Why Your Customer Journey is Going Astray: Defining Your Archetype

Why Your Customer Journey Is Going Astray – Part 5 of a 6 Part Series

customer journey is more than a visualization and articulation of how and where customers interact with your brand. It’s an instrument for curating a branded experience that guides customers from awareness to purchase to loyalty in a way that differentiates you from competitors. But that’s no small feat.

In this six-part series, we’re exploring the reasons behind why your customer journey isn’t differentiating your brand and how this can be solved through the discipline of a branded journey. Up next: Defining Your Archetype.


As customers interact with your brand at various touch points along their journey, they expect consistency across all expressions of the brand: from brand voice and visuals to product and in-person interactions. In Part 2 of this series, we explored the benefits of defining your brand’s brand idea, which is the brand experience distilled into a few words. Defining a singular brand idea is the starting point for delivering a coherent and unique experience for customers. But what does mobilizing that brand idea actually look like?

Applying the brand idea in day-to-day applications is not as simple as it sounds. For example, Apple’s brand idea is “Simplicity & Creativity,” but what does that mean for a senior marketer briefing a writer or designer? Or for non-marketing teams developing a new product or helping a customer? This is where a brand archetype can help.

In today’s competitive world, without an understanding of the customer’s relationship with the category in the context of their journey with your brand, it’s impossible to provide the customer with a differentiated experience. Brands tend to seek the same low-hanging fruit, and without acknowledging the full landscape, it’s likely that you’re communicating the same message in the same place to the same target as your competitors. So how can you break through when everyone’s shouting in the same room? Perhaps try going to a different room and whispering. Here’s how.

What are Brand Archetypes?

A brand archetype is a personification of your brand idea. It defines a set of attributes and characteristics that translate a brand into something customers and employees understand, serving as the connective tissue of a customer journey to promote a more consistent and meaningful brand experience for consumers.

For some brands, the brand archetype manifests as an advertising character – such as Progressive’s “Flo,” the “Old Spice Guy,” or the “GEICO Gecko.” Beyond an advertising device, these characters embody what the brand stands for, propagating the brand and allowing consumers to understand the brand through their words and demeanor. For example, Flo is enthusiastic, quirky, and sincere. She wears a sparkling-white uniform and talks in a clear and simple way. Through Flo, consumers can understand that Progressive is a modern, friendly, customer-focused company.

In the same way a Progressive copywriter might wonder, “Would Flo say this?” or a product developer might ask, “Would Flo sell this?,” the brand archetype serves as a filter for ensuring brand consistency and a tool for translating the brand idea into communications, designs, products, and interactions. Here’s how it works.


The psychologist Carl Jung believed there are universal forms and images – “archetypes”– that everyone recognizes, and we can use these archetypes to form customer-brand relationships. Just as interpersonal relationships require two people to interact with one another, the brand-customer relationship replaces one of those humans with a brand, and subsequently, the brand needs an identity and personality.

People instinctively understand archetypes in companies, so it’s in the brand’s best interest to proactively design and control its archetype (as opposed to just letting it occur). A good place to start is to choose the most relevant one of Jung’s 12 archetypes and then refine or build on it to align it with your vision for your brand.


Consider WW, formerly Weight Watchers as a brand experience example. WW’s brand archetype is the “Trusted Coach,” a representation of its role as a mentor, trainer, and encourager that helps customers succeed in their weight-management goals by building trust.

Beyond just a piece of marketing strategy, the Trusted Coach serves as an effective tool for all employees, no matter their role in the WW customer journey.

For WW marketers, the archetype serves as a sounding board to ensure that all communications are motivating, empathetic, and personal. It defines the brand personality, tone, and writing style in a way that ensures consistency and optimizes consumer interactions.

For the product team, the archetype serves as a filter to make sure product innovations serve to build members’ behavior-change skills, and collect and communicate information that’s useful for their personal journeys. In other words, if a product enhancement or new product does not align with the actions of a Trusted Coach, it’s taking the brand off course.

For meeting leaders, the archetype serves as a guardrail for how to interact with meeting attendees. Most people have probably had good coaches and bad coaches in their lives, but the more effective and motivating ones build trust. For WW meeting leaders, this translates as listening, teaching, showing empathy, and being a team builder.

Defining Brand Archetypes

Just as WW’s brand archetype evolved from Jung’s Caregiver archetype into the Trusted Coach, use Jung’s archetypes as a baseline model and first step in defining your brand’s archetype. From there, refine the baseline archetype into testable concepts, using your brand idea as both a filter and source of inspiration as you brainstorm.

Post-testing, don’t let your brand archetype sit forgotten in a server document; train your teams and new employees on how a brand archetype can be used to create and maintain a branded customer experience.

Humans have an inherent ability to identify and understand archetypes, and they are drawn to brands that have more clearly defined their archetypes. With a brand archetype in place, your team will not only benefit from a helpful tool for creating consistent brand experiences but infuse humanity and inspiration into your brand’s vision.

Curating a compelling branded experience is not an easy task, but it can be ameliorated by defining a brand archetype, the connective tissue of the customer journey. How else can you define, differentiate, and deliver a branded customer experience? To be continued in Part 6 of our series.


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