Do you want your brand to be the hero?

brand narrativesBrands have their own narratives which in turn feed into the bigger narrative that we all play in, and where we each have our own personal narratives. Stories myths and legends from around the world show great similarities, not least in the characters that populate them. Carl Jung had a theory that humans all share a collective unconscious that is a store of information we all share regardless of culture. In this store of knowledge are archetypes or symbolic characters that pervade the narratives we develop about the world.

It’s easy to assume we would all like our brand to be the hero in its own story, but there are other archetypes that might be more appropriate to the role it plays in the bigger story – in the customer’s story. Perhaps a financial institution or non-profit may be better perceived as the ‘Father Figure’ – law firms may wish to be seen as the ‘Wise Old Man or Woman’ – a software provider may wish to be seen as a ‘Helper’.

Below is a collection of some of the typical archetypes which may be useful in considering our brands’ positioning. Archetypes influence the way people behave and think, and follow similar patterns around the world.

Archetype Description Example
The Hero Larger-than-life. Demonstrates the abilities and qualities valued by his culture. King Arthur, Superman, Luke Skywalker
The Father Figure Protector, leader, provider The Godfather, Mufasa from The Lion KIng
The Mother Figure Protective – a nurturer and gentle provider. Marge Simpson, Forrest Gump’s mother
The Femme Fatale or Temptress She has powers of intellect, beauty or magic which she uses to make men (especially the hero) weak Circe, Morgan le Fey, Delilah
The Witch A woman who seeks to trap and destroy the hero or heroine Thw wicked stepmother, Cruella Deville
The Monster or Villain The potential nemesis, particularly where the hero is concerned The Big Bad Wolf, James Bond’s or Batman’s adversaries.
The Innocent Naive or inexperienced player exposed to the evils of the narrative Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, Forrest Gump
The Alter Ego The dual nature or doppleganger The evil twin, Jekyll and Hyde
Helpers, Wise Old Man, Woman or Animal Characters who assist, support or guide the protagonist Merlin, Fairy Godmother, Obi Wan Kenobi
Trickster or Fool Use tricks or subterfuge to get others to do what they want – with good or bad intentions Puss-in-Boots, Milo Minderbender in Catch-22
The Underdog Always at a disadvantage but usually win something at the outcome The Ugly Duckling, Frog Prince

It may be useful to consider how your brand fits into the cultural narrative of the world it inhabits – remember, in the customer’s story they usually see themselves as the protagonist so how does your brand perform in that scenario?

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