Principle | Branding & Creative Agency | Dublin, Ireland

Unlocking Brand Personality Through Archetypes

If you’ve ever seen Disney’s animated movie, Brother Bear, you may remember in the opening scene the young boy, Kenai, is given his totem by the tribal shamen, formally marking his leap into manhood. He’s not happy with her choice but that’s another story. The use of totems as spiritual guides was prevalent in native American society. By closely identifying with it, they tapped into their unique strengths – the bear, the eagle or the wind to help guide their own actions and behaviour.

Giving a brand a similar opportunity, a totem to guide it, will make it easier to understand its character both internally and then more importantly, by its audience. The use of Archetypes to find it can result in the creation of a distinct personality and as a result the communication of meaningful brand stories in a distinct tone of voice.


Its not a revelation to say customers increasingly expect to hear more about a brand than simply the benefits of its offer. In fact the concept of a modern brand is to tell a story beyond benefits, one that can make an emotional connection. However, we need to define what those stories will be. To tell them we must be aware our brand’s personality because its through our personality that we communicate in the distinctive way we do. So we ask ourselves, who are we?

There are a number of models to brand personality development but nothing quite gives the depth of character with innate understanding as the use of Archetypes. Based on Carl Jung’s initial work and since adapted to the commercial world, it formalises a structure to a world of brand personality development that some brands have been using for decades.


Archetypes are not new, they have been pervasive in storytelling since time began, from Hercules to Hans Solo. Because of our innate familiarity with the concept it is worth considering their value to the brand as a vehicle to communicate meaning. The story of the brand told through its archetype – the lover, the explorer or the innocent  – will reach deeper into the soul of its audience simply because the concept is instinctively familiar. Think of Apple in its early years as the ‘rebel’ archetype defying the norms set by the IBM establishment. Or consider how Nike unlocks the ‘hero’ inside all of us by telling us to ‘Just do it’.

It’s not just for global brands. As we become less dependent on mass media and the power of the individual website and social media escalates, our brand stories can be told at a significantly smaller level and accessible to all.

Many elements comprise your brand’s identity and all have their importance within the tapestry. Not unlike the human body, all organs of the brand have a purpose. By finding your brand’s personality and unlocking its door, you will get to the totem of your brand’s character and when you find it you will know more about your brand and how to communicate the meaning behind it and as a result add the ‘who’ to the how, where and why.