Before you wax poetic about brand archetypes: Carl Jung did NOT invent them. The true story is much more complicated.
So who did define brand archetypes for businesses?
Here’s a short history of archetypes—psychological, personality, and brand, from the early 1900’s to now.
Do you see it? It was four women who developed 19th century psychotherapy theory into the personality and brand archetypes we know so well today.
Here’s how they got there:
The whole shebang did start with Carl Jung…
In 1928, psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung introduced his theory of ancestral memories. Jung was quite the mystic, and he believed that we’re born already tapped-in to a collective consciousness. He theorized that this consciousness makes certain archetypes familiar to every culture, everywhere.
For example, under Jung’s theory, we are all born with an innate understanding of what it means to be mother or father, hero or villain. (An oversimplification, perhaps, but that’s the gist of Jung’s structure.)
Brand Archetypes: Carl Jung’s four major archetypes weren’t about brand at all!
Jung outlined four major archetypes as part of his ancestral memory theory: The Persona, The Shadow, The Anima/Animus, and The Self. In addition to these main archetypes, Jung posited that there’s no limit to the number of archetypes that may exist (which, in my opinion, is a convenient way to take credit for every future archetype iteration. Way to think like a capitalist, Dr. Jung.)
Our friend Carl saw personality as a blend of the major archetypes, with a single archetype acting as a dominating force:
- The Persona. This is who we show the world. Perhaps you’ve heard someone say something like, “Time to put on my work face!” They’re referencing the Persona they project when at work.
- The Shadow. Our Shadow encompasses all the wild, instinctive characteristics that we repress in order to fit in with our community and culture.
- The Anima/Animus. It seems that Jung saw the “true self” as genderless, but recognized that the individual’s gender assignment was deeply influential to personality. A female person’s Animus is her masculine side, while a male person’s Anima is his feminine side. (Does this mean non-binary people are already practically perfect?!? I like to think so!)
- The Self. This archetype represents the individual’s unified unconsciousness and consciousness.
To better understand The Self, Jung outlined three psychological types:
- Extroversion vs. Introversion
- Sensation vs. Intuition
- Thinking vs. Feeling
This leads us to the jumping-off point for the the next wave of “archetypers”—two women who most definitely made their own mark in the business of personality.
Meet the mother/daughter team who made personality archetyping a thing.
In 1962, a curious housewife named Katharine Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs-Myers, published their Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. You know the one: you’ve probably taken some version of their personality test online or as part of a work competency activity.
First, Briggs and Briggs-Myers co-opted Jung’s theories of ancestral memory and psychological types. Then these enterprising women developed a comprehensive, user-friendly approach to defining personality.
For starters, they added Judging vs. Perceiving to Jung’s list of psychological types. Then they devised a self-evaluation method of discerning each of the 16 measurable personality combinations.
The MBTI types include four type spectrums, which represent a range of personality preferences:
- Preferred world: introvert or extrovert? Introverts prefer their own inner world, whereas Extroverts prefer to engage with the external world.
- Information processing preference: sensing or intuiting? Sensing types are “just the facts” people who rely on the clear information in front of them. Intuiting types prefer to interpret and add meaning to the information they absorb.
- Decision-making preference: thinking or feeling? Thinkers prefer to make decisions based on logic an statistics. Feelers prefer to make decisions by evaluating the individuals involved and any special circumstances.
- Structural preference: judging or perceiving? Judging types prefer a “done, and move on” approach to the world, whereas Perceiving types embrace an ever-shifting approach that leaves space for new information and adapted solutions.
The MBTI: science or sensationalism?
Neither Katharine nor Isabel had any scientific training of any kind, though they did rather impressive research, all things considered. Just keep in mind that the MBTI isn’t rooted in science, as we understand it today. Instead, think of it as a Buzzfeed quiz for Gen X.
As with Jung’s archetypes, MBTI self-evaluations aren’t meant to box people in or divisively categorize them. Rather, they’re intended to help individuals see themselves clearly and discern opportunities for growth. A healthy Self is one that harmoniously integrates the unconscious and conscious minds.
At last! The real brand archetypes inventors arrive on the scene!
Brand archetypes, Carl Jung, and Myers-Briggs-style quizzes are nearly synonymous in modern brand discussions; but, just as with the MBTI, it’s two women who deserve the credit.
In 2001, author Carol S. Pearson and brand strategist Margaret Mark defined 12 brand archetypes in their book, The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes. The duo developed these brand archetypes using the by-now familiar theories of Jung, Briggs, and Briggs-Myers.
The Hero and the Outlaw provides a clear pathway to intelligent, impactful branding by leveraging familiar personality archetypes—the same archetypes that reoccur in art, literature, mythology, and film.
Pearson and Mark developed actionable methods for brand-building in the real world, by real business owners and marketers, for real consumers. Their approach empowers brands to:
- identify the “deep meaning” of your product category
- understand your competitors
- build meaningful connections with your clients and customers
- develop a compelling brand story
Cover photo: Hans Reniers