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How world's best brands leverage the 12 Universal Character Archetypes to craft their story?

Nike, Red Bull, Disney, Paperboat, Cadburys, Fevicol, Axe, Method, Chipotle and Body shop.

What is common among these brands?

They tell authentic stories.

If you need to survive in this dog-eat-dog business world, then you need to connect with customers in a way that none of your competitors ever will.

You need to tug at their heartstrings, move them emotionally and get them to identify themselves with you.

What is the best way to do it?

Storytelling.

With social media being democratic by giving a space for anyone to shine regardless of one’s marketing budget, storytelling is going to be the way for any brand to punch high.

People love stories. In fact, without effective storytelling, some of the world’s most powerful brands would cease to exist.

You don’t become a billion-dollar company and survive for more than a century if you happen to tell your customers that you sell aerated sugary water? How else do you think Coca Cola has become one of the world’s most powerful brands?

Storytelling. Coca Cola tells you through its advertising and other marketing materials that it spreads happiness.

You will find storytelling everywhere, not just among brands trying to disturb the homeostasis of your wallet.

You see it in religions around the world. The central figures in each of them have heroic roles, unique attire, symbols that made them stand out, and a way of conveying things, usually through parables (or stories).

Storytelling is seeped deep into our psyche.

Chota Bheem, Shin Chan, Doraemon, Ninja Hattori – all of them are alive in our minds because of its storytelling.

You have a life story too.

Lisa Cron, in her book ‘Wired for Story’, says- “Story, as it turns out, was crucial to our evolution. - more so than opposable thumbs. Opposable thumbs let us hang on; stories told us what to hang on to.”

How can brands use storytelling?

Storytelling is difficult, especially since you need to relate with your audience and get your voice heard amid the cacophony. But it is certainly doable, I have a simple formula for it.

Story = Character + Plot

If you need to create a story, it is a must that you have meaningful characters stitched in a plot that would make sense to your audience.

Carl Jung, known for his theory of collective unconscious, suggested that there are 12 universal character archetypes that you can make in your brand’s storytelling. These archetypes are characters that are universally recognizable as it is all of us at different points in life.

You can integrate anyone of these character elements into your brand personality and create a unique identity.

You can even choose the character archetype based on your existing brand values and the customer segment which you are in.

#1 The Hero:

It is someone who will save the day for your problems. This person is competent but will suffer a loss in confidence when they are down, but they will rise to the occasion.

The Hero archetype is ideal for brands that solves a major social problem or is for an aspirational audience that wants a hero.

Hero Personalities: Nelson Mandela, Hercules, David (from David & Goliath), MS Dhoni

Hero Brands - Nike, Red Cross, PETA.

#2 The Caregiver:

In this archetype, selflessness is the defining attribute. They will do anything to protect their friend, husband, wife, sibling, etc. Their desire is to help others and they don’t mind being in the background while doing so.

Caregiver Personalities: Mary Poppins, Mother Teresa, The Salvation Army caregivers.

Caregiver brands- P&G, Johnson & Johnson, Huggies, Dove, etc.

#3 The Ruler:

It is an easily recognizable archetype. It represents leadership and responsibility for their own as well as the lives of others. Rulers are often kings, queens, leaders, bosses, politicians, role models, etc.

Ruler Personalities: Indira Gandhi, Hillary Clinton, Abraham Lincoln, Shah Rukh Khan.

Ruler brands: Rolex, Maybach, Rolls Royce, Taj Hotels

#4 The Creator:

In this, the character doesn’t like to be stifled of its freedom. They build something that makes the world a better place. This archetype is suited for your brand if they keep innovating, create new products at a feverish pace and are driven to create exceptional and enduring products.

Creator Personalities: Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, J K Rowling.

Creator brands: Apple, Lego, Burberry

#5 The Innocent:

This archetype is for brands that want to represent good, clean fun and just want to be happy. For brands that are in the health, cleanliness, and organic product field, this archetype would suit them the most.

Innocent Personalities: Sachin Tendulkar, Paul McCartney.

Innocent brands: Ford, Disney, Coca Cola.

#6 The Sage:

This is for brands that impart wisdom, knowledge, and power. They thrive on knowledge and are happy imparting the knowledge to everyone else. In fact, even the brand voice of the company is expected to be sophisticated and rich in vocabulary. The brand should revolve around solving problems.

Sage Personalities: Philip Kotler, Harsha Bhogle, Salman Khan of Khan Academy, Abdul Kalam, Albert Einstein.

Sage Brands: CNN, Discovery Channel, TLC, Google,

#7 The Explorer:

Also referred to as Trailblazer, Pioneer or Adventurer, the brands in this archetype are always on the lookout for adventure and want to discover the world by themselves. They are ambitious, independent and can also be considered to be restless at the same time.

Explorer Personalities: Richard Branson, Tim Ferriss, Bear Grylls. Steve Irwin

Explorer Brands- GoPro, Virgin, Amazon, Land Rover.

#8 The Rebel:

This is someone who speaks out against discrimination, bigotry, oppression, and so on. Not all brands can be a part of this unless they could employ brilliant storytelling or is in the social sector where they really are doing some heavy lifting in fighting for the oppressed. These types of brands have strong values and are built on a great level of trust.

Rebel Personalities: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks.

Rebel Brands: Harley Davidson, Jack Daniel’s, Smirnoff

#9 The Magician:

This archetype is associated with mystery, transformation, and magic. Think of brands in this archetype as charismatic, a creator and visionary at the same time. They turn problems into opportunities, empower people, create flexible solutions, and always come up with win-win solutions. In short, they make the impossible possible and turn dreams into reality.

Magician Personalities: Seth Godin, Steve Jobs.

Magician Brands - Tesla, Amazon, Disney.

#10 The Everyman:

Everyman archetypes are brands that are fair, understanding, respectful of human beings and values dignity of everyone. They have a lot of empathy and there is common sense in their strategy. They care about the experience of their customers unlike most other corporate brands.

Everyman Personalities: Emma Stone, Robert Downey Jr, Akshay Khanna, Rahul Dravid.

Everyman brands: IKEA, KFC, Volkswagen, GAP, Visa, Wendy’s, Walmart.

#11 The Jester:

These types of brands use humour and sarcasm to communicate with their customers. They are playful, spontaneous and are looking to have a good time.

Jester Personalities: Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, Kanan Gill.

Jester brands: M&Ms, 7UP, Pepsi, Fanta, Snickers.

#12 The Lover:

Brands in this archetype want to have a close relationship with everyone. It is all about intimacy, feeling and making others special. The Lover archetype is not shy in expressing their feelings.

Lover Personalities: Akshay Kumar, Hugh Jackman.

Lover brands: Hallmark, Chanel, Victoria’s Secret.

All human beings take the shape of these 12 archetypes at different points in life.

If you use any of these character archetypes in your brand strategy, you can easily connect with your audience, given that your story line is also good.

About the Author

Rajesh Srinivasan is a Marketing Strategy Consultant, 2x Author and a Keynote Speaker.