Emotional Branding

At Design4Change we use something called the Scandinavian School of Branding.

No, we didn’t do a semester in Stockholm. The Scandinavian School is based on relationship marketing, emotional branding, and it’s founding fathers. If your brand were a celebrity, who would they be? Your business is so much more than a logo; it has it’s own personality, language, values, and meaning system. Your brand is the way you differentiate yourself from your competition beyond the products or services you sell. At the agency, we have three main tools to create these lived brands  — Archetypes, Universals, and Lovemarks.

Are you still perplexed? Emotional branding isn’t something our crackpot squad of savvy marketers cooked up one night after a long day of copywriting. The premise dates back to the work of Sigmund Freud.

Freud proposed that our minds are organized into the conscious or “ego,” preconscious (memories that are available to you at any time) called the “superego,” and our unconscious mind or “id.[1]” The “id” includes our instincts and motivations.

Carl Jung, a contemporary of Freud’s, elaborated on this theory. Jung proposed a similar organization of the mind. He spoke of the “ego”, the “personal unconscious” (similar to the superego), and the “collective unconscious.” The collective unconscious was different than Freud’s “id.” In his opinion, it’s not our basic instincts alone that motivate us to fulfill our basic needs; it is the collective “psychic inheritance,” “or reservoir of our experiences as a species.”[2] Within this reservoir of experiences lives a system of symbols or archetypes common to every person; the same archetypes common among fairytales and mythology from different times, across different religions, transcending cultures and ages.

This may seem overly mystical, but we’re getting to the scientific part. Michel Jansen, in his book Brand Prototyping, describes how Jung’s archetypes can be used as the collective universal templates that, “underlie (unconscious) human behaviour, and because of their purity, archetypes offer a very valuable foundation upon which to develop a strong identity.”[3] These archetypes formulated the basis of Jansen’s Brand Prototyping Process to create a strong brand identity that is nimble in changing contexts and consumer needs, without compromising brand identity.[4]

The 12 archetypes Jansen focuses on were narrowed down from Jung’s infinite list of possibilities by Carol S. Pearson in her 1991 book, Awakening the Heroes Within‬: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World‬. In theory, each of us has access to, and embodies aspects of every archetype. That said, we all have a dominant archetype we gravitate towards on a spectrum of Freedom vs. Order; and Ego / Individually oriented vs. Socially oriented.  Our preferences depend on our environment, life events, and influences of society. ‬‬‬‬ Jansen said: ‬‬‬‬‬‬

“Archetypes are not only activated because people recognize them in certain situations, but also in certain persons. This explains why people can be inspired by strong characters in films and by famous persons. People unconsciously recognize the archetypal patterns that they themselves aspire to and admire… In applying this to the brand, the challenge is to develop the identity on the basis of a relevant archetype. In this way, the brand will connect with the unconscious consumer ambitions and aspirations, laying the groundwork for the development of a meaningful relationship.”[5]

Figure: The 12 Archetypes [6]

Figure: The 12 Archetypes [6]


Let’s dig a little deeper into each of the archetypes shall we.

Innocent: This sweet, happy, moral, positive, and sometimes naïve brand is represented by an innocent child.

Everyman: Picture the guy in the Ford Truck commercial. This brand is down-to-earth, roll up your sleeves citizen.

Caregiver: This brand is loving and compassionate and cares about you, your family, and your community.

Lover: This passionate, irresistible, brand is committed to you and your needs.

Jester: This brand is a fun-loving good time. Smart humour and gentle sarcasm are common languages. Think of Old Spice.

Outlaw: This badass brand wears leather and may be seen driving a Harley or riding a horse to a showdown. 

Explorer: This brand is a thoughtful and deliberate adventure seeker. It’s rugged and seeks intellectual fulfillment. Think of Jeep and Virgin.

Creator: This dreamer is a builder, has an imagination, and an artistic vision. They are innovators like Lego, Apple, and Crayola, that bring our ideas to life.

Hero: Superman…. Enough said. Use this altruistic brand persona to challenge your rivals. Heroes attack a challenge, set goals, and overcome.

Magician: The Magician brand has the power to transform, to transcend, to make dreams come true.

Sage: A wise old man usually depicts the sage archetype. This all-knowing intelligent brand holds the answers to life’s questions, and is motivated by sharing this knowledge.

Ruler: This authoritarian knows their business, no question. They love power and have a commanding a presence. Think of BMW and IBM.

Each of the archetypes shares six characteristics. They are collectively found in the human unconscious in a pure form. They are universal across all cultures but can have a local flavor. They are as timeless today as they were 100 years ago but can adapt to changing contexts as well as to consumers current needs and values. They are rich in inspiration yet highly individual. They are easily recognizable and are highly motivational or aspirational.[7]

If we have peaked your curiosity, great visual examples of each of the archetypes can be found on the Design4Change Pinterest account.

Parallel to Archetypes, is the tool of Universals discussed in the book Making Meaning: How Successful Businesses Deliver Meaningful Customer Experiences by Diller, Shedroff, and Rhea.  The authors interviewed thousands of people over the span of this project and have found that there is a “certain constancy among human needs that transcends the distinctions of culture and language.”[8] These constancies or Universals are the fifteen most common meanings in people’s value systems they feel very strongly about.

Universals include the sense of accomplishment, beauty, creation, community, duty, enlightenment, freedom, harmony, justice, oneness, redemption, security, truth, validation, and wonder.

Layered with the tools of Archetypes and Universals is one last tool we use to create passionate customer relationships with our clients. The mark of a truly great brand is love, which is why Kevin Roberts from Saatchi & Saatchi coined the term “Lovemarks” as part of a Love/Respect axis shown below.


Great brands are created with love, inspiration, and emotion.[9] Only brands that garner high respect and high love can become a Lovemark. There are three key ingredients to creating a Lovemark: sensuality, intimacy, and mystery.

Mystery is the work of deep stories and metaphors that great brands are made of. They are the secret ingredients and the rich markers of history, presence, and longevity.

Sensuality is the way the five senses make you want to interact with a brand. The brand itself has to be a sensorial experience. This is translated across advertising, design, packaging, social media, and the overall product/service experience. It’s not about what people know about a brand that makes it iconic, it’s what they feel about it and this is only possible through a sensorial experience.

Intimacy is the connection a customer feels with a brand. When you know everything about a brand and feel like it knows everything about you; you have achieved intimacy.  This type of intimate love is where true loyalty is born.

A Lovemark is a brand that that has earned your undying love and admiration. We’re not talking about the type of love that you had on spring break, or shows up to your wedding without an invite; this type of love follows you through the ages.

At Design4Change, we use these three tools to create comprehensive brands with coherent meaning systems that resonate with consumers. This meaning system provides concrete direction and strategy for campaigns to build enduring relationships. From the schools of Freud to Jansen and Diller to Roberts, emotional branding is here to stay. How deep is your brand?


[1] Boeree, Dr. C. George. “Freud and Psychoanalysis.” Shippensburg University. 2000. http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/psychoanalysis.html (accessed September 03, 2012).

[2] Boeree, “Freud and Psychoanalysis,”

[3] Michel Jansen, Brand Prototyping: Developing Meaningful Brands (Amsterdam: Kluwer, 2006), 9.

[4] Jansen, Brand Prototyping: Developing Meaningful Brands, 10.

[5] Jansen, Brand Prototyping: Developing Meaningful Brands, 34.

[6] Carol S. Pearson, Awakening the Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World (New York: HarperCollins, 1991).

[7] Jansen, Brand Prototyping: Developing Meaningful Brands, 37-39.

[8] Steve Diller, Nathan Shedroff, and Darrel Rhea: Making Meaning: How Successful Businesses Deliver Meaningful Customer Experiences, (Berkeley: New Riders, 2008), 32

[9] Kevin Roberts, Saatchi & Saatchi


Boeree, Dr. C. George. “Freud and Psychoanalysis.” Shippensburg University. 2000. http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/psychoanalysis.html (accessed September 03, 2012).

Diller, Steve, Shedroff Nathan, and Rhea Darrel. Making Meaning: How successful Businesses Deliver Meaningful Customer Experiences.Berkeley: New Riders, 2008.

Jansen, Michel. Brand Prototyping: Developing Meaningful Brands. Amsterdam: Kluwer, 2006.

Pearson, Carol S. Awakening the Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.