We Anthropomorphise Brands


Humans tend to “anthropomorphize” or “personify” things and objects. That is, the way we make sense of them is to think of them as other humans. This is the case with brands.

Brand personality

Psychology Today ran an article entitled “How Emotions Influence What We Buy”. In it the author stated;

“Research reveals that consumers perceive the same type of personality characteristics in brands as they do in other people. And just like with people, they are attracted more to some personality types than others – attractions which are emotion based, not rational. Brand personality is communicated by marketers through packaging, visual imagery, and the types of words used to describe the brand.”

This is very interesting because it means that how and what brands communicate will directly effect purchasing decisions. The perceived meaning around this brand "personality" that forms in our audiences minds will either attract or repel them. If we are to manage this meaning then it is essential we get to grips with our brand personality and use it to be authentic so that the right meaning about our brand is understood by the right people.

But - how do we uncover the right personality? Also, and perhaps more importantly, how do we ensure we are authentic?

Good old Carl Jung

The way that I have found works best is to use ‘archetypal branding’. The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung founded analytical psychology. He defined the idea of ‘archetypes’ around the year 1919 as patterns of behaviour that reflect typical human characters. Although defined by Jung, the origins of “archetypes” goes back to the classical era. The root words for “archetype” are Greek. They are “archein”, which means “original or old”; and “typos”, which means “pattern, model or type”. Therefore, combined these words mean an “original pattern” from which all other similar ideas are derived or emulated.


A portrait of Jung, Date unknown. Source: Wikipedia.

Jung, in Psychology and Religion (1958), described them as:

“Forms or images of a collective nature which occur practically all over the earth as consistency of myths and at the same time as individual products of the conscious origin”.

Jung explains that we have something called the “collective unconscious” - that is a way of thinking which connects all of us as humans, across time and across culture. Within this, archetypes play a role as we recognise them unconsciously and then our conscious minds add meaning to them. He calls archetypes “an instinctive trend”.

Jung’s theories were far reaching, helping to define human psychology itself and influencing well known psychologists such as Freud.

Advertising strategist, Jon Howard-Spink, in an article for Admap in 2002, defined an archetype as;

“a universally familiar character or situation that transcends time, place, culture, genre and age. It represents an eternal truth”

The Archetypal Characters

Out of Jung’s work, 12 different character archetypes have been identified which people embody at different times in their life and which are the basis of their personality construct . These are evoked depending on the type of person, what that person desires to do or the situation the person finds themselves in.

These ‘archetypal characters’ are amplified in stories which is why they are extremely useful to the branding process because they are part of our ‘mental architecture’. Consequentially, they evoke deep-seated emotions in us.

We all enjoy stories which have powerful, relatable characters. It is most likely that these characters embody archetypes.

It doesn’t matter if we are reading an ancient Greek myth, listening to a Aboriginal tribal story or watching a modern Hollywood blockbuster in our local cinema, we will come across the same types of characters. We know them. We understand them. They are universal, transcending culture and demographics.

To realise the power of archetypes one has only got to think about the popularity and success of films such as Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, the DC Super Heroes and other stories featuring iconic hero's.

Archetypes represent the fears, drivers, needs, and desires of us all and are hard-wired into us. When we desire to achieve a particular goal these archetypes are triggered and we embody them or seek for them to help us on our mission.

Over the coming weeks I hope to write more about these archetypes and the power they contain. Watch this space...


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