What Story is Your Brand Telling?

Woody Guthrie’s song, This Land Is Your Land, plays as I watch vivid images of explorers trekking across the vast landscapes of America in a The North Face commercial. When watching this commercial, it’s obvious who The North Face’s audience is. If you guessed explorers, adventures, or travel-junkies, you are correct!

Think about some of your favorite commercials. How do they make you feel? Do they tap into your emotions, reflect your core values, or communicate your deepest desires? Businesses do this on purpose – to make a connection and bring you into action.

To make that connection and drive action, marketers use ideas from storytelling.

A compelling story starts with a compelling main character, and as a marketer, your main character is your target audience.

A good starting point when forming a character is thinking about their attributes and behaviors that define them, otherwise known as their archetype. Carl Jung has developed 12 common character archetypes, such as the “Hero,” “Explorer,” and “Lover,” that tap into the underlying qualities of commonly used characters. For example, a character who is a “Caregiver” archetype exhibits qualities like compassion and selflessness. It doesn’t matter if I mention Mary Poppins or Marlin from Finding Nemo, it’s universally known that these characters play “The Caregiver” archetype.

Forming characters and understanding their traits can help you create a brand story that will connect with the values and desires of your target audience.

Below are the 12 common archetypes with examples of how brands have used these archetypes to connect with their audience.

The Innocent

Motto:  Free to be you and me
Goal: To be happy
Strategy: To do things right
Brand Example: Snuggle


Snuggle’s commercial features an adorable teddy bear who loves the soft and warm laundry that has used Snuggle dryer sheets. The commercial ends with the tagline: “Let’s make the world a softer place, let’s snuggle.” This commercial exhibits pure innocence through the teddy bear’s cheery voice, and comforting nature, bringing us all back to that warm and loving nature of childhood bliss.

The Regular Guy or Gal

Motto: All men and women are created equal
Goal: To belong
Strategy: Develop ordinary solid virtues, be down to earth, the common touch
Brand Example: Levi’s®

Levi’s® commercial called “Circles” shows different races and cultures dancing in their various circles, yet all of them are wearing Levi’s® jeans and shorts. The commercial taps into the notion that we are all equal, which is the very motto that “The Regular Guy or Gal” archetype exhibits.

The Hero

Motto: Where there’s a will, there’s a way
Goal: expert mastery in a way that improves the world
Strategy: to be as strong and competent as possible
Brand Example: Nike

The Nike commercial called “Unlimited” sets the scene of a room full of babies in cribs. Then, a coach enters the room and tells the babies that the world is a harsh place and that you don’t get to define your beginnings, but you can define your ending. The video slowly reveals the babies’ names, such as Serena Williams and LeBron James, who are famous athletes. This video displays the mentality of a hero throughout the coach’s motivational speech.

The Caregiver

Motto: Love your neighbor as yourself
Goal: To help others
Strategy: Doing things for others
Brand Example: Campbell’s

This playful commercial shows two fathers feeding their son a Star Wars edition of Campbell’s Soup. The first father says to his son, “Cooper, I am your father,” and the second father says, “No, no, no, I am your father.” Campbell’s clearly shows a caregiving attitude through the warmth of parenthood.

The Explorer

Motto: Don’t fence me in
Goal: To experience a better, more authentic, more fulfilling life
Strategy: Journey, seeking out and experiencing new things, escape from boredom
Brand Example: Merrell

The commercial starts with a businessman at a meeting who finds himself bored. Then he receives a text message saying, “Let’s get outside.” In a mad dash, the man jumps out of his seat and runs to go outside. He is reunited with nature, and a smile returns to his face. What’s worse to an explorer than to be stuck inside while it’s beautiful outside? This Merrell commercial taps into the internal struggle of a true explorer.

The Rebel

Motto: Rules are made to be broken
Goal: To overturn what isn’t working
Strategy: Disrupt, destroy, or shock
Brand Example: Vans

Vans’ tagline is “Off the Wall,” and this commercial clearly describes what “Off the Wall” means. It shows images of people skating off of self-built ramps, dancing at concerts, spray-painting, and snowboarding off a wall. This commercial takes me back to my freshman-in-college-mohawk-days with its punky undertones. It’s definitely a commercial for the rebellious at heart.

The Lover

Motto: You’re the only one
Goal: Being in a relationship with the people, work and surroundings they love
Strategy: To become more and more physically and emotionally attractive
Brand Example: Chanel

Two words that sum up this video are “romantic fantasy.” The video starts with a beautiful French woman getting on a train and an attractive man passing behind her. They have a moment as he smells her neck. They leave each other, but they long for one another. In the end, they are reunited with a passionate kiss. The commercial is a lover’s dream come true.

The Creator

Motto: If you can imagine it, it can be done
Goal: To realize a vision
Strategy: Develop artistic control and skill
Brand Example: Lego

The Jester

Motto: You only live once
Goal: To have a great time and lighten up the world
Strategy: Play, make jokes, be funny
Brand Example: Skittles

This Skittles commercial features comedian Nathan Barnatt as “Trale Lewous,” a goofy character who dances to the Skittles-covered boom-box and makes friends along the way. This commercial had me cracking up watching Nathan’s dance skills and nutty nature. There is no other archetype to describe this brand other than Jester.

The Sage

Motto: The truth will set you free
Goal: To use intelligence and analysis to understand the world.
Strategy: Seeking out information and knowledge; self-reflection and understanding thought processes
Brand Example: Audi

The Audi: Speed of Light commercial takes the viewer on a journey throughout the history of car headlights to show how far they have come in the evolution of light technology. This commercial will connect with those who appreciate thoughtful design.

The Magician

Motto: I make things happen
Goal: To make dreams come true
Strategy: Develop a vision and live by it
Brand Example: Disney

This Disney commercial shows dreamy images of the Disney Parks overlaid with a voice that says: “A dazzling place, I never knew – a new fantastic point of view. No one to tell us no or where to go or say we’re only dreaming. Let me share this whole new world with you.” It ends with: “In this world, dreams come true.” This commercial connects with the idea that magic is real and that wonderful things happen at Disney.

The Ruler

Motto: Power isn’t everything, it’s the only thing
Goal: Create a prosperous, successful family or community
Strategy: Exercise power
Brand Example: Rolex

This Rolex commercial uses what sounds like an orchestra for the music and a yacht race to set the scene. From the music to the visuals, it made me feel pretty prestigious. To reinforce the suggestion of royalty, the tagline at the end reads “A Crown for Every Achievement.”

After reading about the 12 Character Archetypes and how brands have used them to connect with their audience, you might ask yourself what your brand story is. Even if you think you know your brand and audience pretty well, it’s good to look back and make sure that your messaging stays aligned with the behaviors, goals, and desires of your targeted audience.