Archetypal Branding: The Sage
Archetypes, when effectively implemented, can provide a strong connection between a brand and the consumer. The stories and characteristics applied to a brand can build an emotional motivation to buy that could outweigh the proof of a better product.
These archetypes touch nerves within us and drive our innermost desires - various levels of belonging, independence, mastery, and stability. Want to learn more about the Twelve Branding Archetypes? Click here to read my article about overall Archetypal Branding.
Each person can identify with each of the twelve archetypes. Some have a stronger draw to specific segments of each individual archetype while those factors repel others. These connections are as varied and unique as each snowflake that makes up a snowstorm. All you have to do, as a business owner, is find which archetype your business embodies. Then, find ways to implement the characteristics, desires, and goals of that mold into your brand story.
Be careful, I’ve said it in previous articles, and I’ll likely repeat it: you must be genuine with your archetype. No group will be able to suss out a disingenuine brand story like the Sage Archetype.
The Sage Overview
The archetype of the Sage is typically associated with academic learning. The Sage must have their way, own opinions, and the lion's share of the limelight.
MOTTO: The truth will set you free
DESIRE: The discovery of truth
GOAL: Use their intelligence to understand the world
LIFESTYLE: Self-reflection and constant learning. The “forever student.”
VISUALS: Owls, wise-looking elders, a trail guide, or a well-trodden path
An audience that feels the need for a Sage brand is searching for information. They can find only so much online before their brains become saturated and mushy from information overload. They want someone to tell them about personal experiences along with trials and errors.
The Sage can also be associated with news anchors, storytellers, and, more recently, influencers in the world of social media. They are people we trust to give us facts and tell us about the best ways to accomplish our ends. The Sage seeks the truth, but that image of trust and wisdom can quickly shatter if the curtain is pulled back and the public doesn’t like what it sees.
A Brand That Embodies the Sage
As I stated earlier, scholarly and research-oriented brands are the most likely associated with the Sage. The names of Harvard, MIT, and the Mayo Clinic all come to mind. They are at the top of the heap with reputations of being exclusive to the best and brightest seeking knowledge and truth. Their message of “we’re the best, we only accept the best, and we only teach the best” exudes the Sage’s desire for knowledge and mastery.
But you can also find the Sage in a brand that hits a little closer to home, in the kitchen, to be exact! Historically speaking, Betty Crocker used their advertisements to help homemakers gain knowledge in the kitchen with helpful tidbits featuring their products.
They encourage home chefs to reach higher levels of culinary skill. The brand even sponsored a nationwide test that high school females would take to assess their homemaking skills. According to her high school yearbook, my mother was an official “Betty Crocker Homemaker” award winner in the early seventies.
While the name is still a kitchen standard, I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw a commercial for Betty Crocker. In fact, this is the most recent spot I could track down and it's from around 2014. In my opinion, it doesn't seem like they're portraying themselves as the knowledge base of home bakers they once were.
One of the best-known brands in television today is Discovery. Once only a basic cable channel played in class on days when the substitute teacher was on duty, Discovery is now a massive network and streaming service featuring a host of staple channels such as TLC, Animal Planet, Food Network, and HGTV.
With a mission that states “to satisfy curiosity and make a difference in people's lives by providing the highest quality content, services and products that entertain, engage and enlighten,” you really can’t deny that with a channel lineup featuring how-to and informative programming - they’re living up to their promise.
Desires of The Sage Archetype
It can be in no doubt that “knowledge” is the fundamental desire of the Sage Archetype. Everyone desires to learn more about what interests them - I bet that’s why YOU are here! Heck, that’s one of the reasons I’m writing this series, I love writing about things I find interesting, and I love reading about those things even more!
This desire to learn and appear knowledgeable is at the foundation of every Sage brand personality. You can see more and more brands taking up the Sage schtick as the field of “coaching” becomes ever more prevalent.
Anyone who has had a little bit of success is now prompted to believe that they can coach others. I receive several emails a week from cold-calling coaches looking to “teach me how to take my business to the next level” and “make 10K in a month” with their coaching strategies. I even get emails telling me that I should start coaching coaches that coach other coaches.
Most of these coaching ads have their information behind some sort of paywall. That’s understandable, and it’s how they make their money to pay for more and more ads. But a genuine sage will follow up on their promise of information without the compensation - at least for a little while. What most of these coaching ads, blogs, and articles are embodying is the Magician Archetype.
The Sage and the Magician are somewhat similar and can cross over each other quite often. The Magician knows, but they don’t tell you how they got that knowledge. They use article titles like “How I got over 100,000 followers on Instagram in less than a week” but then neglect to tell you how much work and experience it took to get that result. It makes you think of every “click bate” article you’ve ever read that promises quick results.
I do not doubt that a few of these coaching courses are valuable. I got excited by a course offered by the famed “Click Funnels” brand. It was geared toward Facebook advertising, and it claimed that anyone could apply it to any budget and any industry. I signed up and paid for an introductory course to see if I could glean any information.
Once I entered the course, I found a handful of mildly helpful examples, but most of the information and techniques were out of date. Their style of presenting was incredibly unprofessional.
Their presentation was geared toward coaches and consultants. It was also geared toward individuals who could spend thousands of dollars on their other training programs and tens of thousands more on their marketing budgets - not the startup market for which they insisted their plan would work. Instead of coming off as the Sage, I expected, they came across as aggressive, disingenuous, and ultimately a rip-off.
Actions of the Sage Archetype
Another Sage brand is the holding corporation of the renowned Oracle of Omaha - Warren Buffet’s Berkshire-Hathaway. Berkshire-Hathaway owns various companies, including Benjamin-Moore Paint, Kraft-Hinze, Nebraska Furniture Mart, Duracell, Helzberg Diamonds, Fruit of the Loom, and GEICO. A recent ad featuring the GEICO gecko advising a man planning a marriage proposal using Helzberg Diamonds makes a little more sense to me now that I know they have the same parent company!
Confident, Not Cocky
Effective branding for the Sage Archetype should feature your expertise. Why is your brand the best at what it does, and how are you more experienced than the competition? In your efforts to sound knowledgeable, do not talk down to your customers. Making your potential customers feel like they are not as smart as you or not capable of reaching your standards is a quick way to alienate your base.
I recommend taking the Sage Archetype into your brand personality if you have a product founded in research and backed up by numbers. If you can support your brand with hard data, you’ll appeal to the Sage customer who is looking for something to make their own life better. With the data you provide about your product, the customer can judge the likelihood of its effectiveness when implemented into their own life.
Remember, your audience of potential customers are not dullards and cannot be fooled by cheap gimmicks. They need good, hard evidence that your product and your brand are better. Remain the constant Sage throughout your brand and tell your own success story truthfully and genuinely. The right people will get the message, and they will trust you because of it.
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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