Updated: Mar 3, 2021
Archetypes, when tapped into correctly, can be repackaged and reused continually. What are archetypes? Click here to read my article about overall Archetypal Branding.
It is important that if you decide to imbue any of the 12 standard archetypes into your brand, that you have to commit and be aware of the levels with which you are applying the archetype.
For instance, take the story of Cinderella. This is a centuries-old story that can be told on a basic level to children or retold in an hour-and-a-half romantic comedy starring Drew Barrymore. It follows the archetype of the Lover in two separate tellings, thus showing the diversity archetypes can have within a deeper human understanding.
However, if you apply the more juvenile aspects to your adult audience, they’ll likely see through your assumed trappings and shun you for it. To successfully portray your archetype you have to weave its basic DNA throughout your business including your mission statement, website literature, marketing plans, and the way you handle customer complaints. If not, prepare yourself for consumer backlash!
It is important to note that you are not limiting your audience when you utilize archetypal branding. While you may be focusing on an adventurous spirit with your Adventurer storytelling, that same person might feel connected to ads displaying the virtues of the Innocent in a diaper commercial. You are not stereotyping your audience (something most marketers tend to do), you are connecting to their deeper subconscious. Every single person can connect to each of the 12 archetypes, they just align more closely with one over another.
The Innocent Overview
The archetype of the Innocent appears to be just that - innocent.
MOTTO: Free to be you and me.
DESIRE: Make the world a utopia.
GOAL: Being truly happy.
LIFESTYLE: Live simply.
VISUALS: Pure white snow, white picket fence, or untouched nature.
The innocent in us wants to live in a world where every person is free to be who they want to be. Life doesn’t need to be hard, just live by your values system and everything will work itself out. This might sound overly optimistic and naive to some, but every single person has these feelings inside. That’s why brands like Dove, Apple, and Gerber all touch a nerve.
A Brand That Embodies the Innocent
The Innocent wants to live in a world where choices are simple, technology works intuitively, and all actions are based on a positive system of values. Religious, infant, and self-help brands can thrive with the story of the Innocent because their stories promote peace, helping your fellow man, and protection of those weaker than themselves.
Parent-targeted brands are also prime candidates for the Innocent. And it’s no wonder - nothing humanizes the term “innocent” like a wide-eyed child. Brands targeting parents focus on how the parent is protecting their child.
Pampers uses the language “love at first touch” and “every touch is as comforting as the first.” Images of swaddled newborns, babies sleeping in dry diapers, and the intimacy of a parent/child relationship are there for reinforcement. In an instance like this, the parent identifies as the Caregiver Archetype and the child is the Innocent. Since a baby can’t buy their own diapers, these ads pull at the heartstrings of Caregivers and their drive to help and protect.
Desires of The Innocent Archetype
A signature desire of the Innocent is “simplicity.” This is extremely relevant in today's world where things are becoming increasingly complex - government regulations, societal norms, and the U.S. Tax code all come to mind.
The desire for simplicity is targeted by so many different products however, it has created a more complex marketplace. The feeling these stories and ads impart is one of “here, you’re in trouble. Let me save you,” or “your life is so hard, let me make it easier for you.”
“Our product will make your life simpler” is so overused in this day and age you don’t know what to believe. Many of these companies don’t embody the full archetype of the Innocent throughout their business structure, so what we end up with is a lot of empty promises.
This ad from Apple for the 2020 iPad Pro is simple, clean, and to the point. It implies that the new iPad can take the place of your home computer, eliminating the need for another piece of tech.
These empty promises are the fastest way to break a relationship with the Innocent Archetype. They are extremely loyal and trusting of the right brands. People are savvy and know when they are being sold to. They also look for positive experiences that provide meaning. They dream of a perfect world and they fully believe that if they live simply, stick to their values, and perform good acts - the world will transform into their paradise.
Actions of the Innocent Archetype
The Innocent is not naturally competitive and they tend to have a “take only what you need” mentality. They enjoy living in the here and now because the future is too unpredictable and the past is too complicated. They are filled with the wonder and joy of life that you can only experience in nature and when you are thoroughly content.
Brands associated with the simple things in life and the feeling of wholesomeness can appeal to the Innocent even if they are considered a luxury. A well-known brand that shines in this space is Whole Foods. Their language of organic and natural food without the complexities of preservatives or processing strikes a chord with buyers. Their brand says “we’ll take care of you because other brands aren’t”. This message feels authentic because you see the visuals, you hear the message and when you enter a Whole Foods location, you see the reality of their promise.
Save Me. But Don’t Save Me.
I’ve already talked about how the message of “rescuing” the customer can be applied ineffectively. But one way this message can be introduced is by showing and recognizing the limits of your company. For instance, a retirement broker might want to promise a client that they are going to take care of them. However, this broker doesn’t know you, they can make your goals for you, and they can’t tell you how to live your life. It is your responsibility to take the reins in planning for your retirement and they are here to help you navigate.
While having someone looking after you is nice, the Innocent also has the drive to take matters into their own hands and make their own decisions. The Innocent will take charge and research ways to make their life simpler (thus becoming a target for the messaging I discussed earlier) but if something doesn’t resonate or make an impact, they will drop the product or service in a flash. Do not mistake the Innocent for being gullible - even a child can figure out when they are being lied to.
Implementing the Innocent
Effective branding for the Innocent Archetype should feature a back-to-basics approach and message. The feeling of wholesome, idyllic, natural, and simple should remain at the forefront of the messaging. Purpose-driven companies that have the internal structure and values to support and execute a message of goodwill will thrive in this space.
I recommend taking the Innocent Archetype into your brand if you have a simple product for an easily identifiable problem. Also, if your product or service is associated with goodness, cleanliness, nostalgia, morality, and/or virtuosity. You can reach your target audience by appealing to their hopes and dreams and the simple truth that “life is good.”
Over the next few months, I will be writing articles that explore each of the 12 Archetypes I discussed in this original article. My main source for these articles is “the Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes”, by Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson.
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