Tell Better Stories By Adopting One of These 7 Brand Archetypes

Archetypes are a fundamental part of storytelling. An archetypal character is a recurrent symbol or motif in literature, art or mythology. They are sprinkled throughout film, books, and religion. These forms of art rely on archetypes to make stories that are better.

Marketing is a form of storytelling, so it follows that archetypes should be an integral part of a marketing strategy.

But, for some reason, this isn’t the case, especially in B2B.

Maybe we don’t want to seem unprofessional and so we stick to product-focused messaging.

But sometimes your offering needs a little help. Products alone have a hard time creating emotional connections with potential buyers. Adding character to the stories you’re already telling will add the emotional depth that your marketing may be lacking.

Messaging created using an archetype as the basis for its tone is instantly more successful.  It applies a familiar perspective to a story that already exists. The result is more consistent messaging and a more defined voice for your brand.

But how do you pick the archetype you need?

First, we can look at Carol S. Pearson’s 12 prime archetype system. She breaks archetypes into two dimensions: self-focused vs. group-oriented and order vs. change. If your company is offering control (order) then it will need to choose a brand archetype that is located near the top of the circle.

In this post, we look at which archetypes are best suited to B2B companies and what characteristics make them the best fit, starting at “Order” and ending with “Group-oriented.”

Just remember, it is important to remember that your brand can only wear one archetypal hat at a time, or you risk mixing up your messaging. That defeats the purpose of picking an archetype for your brand in the first place.

Their goal?

Order

Their fear?

Chaos

How would they solve their problems?

Find uses for it.

Their greatest gifts?

Responsibility, control, know the system

Worst characteristics?

Rigid, Authoritarian, Entitled

Greatest flaw?

Always needs control.

The B2B application?

This archetype is honestly what I think of when I think of a B2B business. These are the businesses that are solely trying to sell to other business. These companies are the backbones of a lot of business. They are the ones selling pieces of software that run the backend aspects of data storage systems.

They aren’t glamorous but they are critical. These businesses are the forces that make modern technology work. These companies are able to cast themselves as the authority figures in their areas, ones that others should follow. This archetype needs to maintain its public image otherwise its credibility might be in doubt.

This archetype leads using order and markets to its audience on that promise. They know the system, in a lot of cases, they are the system. Think companies like IBM or Microsoft, which not only have some of the most advanced technologies, but also the most critical to the day-to-day workings of many businesses.

Their goal?

Identity

Their fear?

The disingenuous

How would they solve their problems?

Embrace the problem as part of their image.

Their greatest gifts?

Creativity, imagination, vision, individuality

Worst characteristics?

Self-indulgent, prone to poverty, messy

Greatest flaw?

Obsessiveness

The B2B application?

In business-to-business, the creator is the visionary, the one who is leading their way with their new, radical ideas. They are coming up with new, creative, magical solutions to problems. They seek to inspire.

This inspiration should be the basis of both the product and the marketing for companies who use this as the archetypal hat their brand wears.

The downfall for these companies can be trying to pass off a mediocre idea as a great one. This will mean the crumbling of the character’s own source of power, its inspiration.

Their goal?

Find the truth

Their fear?

Deceiving or being deceived

How would they solve their problems?

Rise above it with knowledge.

Their greatest gifts?

Wisdom, logic, knowledge, skepticism

Worst characteristics?

Cold, unfeeling, overly critical

Greatest flaw?

Needing to be right.

The B2B application?

The scholar always has a solution and wants to educate others on it. The same could be said for companies who adopt the scholar as their brand archetype. This is another archetype that many B2B brands could fall under.

These are the brands that market with their knowledge about a particular area (like so many B2B brands). They are the wise brand, the one who knows so much about the area that others can’t help but trust them.

But these brands need to be careful not to talk down to those thinking about buying from them. If they seem too cold, or too condescending, it will make it hard for potential buyers to connect with the brand.

Their goal?

Win

Their fear?

Loss or weakness

How would they solve their problems?

Confront it head-on.

Their greatest gift?

Courage, discipline, determination

Worst characteristics?

Arrogance, Fear of being seen as weak leading to ruthlessness.

Greatest flaw?

Too stoic

The B2B application?

The world is a scary place and that’s why heroic brands need to exist. These are the companies that sell antivirus software or other solutions to keep data secure. They are the protectors, the ones that promise to confront their buyers’ issues head-on.

To market, these brands will often point out a potential problem to its audience, then rush in with the solution (in the form of their product). This is an effective strategy, so long as your product actually solves the problem it says it does. Otherwise, rushing in as a hero just seems like a farce.

Their goal?

Metamorphosis

Their fear?

Annihilation

How would they solve their problems?

Let go of them.

Their greatest gifts?

Their ability to let go, revolution, humility

Worst characteristics?

Doing harm to self/others

Greatest flaw?

Self-destructiveness

The B2B application?

This archetype is best suited to companies that have had a sort of rebirth recently. This could be a rebranding, a bankruptcy, a huge scandal. If your business was struggling in the past, casting it as a rising phoenix now will provide a story that your customers and audience will root for.

The phoenix hat also works in the case of relaunching a new product or service. The key here is making sure that your brand has a basis for claiming a rebirth. Otherwise, your brand’s story won’t be believable and is therefore ineffective.

Their goal?

Help others.

Their fear?

Selfishness

How would they solve their problems?

Take care of the problem or those it harms.

Their greatest gifts?

Generosity, ability to nurture, compassionate

Worst characteristics?

Prone to martyrdom, enables others, and creates dependence

Greatest flaw?

Consumed by martyrdom, can result in guilt-tripping

The B2B application?

Does your business help people, beyond lining the pockets of itself and its employees? Does it provide a solution or a cause that seems altruistic? If any of these things are true, then your brand might be able to wear the nurse cap. Your product can help people or maybe you are engaged in cause marketing.

As with the archetype itself, brands that fall under this category should be wary of giving too much at the cost of its own health. In the world of B2B, martyrdom or being overgenerous will not be seen in any positive light, rather just as a series of poor business decisions.

But being seen as a compassionate business is good, as it plays to the human side of your audience.

Their goal?

Transformation

Their fear?

Evil magic.

How would they solve their problems?

Transform it into a solution.

Their greatest gifts?

Personal power, the ability to transform or heal

Worst characteristics?

Prone to manipulation, can become disconnected from reality.

Greatest flaw?

Consumed by martyrdom, can result in guilt-tripping

The B2B application?

A brand that wears the magician’s hat is one that promises transformation with its content and its product. This brand likely uses social media heavily, perhaps has a huge following already on social media.

Brands wearing this hat will promise change, a transformation, through their marketing and their products/services.

This archetype will have a large circle of influence and could even have a cult-like following in its marketing. Brands who utilize this archetype need to be careful not to be dishonest, as it will ripple through its circle of influence.

Now we have these archetypes, how do you apply them to your business? First, see if any of the archetypes seem to be a natural fit for your business. This is often the case and will make your job easier.

If your brand seems to encompass more than one archetype, try to select just one hat that will appeal the most to your target audience. While it may be tempting to try to be all of these characters, you’ll find that it is far harder to tell a clear and consistent story that way.

Brand personality is much less used in the B2B scope currently because we forget there is room for storytelling in our marketing.

Your products and services alone can’t tell a compelling story. They lack emotion. That’s where putting on a hat and becoming a brand character comes in. When there are multiple brands competing with a nearly identical product, that feeling might be the difference between a buyer choosing your brand over another.


 

Let us know what you think: 

  • Do you use archetypes to solidify your marketing message?
  • What archetype did you pick for your brand?
  • Why? 

 


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Comments (1)

Hey Acadia – I don’t think Archetypes get the credit they deserve do you? Maybe there’s an element of confusion about them, certainly, in their application – you should check out this guide – it goes into plenty of detail in how to apply them – https://iconicfox.com.au/brand-archetypes/

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