Visual Storytelling: Meet the archetypes

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Consumers today are constantly switched on. While we continue to see shifts in how and where consumers enjoy media and how much time they spend on different platforms, it is clear that a life that is more connected creates an ever-growing set of opportunities for media companies as well as advertisers to reach and engage audiences.

Many platforms that consumers increasingly enjoy focus on visual content, both still and moving images, which is why brands need to start including these formats in a more meaningful way in their communication. 

 

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A shift to visual storytelling presents plenty of prospects for advertisers and marketers, as a cohesive story told through strong visual content across multiple platforms encourages a deep relationship with fans and customers.

An important element of human storytelling throughout history has been the concept of archetypes. These classic characters and storylines are still powerful today and can be used as a source of inspiration when creating engaging communications. 

All work that is done using the idea of archetypes today builds on the work of Carl Jung, who coined the term to define the underlying psychological patterns that frequently appear in mythology, sacred texts, folklore, art and popular culture. For Jung, archetypes were ‘pieces of life itself’; they showed an emotional connection of the individual to the collective unconscious.

 

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This connection and universality is what makes archetypes such a powerful tool for branding, advertising and marketing. These archetypal tales are so strong because they talk about genuine, shared human needs. We tell and re-tell those stories because they provide some clues to understanding human experiences and motivations. 

Today our stories are no longer told sitting around a fire, they are not all captured in books or movies - technology has given us the tools to share our stories and really bring characters to life. Using the craft of storytelling, working with archetypes and bringing those classic characters to life through visual storytelling across different formats and platforms creates an engaging experience for the audience, draws viewers in and builds great brands.

 

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Three key storytelling archetypes for storytelling by brands:

The Caregiver

‘The Caregiver’ archetype is stereotypically female and is often associated with maternal roles, but it is also present in characters that advocate on behalf of others. Caregivers are compassionate, nurturing and dedicated. Think of some characters in popular movies, like Mary Poppins, Mrs. Doubtfire and Driss in The Intouchables - they are all based on ‘The Caregiver’ and illustrate how the representation of this archetype develops and changes over time. 

While traditionally adverts targeting the caregiver in the family, show parents mastering everyday life from preparing breakfast to washing laundry to cleaning the house, P&G’s ‘Thank You, Mum’ campaign highlight how the encouragement of our mothers makes us stronger.

We also see this archetype come through in other ways, for example in corporate initiatives that highlight the need to support local communities, like Citi Bank’s campaign highlighting ‘the progress makers’ or in all businesses that have a ‘social’ and ‘caring’ element at their core, like Toms Shoes.

Discover images portraying the Caregiver archetype

 

The Explorer

Explorers are adventurers, pioneers and wanderers that are independent and curious. There are plenty of examples in literature and popular culture, a prominent one for sure is Indiana Jones. And while explorers stereotypically are represented as male characters, we increasingly see girls and women being shown as curious and adventurous, like Dora the Explorer. 

The current Hunter campaign focuses on the ‘Everyday Pioneer’ and connects the brand’s heritage in interesting ways to a modern interpretation of this archetype that involves the audience in the content creation on social channels using the hashtag #beapioneer.

Browse images representing the Explorer archetype 

 

The Creator

‘The Creator’ archetype is expressive, imaginative and inventive – think of characters like Pinocchio’s Geppetto or Doc Brown in Back to the Future. The content connected to this archetype spans widely from images of artists, craftsmen, and inventive kids to the genius scientist. 

Lego’s ‘Let’s Build’ TV commercial is a great example that shows father and son being creative with building blocks, they are ‘a team bound by blood, Nan’s knitwear and [their] imagination’.

In many ways this archetype is becoming more important to us today, as all of us become creators, curators and publishers of content, and technology companies provide us with the tools to create and encourage us to create and share our work, like the current Apple iPad Air campaign highlights.

Luxury companies that connect their products to the idea of great design and creativity also use this theme in their advertising and marketing messaging, like Rolex’s interesting initiative Mentors & Protégés that supports young talent by connecting them to well-known creative mentors. 

View images portraying the Creator archetype 

 

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Key takeaways:

  • Remember: Consumers enjoy platforms that focus on visual content!
  • Brand stories told through strong visuals across formats enables brands to better connect with consumers.
  • The concept of archetypes holds inspiration and helps advertisers and marketers to bring their brands to life.

Browse a selection of images portraying the three classic storytelling archetypes.

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