Brand Archetypes, pt. I

Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes

I don’t write book reviews. Not since high school. But this is an exception. The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes (2001) by co-authors, Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson, has changed how I see brands. The lens of cultural archetypes opens possibilities and narrows focus for greater impact in identity design, brand messaging, and campaign marketing. This book deserves more attention.

Their thesis is built on psychiatrist, Carl Jung’s understanding of psychological archetypes through events, relationships, and motifs. Jung proposed twelve archetypal figures as a means of understanding myth, psychology, and culture. Authors, Mark and Pearson use those archetypes to frame brands, consumer markets, and individuals.

Jung classified the twelve archetypes within a matrix of four categories: freedom, social, order, and ego (fig. 1). Mark and Pearson use a similar matrix that overlay with different verbiage. Their categories are independence, belonging, stability, and mastery (fig. 2).

fig. 1, Carl Jung
fig. 2, Margaret Mark and Carol Pearson

This matrix and these archetypes apply not only to brands but products, experiences, services, and anything money can buy. It is the essence of an organization. This is a system for managing meaning in brand.

These brand archetypes should be used as a filter so that all brand visuals, language, and feelings reflect the core brand archetype — the core self (ego) of the brand. These archetypes represent a core brand charter. They are means of awareness, attraction, and engagement — key relationships to customers.

The Twelve Archetypes

1. The Innocent
Free to be you and me
The Innocent may also be known as Pollyanna, puer or puella, utopian, traditionalist, naive mystic, saint, romantic, dreamer.

2. The Explorer
Don’t fence me in
The Explorer also may be known as the seeker, adventurer, iconoclast, wanderer, individualist, pilgrim, quester, antihero, rebel.

3. The Sage
The truth will set you free
The Sage may also be known as the expert, scholar, detective, oracle, evaluator, advisor, philosopher, researcher, thinker, planner, professional, mentor, teacher, contemplative.

4. The Hero
Where there’s a will, there’s a way
The Hero may also be known as the warrior, the crusader, the rescuer, the superhero, the soldier, the winning athlete, dragon slayer, the competitor, and the team player.

5. The Outlaw
Rules are meant to be broken
The Outlaw may also be known as the rebel, the revolutionary, the villain, the wild man or woman, the misfit, the enemy, or the iconoclast.

6. The Magician
It can happen!
The Magician may also be known as the visionary, catalyst, innovator, charismatic leader, mediator, shaman, healer or medicine man or woman.

7. The Regular Guy/Gal
All men and women are created equal
The Regular Guy/Gal may also be known as the good old boy, the regular Jane, Everyman, Jane or Joe Sixpack, the common man, the guy or gal next door, the realist, the working stiff, the solid citizen, or the good neighbor.

8. The Lover
I only have eyes for you
Lovers may also be known as partners, friends, intimates, matchmakers, enthusiasts, connoisseurs, sensualists, spouses, team builders, or harmonizers.

9. The Jester
If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution
The Jester may also be known as the Fool, trickster, joker, punster, entertainer, clown, prankster, practical joker, or comedian.

10. The Caregiver
Love your neighbor as yourself
The Caregiver may also be known as the caretaker, altruist, saint, parent, helper, or supporter.

11. The Creator
If it can be imagined, it can be created
The Creator may also be known as the artist, innovator, inventor, musician, writer, or dreamer.

12. The Ruler
Power isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.
The Ruler may also be known as the boss, leader, aristocrat, parent, politician, responsible citizen, role model, manager, or administrator.

fig. 3, Understanding brand archetypes further through these major themes of motivational drivers.

These archetypes are invaluable but there is also a means to uncovering your brand archetype. Mark and Pearson establish a series of five questions that help arrive at a deep understand of your brand. The book walks through how to align the most inner brand awareness with the most external and public-facing identity, marketing, and brand language.

Brand Structure

Your brand strategy, brand promise, brand essence, character and personality should be well thought out and articulated in writing, so that it can be passed on to all of the stakeholders. That’s the only way to keep your brand from becoming diluted by the impact of all its other brand relationships. Your brand will grow and change as it adapts to its environment, but your job is to make sure that it continues to be strong and healthy. —Mark and Pearson

There is a five step process of finding your Archetypal Brand Positioning and how to tell your Brand Story. First is searching for Brand Soul: an archaeological dig into the brand and its origins to unearth the essence, the meaning, and the soul. Next is searching for Brand Substance: understanding a truth, a tactile, contemporary truth; finding some immutable attributes to establish as a platform. Third is Competitive Analysis: asking basic questions like are there any other competitive brands following a similar archetype? What opportunities exist within your archetype? Fourth is Target Analysis: connecting the archetype in a powerful and resonant way with target prospects. Fifth and finally, with this foundation, is telling the Brand Story. This is nourishing the identity and extracting the benefits (fig. 4).

fig. 4, Using archetypes to tell brand stories.

Companies that enjoy enduing success have core values and a core purpose that remain fixed while their business strategies and practices endlessly adapt too a changing world.*

(It is also worth mentioning Roland Barthes’ mythologies of culture when discussing the timelessness and timeliness of brand and meaning.)


In concluding The Hero and the Outlaw, Margaret Mark and Carol Pearson said it best, You can utilize this system for the management of brand meaning, not only to sell products, but also to leave a meaningful legacy. You always have many choices in the images you evoke and the stories you tell in selling any product or service. Making the management of meaning systematic allows you to practice your craft in a way that, at the very least, does no harm and, at best, ennobles the customers you serve.


Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson, The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2001)

* Agnieszka M. Winkler, Warp Speed Branding: The Impact of Technology on Marketing (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1999)

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