Brand Archetypes

Using the Concept of Brand Archetypes in Destination Branding

Traditionally, brand experts use brand pyramids or brand maps to assemble and describe the essence of the brand along with its emotional benefits. However, Howard-Spink (2007) believes that these models tend to rely on words and not the emotional needs.

Although Maslow (1954) identified a hierarchy of needs (physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem/self-esteem and self-actualization) where one lower level of need is fulfilled before the next level, Mark and Pearson (2001) believe that needs lie on a two-axis continuum where they pull in opposite directions (Figure 1). “Life requires constant negotiation along these poles. When we sacrifice one end of these continua to the other end, there is a tendency in the psyche to seek balance” (Mark & Pearson, 2001, p. 15). In other words, when one end of the continuum is met, we seek balance by fulfilling the opposite end. Each pole indicates the drive that every human being has—consciously or unconsciously—for safety/order, group belonging, risk/change, and independence/self-knowledge.

Figure 1: Balance in the Fulfillment of Needs Model; Source: Adapted from Mark & Pearson, 2001









From this two-axis continuum, a model can be constructed to help marketers identify 12 universal needs that correspond to their target audiences (Figure 2). Destinations should be able to match their customers’ emotional needs to one of the twelve emotional needs in Figure 2. In the case of Las Vegas, it fulfills a need for spontaneity, whereas West Virginia fulfills a need for freedom. An individual’s needs change throughout life, so it is important to match the individuals with the correct emotional needs pertaining to their life stage. The destination should identify all the needs that are appropriate for the target audience that the destination meets.

Figure 2: Twelve Fundamental Emotional Needs


Next, the destination should identify its brand archetype personality. Brand archetypes are based on studies of C.G. Jung, who looked at human emotions at the deepest level of unconsciousness. Archetypes are common, symbolic icons that address universal emotional desires. Archetypes are basic codes of our human psyche that are found in every human being. Mark and Pearson (2001) identified twelve archetypes, three for each need on the fulfillment model (Figure 2). Each archetype is defined below.

Figure 3: Twelve Archetype Personalities; Source: Adapted from Howard-Spin, 2003


Basically, the destination matches the emotional needs of the consumers with its most relevant archetype. The archetype becomes the brand’s personality and helps tell the story of the brand. Archetypes help marketers express common themes throughout their communications. For example, in the case of West Virginia, an explorer archetype, it should convey images of adventure and exploration. Las Vegas, a jester archetype, should express an image that of spontaneity and fun. The archetype provides guidelines on how the brand should behave in the long term. Archetypes allow marketers to quickly connect with consumers and to keep their brand personality consistent. When choosing an archetype, there is no single method. Mark and Pearson (2001) advocate choosing one archetype for clarity and focus. However, Wertime (2002) believes there can be overlapping sub-archetypes:

Indeed, the great brands might stand for one word or idea in consumers’ conscious minds, but they often harmonize multiple archetypes on a subconscious level, which is the reason for their broad appeal and strong consumer connections. A blend of archetypical powers can add new layers of richness to the image. (p. 204)


Howard-Spink, J. (2003, September). What is your story? and who is your brand? Admap, 16-18. Retrieved April 8, 2008, from

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370-396. An internet resources developed by Christopher D. Greene. Retrieved April 18, 2008, from http://

Mark, M & Pearson, C. (2001). The Hero and the Outlaw. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Wertime, K. (2002). Building Brands & Believers. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Songs.