20 brand archetypes.
To help clarify what brand archetypes are all about, here are three examples with which you’re probably already familiar.
HARLEY DAVIDSON (THE MAVERICK)
This quintessential American brand is built around the Maverick archetype, which personifies a willingness to defy (or destroy) social conventions and challenge “normal” behavior.
As the Harley Davidson brand came to be associated with outlaw behavior (thanks to movies and press coverage of rebellious bikers gangs), their motorcycles allowed people to escape from their routine lives. The ride came to symbolize leaving
it all behind and forging a new path. While most customers didn’t literally make this change in their lives, their participation in the brand helped them find a healthy balance with the responsibilities in other areas of their life.
NIKE (THE ACHIEVER)
The Nike brand is all about pushing the limits of human performance, which is a perfect manifestation of the Achiever archetype. The company’s co-founder, Bill Bowerman, once observed, “if you have a body, you are an athlete,” hinting at the nearly infinite potential they see for humans in sport (as well as their desire to bring performance-mindedness to a broad audience).
Nike talks about winning with almost religious fervor and reverence, which is appropriate given that Nike was the Greek goddess of victory. For example, their 2010 “Write the Future” campaign, revolved around a three-minute film showing some of the world’s greatest athletes in do-or-
die situations. It vividly portrayed the emotional extremes that can come from their performance in those decisive moments.
While the products themselves contain a tremendous amount of quality and attention to detail, Nike (wisely) almost never talks about their actual products. Instead, they simply provide the religious experience and trust that consumers who feel themselves moved by that experience will take the time to learn about the products later. Their $19 billion annual revenue would seem to indicate this focus on archetype-driven emotional experiences over logical arguments has been successful.
Imagine what Nike would look like if they had simply promoted the features and benefits of their shoes. Would the company even still exist?
VICTORIA’S SECRET (THE SENSUALIST)
Most Victoria’s Secret customers don’t realize the brand is based around a fictional woman named Victoria, a manor-born Londoner who serves as an stand-in for the store’s customers: responsible women facing a wide range of unexciting obligations, who still (perhaps secretly) want to indulge in the physical pleasures they’ve been missing.
This aspect of their customers’ everyday experiences is represented by the Sensualist, the archetype that discovers and maximizes physical pleasure.
While Victoria’s Secret has ranged over the years from classy and sophisticated to outrightly sexual—and even Chief Executive Sharen J. Turney agrees they have wandered too far from their roots—the direction provided by their focus on the Sensualist archetype (consciously or otherwise) has helped to turn Victoria’s Secret into a household name, setting it far, far apart from its competitors in the marketplace.