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Archetypes and Storyselling

In the bustling world of endless business meetings and pitches, one timeless truth remains: storyselling (selling your message through a story) is the beating heart of effective communication. Stories have the power to captivate, inspire, and resonate with audiences on a profound level.

Yet, in our quest to craft compelling narratives, we often overlook one of the most potent tools in the storyseller's arsenal – archetypes. These universal symbols and characters have been woven into the fabric of human culture for centuries, and they hold the key to unlocking a deeper connection with our audiences.

What are archetypes?

Archetypes are universal symbols, themes, or characters that appear repeatedly in myths, stories, and cultural narratives across different societies and time periods. These symbols and characters have a profound and often instinctual resonance with people because they tap into fundamental aspects of the human experience.

Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung introduced the concept of archetypes as part of his analytical psychology theory, suggesting that they are part of the collective unconscious shared by all humans.

Archetypes serve as templates or blueprints for characters, situations, or themes that we encounter in storytelling. They often represent fundamental human motivations, desires, fears, and conflicts. Here are some common archetypes you might encounter in literature, mythology, and storytelling:

Heroes are a useful archetype.
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The Hero: The Hero archetype represents the protagonist who embarks on a journey or quest, facing challenges and obstacles to achieve a goal. Examples include King Arthur, Harry Potter, and Frodo Baggins.

The Mentor: The Mentor is a wise and experienced figure who guides and imparts knowledge to the hero. Notable mentors include Gandalf from "The Lord of the Rings" and Obi-Wan Kenobi from "Star Wars."

The Villain: The Villain is the antagonist who opposes the hero, often driven by power, greed, or malevolence. Familiar villains include the Wicked Witch of the West and Darth Vader.

The Damsel in Distress: This archetype represents a character, typically female, in need of rescue or protection. Examples include Cinderella and Princess Peach from the Mario series.

The Jester: The Jester archetype provides comic relief and light-heartedness in a story. They often challenge the status quo and bring humor to serious situations. The Joker from Batman is a classic example.

The Sage: The Sage is a wise and knowledgeable character who imparts wisdom and guidance. Examples include Yoda from "Star Wars" and Dumbledore from "Harry Potter."

The Rebel: Rebels are characters who challenge authority and seek to bring about change or revolution. Luke Skywalker and Katniss Everdeen from "The Hunger Games" are rebel archetypes.

The Explorer: The Explorer is driven by a deep desire for adventure and new experiences. This archetype is embodied by characters like Indiana Jones and Lara Croft.

The Lover: The Lover archetype represents deep emotional connections, often involving themes of romance and passion. Characters like Romeo and Juliet embody this archetype.

The Everyman: The Everyman is a relatable, average character who becomes a hero through their ordinary actions. Forrest Gump is a classic Everyman archetype.

Archetypes are powerful tools for storytellers because they tap into shared human experiences and emotions, making stories more relatable and resonant. By using archetypes effectively, communicators and marketers can create narratives that deeply connect with their target audiences, invoking familiar and meaningful themes that transcend cultural boundaries.

The operative word here behind the use of archetypes is “relatability”. To increase your relatability and thereby deepen your connection with your audience, your choice of an archetype must be derived from 3 powerful keys:

3 Powerful Keys to Selecting Your Archetype

Here are three powerful points to consider when choosing an archetype for your brand or storytelling:

1. Understand Your Audience:

To select the most effective archetype, it's crucial to have a deep understanding of your target audience. Consider their demographics, psychographics, values, and aspirations. The archetype you choose should resonate with your audience's beliefs and desires. For example, if your audience consists of adventurous and outdoorsy individuals, the Explorer archetype might be a strong choice. If they value tradition and stability, the Sage or Everyman archetype might be more appropriate. Aligning your archetype with your audience's worldview increases the likelihood of forging a meaningful connection.

2. Reflect Your Values and Identity:

Your chosen archetype should align with your core values and identity. If you are a brand communicator, then the alignment should be towards the brand’s core values and identity, and a natural extension of what the brand represents. For instance, if your brand is all about innovation and pushing boundaries, the Rebel archetype might be a good fit. If you emphasize trustworthiness and reliability, consider the Mentor or Sage archetype. A harmonious connection between your brand's essence and your chosen archetype ensures authenticity and credibility in your storytelling.

3. Consider Archetypal Combinations:

Don't feel limited to selecting just one archetype. Sometimes, a combination of archetypes can provide a richer and more nuanced narrative. For example, if you are pitching a product of a particular brand, you might consider combining the Hero and the Sage archetypes to portray themselves as a knowledgeable guide that helps customers overcome challenges. Experimenting with archetypal combinations allows you to create a unique and memorable brand persona that stands out in your industry. Just be sure the combination makes sense and doesn't dilute your core message.

Incorporating archetypes into your storyselling strategy can be a potent way to connect with your audience on a deep emotional level and differentiate your message in a crowded marketplace.

*If you need someone to come alongside you in the area of preparing a speech, keynote message, or pitch deck, please reach out to us at

Copyright SYL+JAS (c) 2023. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or rewritten in any form without expressed permission from the agency.


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