What archetype is your employer brand?

Mar 18, 2019 - Cat DiStasio

Which would you prefer: a hero’s journey or a jester’s folly?

If you personally identify with one of those archetypes, the question hits home. For job seekers looking to make a huge commitment to a company, the archetype of your employer brand can have a big impact on their decision making.

Many of us learned about the concept of archetypes in psychology class. Psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung, who founded analytical psychology, outlined 12 personality archetypes that represent the range of basic human motivations. Just as each person typically has one dominant archetype that drives their personality, so too do brands. The kicker is, most companies don’t think very much about the psychology behind their employer brand and, if they do, it’s probably in hindsight.

Every company has a brand reputation and personality. By identifying which archetype that personality fits into, recruiters can be proactive about controlling messages and conversations to convey that personality in a clear and consistent way. If your candidates can’t easily get a read on your employer brand’s archetype (even if they aren’t thinking of it in those terms), you’re in trouble. Take the guesswork out of the recruiting experience, and make it simple. Don’t wait for candidates to figure out what your company stands for. Tell them.

But first, you’ll need to do some figuring out of your own. Read on to learn more about the 12 archetypes and how they apply to companies from a talent acquisition perspective. We’ve even included a short quiz so you can quickly identify your employer brand’s archetype. (You’re welcome.)

Jung’s 12 archetypes

Jungian archetypes are symbolic representations of the personality types most people can unconsciously or intuitively identify, based on their life experiences and shared cultural consciousness. And because people are more complex than simply being a ‘good guy’ or a ‘bad guy,’ Jung created a dozen archetypes to represent a wide variety of traits, and most people will fit neatly into one of these categories. So will most companies.

Twelve may seem like a lot, but once you understand them all, it makes sense.

  • The Innocent is happy and easygoing, won’t try to manipulate you, but may attempt to pull at your heartstrings.
  • The Everyman wants to belong and feel like part of a community.
  • The Hero has something to prove, and it’s usually about being the best.
  • The Outlaw has no fear and, like a true rebel, will buck the status quo and then laugh about it.
  • The Explorer wants freedom and little else.
  • The Creator is always pushing production to the extreme, in pursuit of perfection.
  • The Ruler wants to live like royalty, and prioritizes luxury and indulgence.
  • The Magician makes dreams come true.
  • The Lover will entice and seduce you, often with the lure of decadent treasures.
  • The Caregiver is warm and nurturing, and is mostly concerned with earning your trust.
  • The Jester wants to make everyone laugh with their silly, off-the-wall approach to the world.
  • The Sage is always seeking truth, and puts pursuit of knowledge above all else.

Examples of brand archetypes

Advertising is a great place to look when thinking about how companies use archetypes to convey their identity. And, interestingly enough, it’s the brands with the most clear archetypes that are likely to stick around in your memory bank the longest. Companies that remove the ambiguity and shine a spotlight on their archetype leave nothing for audiences to wonder about, whether that audience is potential customers or potential candidates.

Nike is a great example of a Hero archetype. Every commercial and ad they produce is about rising to the occasion, triumphing over challenges, and being your best—with their help, of course. Old Spice is obviously the Jester (embodied by the Old Spice Guy), poking fun at, well, pretty much everything. And it’s worked so well for the brand that they’ve been using the same character for nearly a decade. The Home Depot fits nicely in the Everyman archetype, playing to the weekend warrior cliche. Their ads emphasize that they have something for everyone, which they probably do.

The next time you see an ad or commercial for a consumer brand, see if you can identify the brand’s archetype.

What’s your brand archetype?

Now that we've identified archetypes in the consumer world, let's look at examples of employer brands and their archetypes. Apple is a classic employer brand that aligns very well with its consumer brand. The archetype for both is The Creator, always pushing for innovation and the next big thing. Apple’s customers often fit the archetype as well; they are doers, creators, and perfectionists. This is the same type of person Apple tries to hire, so the employer brand and the consumer brand have the same archetype.

Before you identify your brand’s archetype, you may be wondering what archetype your brand should be. You can relax a little, because there is no correct or best archetype for an employer brand. Each company’s archetype should, instead, reflect the actual personality of the people and brand, for better or worse. You can’t just pick an archetype and run with it. It has to be authentic.

To determine what archetype your employer brand fits into, take a few minutes to answer the following questions:

  1. What does a day in the life of your employees look like?
  2. What do your employees value?
  3. What do they fear?
  4. What are your employees’ collective strengths?
  5. What are their weaknesses?

Once you’ve jotted down the answers, your brand archetype should start to pan into focus. While some brands may fall under multiple archetypes, one will be dominant. And that’s the one you should work to align your recruiting with, in order to convey the most authentic story about your company to potential employees.

You’ll do this through your content as well as communications. Recruiters should use the archetype when crafting job postings, conducting interviews, and in one-on-one conversations with candidates. The goal is to create a recruiting experience that consistently backs up your employer brand’s archetype.

Your brand archetype can transform candidate experience

When your brand’s archetype is clearly defined and communicated throughout the recruiting process, candidates will have one less thing to wonder or worry about when they’re considering their relationship with your company, and that’s everything from whether they apply in the first place to whether they accept a job offer. So, before you write your next job listing or post an employee story on social media, take the time to find out what your brand’s archetype is, and find ways to make that archetype come alive for candidates who are just getting to know your company.

And if you already feel you have a good handle on your employer brand, check out this post on how you can use a recruiting chatbot to further enhance your employer brand.

The Recruiting Chatbot Revolution ad

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