Why you need a brand archetype

What is an archetype and why does your brand need one?

Someone in an online networking meeting asks, "What is your business brand archetype?" or, "What is the archetype of your preferred client?" and even more interesting, "What is YOUR primary archetype?" Then someone mentions Carl Jung and Meyers-Briggs. You note that you need to look all this up and figure out if it is essential.

The word archetype means "original pattern" in the Greek language. According to psychologist Carl Jung, archetypes are ancient, universal patterns of behavior and personality deeply embedded in our collective human consciousness. Jung defined 12 primary types that represent a universal range of human motivations and personality characteristics.

According to his theory, each of us has a dominant archetype that influences our behavior and personality. Each of us may also have one or two secondary archetypes that influence or modify our primary archetype to create an archetype unique to our individual being, much like having a set of internal, subconscious fingerprints that identify who we are. 

The 12 Primary Jungian Archetypes

A short history of archetypes

From ancient myths to contemporary stories, archetypes are universal representations of human values and personality. You will immediately recognize the Ruler, Hero, Magician and Lover archetypes in tales of King Arthur's Camelot. Disney movies sprinkle in many different archetypes, from innocents, wizards, caregivers, rulers, rebels to the quintessential heroes and heroines. The Lover archetype is older than Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" and as modern as "The Notebook."

These archetypes are universally shared symbols about how we express our roles and relationships in human society, the lessons we choose to learn, and the paths we choose to walk. They become a shorthand code for our brains' intuitive side, allowing us to tap into our creativity and intuition.

Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist Carl G. Jung is known for his research into extroverted and introverted personalities. He also differentiated four functions of the mind – thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition – that form the basis of many current personality assessment tools. His theory about the nature of the collective unconscious was the basis for his work on archetypes, which he consider instinctive, universal character patterns.

American author and professor Joseph Campbell also explored the universal roles of myth and mythic figures in a wide range of literature. He studied Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung's works. Campbell uncovered legends and mythology from nonhistorical and nonliteral perspectives. In his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), he described the purpose of the hero's or heroine's journey as to achieve rediscovery and reconnection with their unconsciousness.

Contemporary authors and researchers in human consciousness, spirituality and mysticism, health and energy medicine have taken this work further, exploring and building frameworks that integrate Jung's theories and theology, such as the archetype books Caroline Myss and Carol Pearson. 

How are archetypes useful in business?

Archetypes can be used in various ways, similar to other personality profiles such as the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Enneagram. Archetypes provide insight into our collective and individual human behavior and motivation – a useful peek into the "why" behind our choices and preferences are driven by our internal, subconscious mindscapes.

Humans want to connect with humans. When a brand uses its archetypes to express its actual values and beliefs (their "real personality"), people "get the brand." Archetypes make it simpler and more effective for brands to connect with their customers and communities in ways that build meaningful, long-lasting relationships.

How do I figure out my personal and/or business archetypes?

There are lots of resources available to help you figure this out.

  • Campbell, J. 1949. Hero with A Thousand Faces. (2008 Edition) New World Library. ISBN: 1577315936.
  • Estes, C.P. 1992/1996. Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. Ballantine Books. ISBN: 978-0345409874
  • Hartwell, M.P. and Chen, J.C. 2012. Archetypes in Branding: A Toolkit for Creatives and Strategists. HOW Books. ISBN: 1440308187.
  • Moore, R. and Gillette, D. 1991. King, Warrior, Magician Lover: Rediscovering the archetypes of the mature masculine. HarperOne. ISBN: 9780062506061.
  • Myss, C. 2003. Sacred Contracts: Awakening Your Divine Potential. Harmony. ISBN: 0609810111.
  • Myss, C. 2013. Archetypes: A Beginner’s guide to Your Inner-net. Hay House Inc.
  • Myss, C. 2003. Archetype Cards. Hay House Inc. ISBN: 1401901840.
  • Pearson, C.S. 2015. The Hero Within: Six Archetypes We Live By. HarperOne. ISBN: 0062515551.
  • Pearson, C.S. 2015. Awakening the Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World. HarperOne. ISBN: 0062506781
  • Pearson, C.S. 2015. Persephone Rising: Awakening the Heroine Within. HarperOne. ISBN: 0062884069
  • Pearson, C.S. and Mark, M. 2001. The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes. McGraw-Hill. ISBN: 978-0071364157

Websites to explore:

Exercises to try – online quizzes

Maja Haloway


As a director at Xylina, Maja helps clients find their ideal audience and connect to them through the right branding, messaging and marketing channels. Maja holds an MBA degree from St. Thomas University. She can be found at marketing, entrepreneur or techie-related meetups in the Portland OR/Vancouver WA area.

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