Fresh thinking on brand archetypes

Which archetype are you?

1. Believers

Many entrepreneurs set out to ‘cure a headache,’ designing a product or delivering an innovation that solves a problem. One morning Will King, having experienced razor burn while shaving, tried something new. He mixed his girlfriend’s baby oil with shaving foam. Eureka! His shaving experience was totally transformed. King of Shaves was born, and today is a global brand that challenges established household names like Gillette.

King Of Shaves is a ‘Believer’ archetype. Believers have a clear vision and belief in a better product or service to shake up a market or category. The Believer’s biggest challenge is often communicating this vision in a way that rouses their customers and investors.

Believers are bold and often heroic, but their product focus means they often lack an organising (emotional) story at the heart of their business, which causes them to constantly pivot and change direction.

A Believer approaches business wanting to change or disrupt a category or make a better product or service. They are heavily engaged in hiring the best talent and building something amazing. Social and environmental agendas are not their priority. However, social value may come later.

Other examples include: Ovo energy, 4th Office, Volo Commerce, Go Henry, Elevate Direct, Recruitment Revolution.

Biggest challenges: The drive for growth. Market positioning. Daring to be different. Social purpose.

2. Transformers

‘Transformer’ brands constantly rethink their current positioning. Nike co-founder, Bill Bowerman said: ‘If you have a body, you’re an athlete.’ Some years ago Nike was approached by high school student Matthew Walzer. Matthew told Nike he suffers from Cerebral Palsy and was frustrated he couldn’t tie his own shoe laces. Nike designer Tobie Hatfield was determined to deliver a solution for Matthew and anyone else experiencing similar difficulties. A three-year innovation journey led to the development of Nike Flyease, where laces are replaced with a wrap-around zipper. Nike had previously delivered similar solutions for Olympians, but this was the first time they’d done it for a 16 year old student. Why did they help? ‘That’s what we’re supposed to do,’ says Hatfield.

Transformers continually rethink where they stand in their core sector or category. They are ambitious and motivated to bring something new and different to the world. However, transformers can get caught up in their history, legacy and internal politics which can stifle true transformation. They are inspired by their desire to create a better product or service, making a difference beyond their CSR obligations. Transformers have an unwavering commercial passion to accelerate their growth and profitability.

Other examples include: NatWest (Helpful Banking), Vocalink, Innocent drinks, Costa Coffee, Colt Telecom, RSA.

Biggest challenges: Internal transformation. Leadership belief and buy-in. Employee activation.

3. Visionaries

Jane Ni Dhulchaointigh was a student at London’s Royal College of Art when she stumbled upon her invention. Mixing silicone and wood dust she invented a product called Sugru (Irish for ‘play’). Sugru is a flexible putty that can be used to fix things around the home and office. Today Sugru is available in 5000 stores around the world, and has over one million users in 160 countries. Sugru has a clear purpose: to get the world fixing again instead of throwing things away.

Sugru is a ‘Visionary’. Visionaries are already ahead of the game in their chosen sector or category. They represent a new breed of company that has true meaning embedded into their business from the get go. They fundamentally believe in the notion of business as a force for good. Visionaries have a positive social or environmental stance, approaching business from a sustainability perspective from the start. They are commercially driven and how they choose to use their profit represents a fundamental belief in who they are and the active role they want to play in society.

What separates a Visionary from a Believer is that Visionaries have a social purpose or an environmental stance from the get-go, they are socially purposeful.

Other examples include: Whole Foods, People Tree, Warby Parker, The People’s Operator, Tom’s Shoes, Animal Friends, Triodos bank, Metro Bank.

Biggest challenges: Getting people to care. Living their story.

4. Healers

Fairphone started out as a campaign to increase awareness about the use of the developing world’s ‘conflict minerals’ in smartphone manufacture. In 2013, the company pivoted from being an NGO to becoming a social enterprise that makes its own smartphone. Today Fairphone is building a movement for fairer electronics, opening up the supply chain and creating new relationships between consumers and their products. Its mission is to have a positive impact across the value chain in mining, design, manufacturing and the product life cycle, putting ethical values first.

Fairphone is a ‘Healer’ brand, wanting to help people, the planet and business. It stands on the side of what’s right, taking on the tough and thorny issues that blight society. From government organisations and charities to not-for-profits, social enterprise and cause-related businesses, Healer brands are a force for good.

Other examples include: Positive Money, The Salvation Army, Mellon Educate, Unicef, Age Concern, Macmillan Cancer Trust.

Biggest challenges: Getting people to care. Donations and funding. Daring to be different. Content creation. Demand generation.

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