Welcome to the Marketing in the Wild podcast. I’m Julia from Stratos Creative Marketing, where we are obsessed with finding real-life examples of the good, the bad, and sometimes wild, in marketing.
Julia: Everybody, I’m really excited to introduce you to my friend, Meg. I’ll let her get into the nitty gritty of who she is, and what she does. Go for it, Meg.
Meg: Awesome. Julia, thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited. I’ve been listening to your episodes, and now I finally get to be on one.
Julia: I’m excited too. Also everybody, you should know that we’ve rescheduled this five times. That’s how determined we’ve been.
Meg: Making it happen! My name is Meg Kypena. I’m a certified brand strategist, and also a certified StoryBrand guide. I am about to celebrate my fifth year with my agency, On Your Mark. That was after spending about 20 years in corporate, all in marketing, communications, and project management, solving a lot of problems around getting clients, driving activity for both sales and for recruiting, just getting people engaged and packaging brand and marketing strategies and teaching people how to implement them. So now, I focus all of my attention with On Your Mark to human resources. I work with them to improve retention, recruiting, and the brand culture.
Julia: So in a way, like marketing to an internal team?
Meg: Yeah, that’s what we call it. I help brands from the inside out. That is so much of it. I’ll tell you that when it comes to HR, Julia, this is a mountain I will die on. And why more brand strategists and more marketers aren’t working with human resources? I couldn’t tell you. I believe, it’s my opinion, but it is a belief that HR is the heartbeat of the organization, and it can have the biggest impact of any other department when it comes to the brand.
Julia: I would also die on that hill with you. I think that this is not what we’re gonna talk about, but we’re just gonna take a side note because I feel like for one, culture really makes or breaks a team, and HR is usually what is helping facilitate a lot of that culture. I think that anybody who has been at a bad job that they’ve wanted to leave, you can trace it back to something that’s cultural or HR related. And it’s not to vilify HR by any means, but if HR doesn’t know how to communicate what they’re doing, that would be really hard.
Meg: You’re so right. This actually does dovetail into our topic today, but when you think about it, most organizations, HR includes recruiting, learning and development, operations. If it’s large enough, it’s compliance and all kinds of other things. But they’re responsible for bringing people into the company, keeping them engaged, and every single milestone of that employee’s journey from the time they get their badge to when they turn in their keys, everything. So what they need is clear messaging and brand management inside and out.
Julia: For sure. That’s awesome! In terms of what we’re gonna talk about, I asked Meg to come on and talk about brand archetypes. This is something that I will be honest, everybody, I do not know a lot about. So Meg is gonna be telling me and showing me what’s up at the same time as you all. Meg, tell us, what are archetypes?
Meg: The heck is all of this? As branded marketers, we’re working with companies and we say, well, who are you? Tell us what your story is. And even in StoryBrand. A lot of people tell us way back when, this is when we started, and this is the founder’s story, that kind of thing. But at the end of the day, we need to understand what the brand means because branding is all about managing, uniting. And to do that, we really need to deconstruct the brand to its core essence, and very much of that helps us better understand what is the role that the brand plays in the lives of the people they serve?
Archetypes at its core; you can think of archetypes as the roles and characters that we adopt through stories. Very, very simple. Everybody’s story is different, all stories are different, they all have common themes, common characters, common life situations. What’s really interesting about this is the fact that they transcend culture, race, age, ethnicity, age, everything. So for all humans, we have some kind of commonalities. Around 1919, a psychiatrist by the name of Carl Young identified 12 of these themes. He called these imprints that were in our psyche. He called them archetypes. And so collectively, all of these archetypes, all 12 of them, they give us a framework, and that’s all based on human experience. So it’s helping us understand the role that we’re playing in our customers’ lives. It helps us connect on a much deeper level, and it results in a lot more authenticity, loyalty, and trust. As far as how it applies to brands, we know that creating a brand is about creating meaning. The brands that had created that meaning at a very, very deep level, they have done that because they’ve embodied an archetype, something that people just know instinctively. What’s really nice about it is that it helps us articulate the role that our brand plays in the lives that we serve.
A couple of resources too, for anybody that wants to know more about this, this book is called The Hero and the Outlaw. It’s from 2001, and it was from Margaret Mark and Dr. Carol Pearson. They got together and decided, you know what, the world needs to understand more about archetypes. It’s rooted in brand psychology, how are we applying it? How should we apply it? How is it different from so many other things, and how does it bring the stories that we live every day to our brand, and then to the people that we serve?
Julia: When you’re talking about this, is it the customer that has the archetype, or is it my company’s brand that has an archetype or both?
Meg: It’s actually both. One of the things that’s very, very interesting, and we’ll get through this when we say step one, step two, there’s some different things that I specifically do. A lot of the stuff that I do is against the book itself that I just mentioned, but everybody has an archetype. By the way, we have all 12 of them within us. So I liken it to this, when people say, is it me? Is it them? Is it us? Well, it’s my department, I wanna show up differently, whatever. Think about it, if it’s you, or if it’s Stratos creative marketing, you’re gonna walk into a party full of people that you know or you’re related to. If you show up, what are they expecting? What’s the Julia that they’re going to most recognize and understand? Because it’s you all the time. Now, you can be goofy and funny and playful, and then you can be the wise sage, and you can be the person coming in, laying down the law, but on the whole, how do you show it? What do they expect? So if we understand, obviously, how our customer needs us, then we understand the role that we need to play in their life.
Julia: So in a way, by defining archetypes for both you and perhaps your customer, you’re almost defining how you both show up to the table, in essence?
Meg: Absolutely! As I said before, there are 12, I’ll just go through them really fast though. We don’t actually have too much time to go through every single one of them. But if you picture a circle, and then you put quadrants inside the circle, the quadrants represent different motivations. Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? It starts with the base, and all of that and everything, safety and psychological needs? We have independence and self-actualization at the top. We’ve got mastery and esteem, we have belonging and relationships, and we have safety and stability, from top to bottom. Within each of those quadrants, there are three specific archetypes. Every single archetype is going to have something a little bit different and something a little bit special. When I’m working with leadership teams, where if you are a brand new company, or you are a very large brand, and sales are down, or you need to reinvent yourself, or a lot of brands went through, who am I, throughout the pandemic, because they didn’t have the same way to attract people that would buy from them on a regular basis, they had to redefine it. Now, one of the biggest challenges that I’m constantly coming across with HR is the fact that they need to tell a better story. In order for them to tell a better story, they have to understand what the story even is. That’s where archetypes can be extremely useful.
Julia: One of the things that you mentioned before we started recording was there’s a difference between an archetype and a persona. Can you just tell us the difference before we get into more?
Meg: Absolutely! Archetypes and personas are not the same thing. When people say, well, it’s like their brand persona, right? Or what’s the characteristics, or what’s this? So two things; number one, the word persona in Latin means mask. So it’s the mask that you show to the world. It’s whatever that outside layer is. In Latin, the word archetype means original.
Julia: That’s so fascinating? Oh my gosh!
Meg: It’s the real thing. It’s kind of like, if you go to a party and you’re an introvert and you’re not really excited to be there, or whatever it is, you might act a certain way, you might psych yourself up or whatever, or if you’re like me, more of an extrovert, you might have a different persona. There’s so many ways that we can show up differently. But if you’re just showing up to your girlfriends, or at home, or the people that you love the most, or whatever, who’s showing up? That one.
Julia: Wow, that’s so interesting! I love that. When it comes to archetypes, obviously, somebody could hire an expert like you, somebody could read a book, but how does somebody, if they need to start the journey, or they wanna start the journey of figuring out their archetype, where would you tell them to start?
Meg: Well, the first thing I would do, obviously, is I would tell them, if you’re not gonna hire somebody that can help you think through this – because it’s really hard, what do we say? It’s hard to read a label from the inside of the jar, right?
Julia: Well, it is always hard when you’re thinking about your own business.
Meg: Julia, I could probably write a blog for you faster than I could for me. I mean, come on.
Julia: Yeah. It’s always easiest to do other clients’ work.
Meg: Absolutely. So the first thing, hands down, if you wanna really figure out what your archetype is, and it really goes right in line with The Hero and the Outlaw, they call it the brand’ soul. That’s the first step, is finding out the brand soul. I liken it to the brand essence. So first thing you gotta do is just figure out, if your brand was a lighthouse, who are you beckoning to? Think about it as like your true north. Why do you exist? Truly, truly exist. And then if it’s an older brand, let’s say you’ve been around a long time, why did you exist, or what did you exist for during that time? Sometimes brands were there because, for instance, brands that came out in 2020, in 2021 because of the pandemic, 15 years from now, that story is gonna be crucial to understanding what was going on around that time when they were even thought of, and what do people go to you for?
Julia: Do brand archetypes change?
Meg: They can evolve, but they would pretty much stay the same. So you can have different products, let’s say for instance, Amazon. They’ve got an archetype, but then, they’ve got all these different things. They gobble up different businesses with different business models and everything, but they still have their true north, which is their archetype. There’s a lot of debate as far as, can you have more than one? Can you have all 12 or whatever? I try to stick to the book, and I try to stick to the brand psychology, and it’s really having a dominant brand archetype. Just one.
Julia: I like the Enneagram too much, probably, and so it almost feels like brand archetypes are almost like a personality test. Not that there is a test necessarily, but it’s like figuring out this company personality. Because even if you go to the Myers Briggs, none of us are truly 100% extroverted or 100% introverted. Generally, it’s a spectrum. And so, I would imagine that you can have a main archetype and still see evidence of others, but you still have a main one.
Meg: You’re absolutely right. And so let me be clear too, when we talk about the 12 archetypes, that’s because if people understood – There are literally hundreds of different archetypes. So we’re not gonna go, blah, here’s all our cards and our deck of archetypes, and just pick one. It’s not a Halloween costume. It’s, which archetype are we most showing up to in the story of our customers? What’s really cool about this, and very much like in the Myers Briggs, you look at DISC, you look at the Enneagram, it’s all psychology. It’s not something that somebody just made up like a quiz that we used to find in 17 Magazine.
Julia: I’ve been there. That’s awesome!
Meg: One of the things that people ask too is that, if it’s my personality, where does the archetype fit in? The way that you can say that is that you use archetypes to help you describe your personality.
Julia: That makes sense. So once somebody narrows it down to this true north, is that where you would tell them to take it next, is to start figuring out how they can use it to describe themselves? What would you recommend?
Meg: After you figure out what your brand essence is, the whole purpose of you being here, then you’ve really gotta figure out your category. You’ve gotta figure out the problems that your product or service solves. So step two would be brand substance. Like, what is it? So you’ve really gotta figure out, what’s your magnet? What’s that thing that people are going to you for? And then as soon as you’ve figured out your brand substance, then anybody that’s out there that says, oh, you haven’t figured out customer research, that’s where that comes in. That’s step three. And you’re gonna be looking at other brands in your category, how are they showing up? Are they consistent? How do they express it? Are they doing it well? Is everybody the same? So if you’re a training organization, or you’re a brand that offers some kind of learning or development, most probably show up as the sage. People come to us for knowledge, therefore, that’s how we show up in their lives. It doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. One of my favorite examples for teams is ice cream, so you look at Häagen-Dazs. If you think of Häagen-Dazs, it’s this beautiful, luxurious look. That’s the straight up lover archetype. But would you think that Ben & Jerry’s was a lover?
Julia: Oh, absolutely not!
Meg: They’re about joyful expression and experiences and spreading happiness, and those kinds of things. That’s the jester archetype. So you can be in the same category. You can be in the SUV, sports utility category, you could be in beauty, a specific category, and still show up as something completely different. The third one is competitive research, and then the fourth is really understanding your customer. That’s where all of that work comes in.
Julia: I would imagine once you’ve reached that fourth step of understanding your customer, then that’s where you could really get into the wording and the messaging, because then you’re almost marrying all four of these steps, how you’re showing up, and then what you’re gonna say to reach that customer.
Meg: Absolutely! For me, for my brand, I’m the explorer archetype, also known as the seeker. The reason for that is although I offer services that many competitors do, they help human resources with their recruiting and retention strategies, and there’s other brand strategies that do similar things, the reason that I do that goes back to why I started in the first place. And having 20 years in the corporate environment, whereas here’s your brand guidelines, on page 73 is the hex code for the blue, and you use this thing and that thing and say that, and that’s that. And we didn’t understand how to get creative with it, I didn’t understand anything about archetypes, but I just wanted to bust out. So when I said, no more am I gonna have this crazy structured environment, that’s a lot of what my customers need from me, is the out of the box thinking. They’re looking for something different, they’re coming and not being chained to a desk or something like that, and they can really get very creative and see other opportunities. That’s a lot of what they come to me for. That would be different.
Julia: I love it! I probably should have asked this before, but you’ve already mentioned a few of the archetypes. Can you just walk us through them? Tell me what they are and a snippet about them.
Meg: Okay. You’re gonna draw a circle. You’re gonna draw a plus sign in the middle of the circle. Let’s just go to the upper left quadrant. We’re gonna call that independence and self-actualization. Just write IS. You have three. There’s one that is the explorer, I talked about that. They’re all about freedom, like don’t fence me in, I wanna go see things, and try things, and find new things, and it’s all very internal. They really want to free themselves. Another one is the sage. This one is all about curiosity and discovery and knowledge. You’ve got idealist, also known as the innocent. This one is all about optimism. If you thought of McDonald’s, the Happy Meal. They’ve got Ronald McDonald, they’ve got a lot of things, the golden arches, that whole, again, going back to their brand essence and why they existed. So you’ve got the explorer or the seeker, you’ve got the sage, and then you have the idealist in quadrant one. Quadrant two on the other the side, mastery and esteem, you have the outlaw, you have the magician, and you have the hero. When you think about the outlaw, or the revolutionary, or the rebel, that’s the activist. They’re going to break things, they wanna change the rules. You’ve got the magician, who is all about magical transformation. Like Disney, you’ve got very visionary, very mysterious, they’re very influential. They’re all about power.
And then you’ve got the hero, so you’ve got Nike. They’re very motivated, they’re very determined. They’re extremely relentless. Like the Marine Corps, they’re just gonna go for it. By the way, first line workers are very much the hero as well. That’s the little top. Bottom, you’ve got three more, or you’ve got six more. Under belonging and relationships, you’ve got the lover, the jester, and the realist. The lover is going to be like Chanel. It’s very passionate, it’s very magnetic, it’s very sensual, and they’re all about commitment; finding that thing and committing to it. The jester is not always fun. The jester is about joyfulness. So again, as I said, it’s very playful, very witty, naughty, very mischievous, very cheeky, that’s the jester. And I know in StoryBrand, there’s a lot of videos that go around, of different commercials and stuff like that. There’s just some really, really cool stuff. We can learn from that if you’re in that community.
The realist, a lot of people call a realist, which is really all about practicality. This would be the citizen, the every person. Probably, the best example of that is Ikea. Very dependable, very friendly, very inclusive, they’re very down to earth, they’re very accessible.
Julia: I think of Allstate Insurance. I don’t know if you would categorize them in a different one.
Meg: Well, you would. Allstate would be more of the caregiver. And that’s perfect segue, because when we’re looking at that last quadrant about safety and stability, in the category of insurance, we’re protecting you and your future. You’ve got the caregiver, which is all about compassion. Caregiver is very much like Mother Teresa. Like Huggies, they’re warm, they’re nurturing, they’re caring, they’re very patient. You’ve got the ruler, which is one of my favorites. The ruler is all about control. They are the person or the brand that comes in and sees chaos happening, and they’re the ones that’s going to put everybody back together. If you think about it from even a parent or a child perspective, you’ve got the child who just wants to stay up and have fun, they’re living the archetype of a jester. You’ve got the parent that comes in and says, “Sit at your desk and get your homework done.” Because there’s stuff that needs to be done. Very dominant. A good brand is Rolex for this. Very authoritative, very refined, and very respected and articulated.
The last one is creator. You’ve got some on your team, I know. The people that are all about inspiration. Lego is a perfect example. Because if you think about it, what is Lego helping people to do? It’s helping people to become innovative, and imagine new things, and try new things. They’re very sensitive, they’re dreamers, they’re very expressive. So those are all of the 12. So when you start thinking about, like a Lego, I saw your face light up when I said that. That is a very clear indication that if you are that kind of a brand, you know what people are coming to you for. And that has nothing to do with demographics, or how old people are, or what culture they are, or whatever, that means that people are coming to you because you allow that part of them to flourish.
Julia: I love that! I like that one a lot. Quick question, for people like me, per se, who have started a business, but it’s no longer an extension of myself, do we show up as different archetypes than our business? Or are they usually the same as the founder? Does that make sense?
Meg: Yeah, it does. Because I think you’re in a perfect position to figure that out. Everybody’s gonna show up their whole selves. That’s something that I get on a regular basis. They’re saying, well, if we are like this, that means we can only hire people like that, or they’re forced to act a certain way. Again, archetypes live within us, all of them. So when we’re thinking about the brand, you’re not going to change because you’re just hiring more people, automatically, overnight, your entire clientele. You’re still offering marketing solutions to the people who need them. So what is really interesting is when you’ve got a founder, and then they go from a solopreneur to now they’re an agency, it’s, how does that arc change? Does it become more clear? People get really confused. They’re like, “Well, I don’t know what the brand’s gonna be, I don’t know, whatever.” Well, wouldn’t it be nice to understand what your archetype is so that you’re constantly practicing saying the same kinds of things, and showing up in the same way, and attracting the same kinds of people so that you grow faster? And then you just bring people into your story.
Julia: Because I even think of Tony Robbins, for example. His business is Tony Robbins, but Tony Robbins shows up for probably 10% or less of what actually happens within the Tony Robbins organization. And so, even that is just such an interesting thought process. I could see that one being very connected to his personal one, because it’s such a personal brand.
Meg: You’re absolutely right. And Julia, for him, he would show up as the hero. Everything that you hear, I follow him on TikTok, and you see him on Instagram and everything. It’s like when you gotta work out, and what kind of music? I am not gonna put on spa music when I need to work out. I know the feeling that I need to get, and I’ve gotta go to the music that’s going to inspire me. I’m gonna go to Tony Robbins or Mel Robbins, I’d do the same thing, if you’re experiencing a little bit of imposter syndrome.
Julia: Mel Robbins is so good for that.
Meg: Exactly! He gives that to you. And if you and I worked for the Tony Robbins Organization, and we were copywriters, or we’re designers, we’re gonna do it based on Tony’s persona. We’re gonna do that based on the archetype of the hero so that anything comes, whether it’s an interaction, whether it’s something they read, something they listen to, something they see, it’s got the archetype all over it. It shows up.
Julia: That’s amazing because then going back to all of us showing up as our own selves, you’re still having this streamlined messaging or showing up for the brand, regardless of how you and I might show up to our friends and family. We’re almost adopting said archetype during our work in a way.
Meg: Yeah. And what’s more too, earlier this week, I was working with a team, who the head copywriter on their team said, “You know what, Meg, we really need something to help us better understand how we show up through writing.” And I said, “Well, tell me a little bit more.” They had an issue, it was earlier this year, where one of their employees wanted to show up on social media like Wendy’s. You know how they respond?
Julia: Oh, Wendy’s is really quippy too.
Meg: Think about that. This is a very, very different organization. But they said, “Hey, we wanna be humorous. I think I’m gonna start with some snark.” You have one organization or one person, and this person was in charge of their social media and everything, decided, hey, I’m gonna show up as this. This is not an attempt by anybody to say, don’t be yourself. Do not be yourself. But through some different exercises, really fun things that we did, we helped them see how they could get so much more creative. And if you do wanna show up funny, you can. So let’s say, again, the stereotyped approach is, well, if you wanna be funny, then you’re the jester. That’s not what the jester is about. It’s about joyfulness and all of that. But if you’re the sage, let me ask you this, you’re just learning this, if you are the sage and understanding that people go to you for knowledge, they’re coming to you for curiosity, and to discover new things, what would humor sound like?
Julia: You’re putting me on the spot, but I think there are plenty of people who are teachers per se, who are still humorous. But it’s not gonna come across as self-deprecating humor, it’s not gonna come across as quippy or snarky. To me, it would almost be this pure humor where it’s not at the expense of anybody.
Meg: You nailed it. With the sage, it would be a lot like sharp width, maybe dry humor or something. Maybe something that’s going to go over the heads of anybody that’s not your customer. Now, what is hero to the outlaw? These are gonna be the rebels, these are gonna be the activists.
Julia: Well, I could even see the outlaws are not gonna care if they offend somebody, I would imagine.
Meg: For some brands. But it might be a lot of sarcasm. It’s going to be, maybe that’s where that snark comes into. You don’t have to be completely different. Part of the strategic communications that I do as teams too, is okay, so we’re the hero, okay, great, whatever, what does that mean, Meg? That means we start going into situational analysis with strategic communication. So we say, Julia, if you’re gonna be the hero, how does that come across in a job description? How does that come across in a job ad for new recruits for talent that you’re trying to attract? What about internally? What’s the journey for onboarding a new employee? Or if you’re the jester, and somebody’s coming to your office, are you gonna give them a Mountain Dew or are you gonna give them something out of a China cup? Everything, when it comes to words, phrases that resonate, adjectives, nouns, a lot of what I build with teams is brand lexicons. I work with their copywriters in different exercises and workshops. If you’re the sage, people are coming to you for that kind of thing, you’re going to give them content. Maybe it’s blogs, long essays, white papers. But if you’re not, well, maybe it’s bite sized information, maybe it’s more infographics, and even the grammar.
I worked with a jester earlier this year, and they said, how does this impact how we write? And one of the things that we determined, and very often, we start rewriting a lot of the brand guidelines and expanding them out, is when they wanted to express something in campaigns, they wanted to promote something, no caps. So you can get very creative or something, but the archetype goes way, way more than just how you show up in that broad statement. When I’m working with a company. I’ll bring in a copywriter, or a designer, or anyone else, as long as I know the archetype, I can tell the design for the design strategy, the creative person saying, hey, they’re gonna be the jester archetype. They know the kinds of colors, they know the shapes, they know the sizes, they know movement, they know all of the senses that they need. If I’ve got a copywriter, and I say, “You know what, help me build the lexicon.” Great. We know the brand stories, the way that they name their newsletter. If you’re gonna give client gifts and you’re the explorer, you’re not gonna give something that’s gonna break. Everything, it just permeates so much of what you do. I think it’s really important though, to add that understanding your brand archetype is one part of the overall brand strategy. You can’t just, we know our archetype, we’re gonna make all this money. No, it’s one part.
Julia: I could see how it would lend so much clarity though, both internally for a team, like how to communicate within a team, but then also how the team should communicate with others. Because I even think about, we do a lot of social media, and I could see how even you saying the sage might write long blog articles, things like that, for social media, you could show up as any of those archetypes, but you would show up differently, even with colors, and graphics, and funny reels. Somebody might not do a funny reel depending on their archetype.
Meg: So much of it is just understanding again, what is the role that you play in customer’s lives. I don’t care if you have 12,000 customers, or five, and you see them all. I’ve got lots of different target markets, what is the one thing that will unify all of them?
Julia: I love it! Meg, thank you. This was so good. I feel like I learned so much. I am for sure gonna be picking up that book and reading it, and then I’m gonna be analyzing every business because that’s just what happens when my brain starts working. If people wanna find you and connect with you, how can they do that?
Meg: Well, there’s three ways. They can go to my website, https://www.guideontheinside.com/. They can see me on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/megkypena) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/megkypena/?hl=en). I also have something special just for your listeners. So if they go to guideontheinside.com/inthewild , they can find it there. It’ll be about archetypes.
Julia: Awesome! Well, thank you, Meg. Everybody, head over. We’ll have that link in the show notes. Meg, thank you for just sharing all the information. I just really appreciate it. Thank you.
Meg: Thank you, Julia. I really appreciate it. This was a lot of fun. Thank you so much.
Julia: Friends, thanks for tuning into this week’s podcast episode. I am so glad that you have, if you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have, I just ask you to subscribe so you know each time we have a new episode coming out. If you loved our podcast and want to give us a rating or a review, I promise we will read each and every one of them. A special shout out to our friend, Carson Childers, who is producing our podcast. We really appreciate him and all the hard work that he’s done for us.
Also, thanks to the Stratos team. They have been behind the scenes doing all of the graphic design, brainstorming, et cetera, et cetera. Really, this wouldn’t be possible without them. I’m thankful for each and every one of you guys. Lastly, listener, we’ll be back next week and I hope you will be too.