A morning with Jung

How to use Jungian theory to build a better brand...

By: Clare Howdle,   2 minutes

carl jung

Sometimes you read something, learn something, or discover something that totally changes how you see the world. It could be for a short while, or it could be forever. It could be groundbreaking, or it could be obvious . It doesn’t matter. Because for you, in that moment, it’s a gamechanger. Like when I worked out that there was an autosum function in Excel (a while ago to be fair, but lifechanging none the less).

Luckily, this Feed gamechanger was more interesting than everday software revelations. A few months ago I was in a workshop where Jung came up. Now there’s a man who had a different way of looking at the world. What he thought and wrote has changed how lots of people see lots of things. Including branding.

I decided to delve deeper. The Jungian ‘Collective Unconscious’ (the part of the psyche made up of all the knowledge and experiences we share as a species) plays home to 12 (sometimes more) social ‘archetypes’, or models of people, behaviours or personalities. Jung used these archetypes to explain and organise how we as humans, experience certain things, but in recent years his archetypes have taken on a life of their own, in the world of branding.

From the Hero to the Explorer, the Caregiver to the Innocent, in the hands of branding agencies, Jung’s social archetypes have become ‘brand’ archetypes, with mottos, desires and fears that characterise the way different brands behave and are perceived. For example, in Jung, the Hero’s motto is ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’ and her core desire is to prove her worth through courageous acts. In branding, the Hero would be the brand that marks itself out as the doer, the change-driven proactive type that encourages you to be better, by inspiring you to act in line with a common goal, driven by that brand.

“Jung used these archetypes to explain and organise how we as humans, experience certain things, but in recent years his archetypes have taken on a life of their own, in the world of branding.”

On the flip side there’s the Caregiver, whose motto is ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’. This translates to the sorts of brands which support and help their consumers, which protect and look out for them, or which make daily life a bit easier. These brands want to be seen as selfless in their pursuit of our happiness, dedicated to making our lives easier.

When you start digging around, all sorts of agencies and bloggers crop up – giving their take on Jung, the 12, 20 or even 40 different brand archetypes (opinion varies), and the brands that fit in each category. The best example of brand archetypes in action that I found was washing powder. Think about two leading washing powders – Fairy and Ariel. Ariel’s ‘turn to 30°’ campaign clearly sets it in the Hero camp. It’s encouraging us all to act, to make the world a better place, to identify ourselves as part of the same cause. Fairy, however, is ‘huggably soft,’ and ‘protects precious skin.’ It makes consumers lives easier, by leaving clothes ‘not just fairly clean, but Fairy clean.’

The only problem with the brand archetype way of thinking is that once you’ve started, it’s hard to stop. There’s no doubt it’s a valuable tool when auditing, deconstructing and rebuilding brands – and I can immediately see how it will be useful in my work, but it’s not making ad breaks much fun, for the people I’m with. Or the Sunday papers. Or shopping.

Oh dear.


Want to find out more about Jungian archetypes? Digging around is the best way to go – but this site is a good place to start

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