Seemingly oxymoronic by nature, the Creator archetype desires freedom while at the same time deeply motivated by control. Hanging in this delicate balance, we find visionary and innovative brands that value imagination and self-expression, particularly in the fields of the arts, design, marketing, and technology.
This post is a part of a series on the 12 Brand Archetypes and how to use them to build a stronger brand. To learn more, read the introduction here.
All About the Creator
- Promise: Trust the creative process. Express yourself.
- Core desire: To create something of enduring value
- Goal: To give form to a vision
- Fear: Having a mediocre vision or execution
- Strategy: Develop artistic/technical skill
- Gift: Creativity and imagination
- Motivation: Stability and control
The Creator archetype contributes to society and provides structure to the world by bringing something into being — by realizing a vision. The Creator
gets deep satisfaction from both the process and the outcome of creating something that did not previously exist. This archetype trusts in the creative
process above all else and lives for authentic self-expression. The inventor, artist, writer, and entrepreneur are representative of the Creator archetype.
Inherently non-conformist and sometimes self-involved, this archetype desires freedom of expression and doesn’t like to feel stifled. At the core for the Creator is this reality: the act of structuring something into tangible form is an outlet — a way to exert control in an otherwise uncontrollable world.
The Creator Brand in Action
The Creator archetype is a natural fit for many marketing, design, and technology brands. But any brand that dismantles old systems or processes and creates something new in its place would be expressing the Creator archetype. Organizational consultants fit this bill quite nicely. Brands that focus on self-expression of any sort exemplify the Creator archetype. You may recognize the Creator in brands such as Crayola, Good Housekeeping magazine, Sony, YouTube, and Pinterest.
The marketing of Creator brands is often extremely aesthetic and may seem to be works of art in and of themselves. For product-centric brands, the marketing may actually, in word or image, compare their products to high-end artwork in order to evoke equivalent expressions of appreciation and awe.
The internal culture of a Creator brand is focused on innovation and quality. High value is placed on both the creative process and the outcome.
The organizational structure of a Creator brand, whether loose or ordered, is always collaborative. Teamwork and brainstorming sessions are critical, yet must still allow employees autonomy and the freedom to create.
For a Creator brand's offerings, pricing may be mid to high, however, the bottom line is often focused on beauty or enduring value just as much as money.
The Creator Consumer
Trying to appeal to a Creator target market? Know that the Creator consumer is intolerant of cheap, mass-produced junk. This makes sense because Creator consumers demonstrate their taste and quality standards by the things they buy. In other words, they buy expensive items not to impress others, but to express how much they love beautiful and high-quality things. Purchases, like anything else for the Creator consumer, are a means of self-expression.
While upscale products with beautiful design will win the appreciation of Creator consumers, this does not mean Creators are snobs that only purchase high-ticket items. On the contrary, you may find Creator consumers at flea markets looking for the latest bargain to turn into their next project. The Creator consumer is a 'do-er' and this manifests itself in many ways — gardening, woodworking, sewing, or decorating the house, for example. DIY projects and beautifying their surroundings are activities the Creator consumer is drawn to.
If marketing to a Creator archetype, know that the Creator can be awakened in many of us —particularly in turbulent times. This instinct speaks to the need to control our world by creating our own environment. The more out-of-control the world feels, the more people crave the outlet of creating and self-expression. It becomes a form of healing and stability.
The Different Levels of the Creator Archetype
Each archetype has levels. The lower levels are less advanced, while higher levels are more evolved or developed.
Level 1: At its most basic, the Creator archetype is expressed by the act of creating, but not truly innovating. At level 1, “creativity” happens by simply imitating others.
Level 2: Once able to move past imitation, and starting to give form to one’s own vision, the archetype begins to express authenticity. The process is deeper and more introspective, coming from within instead of looking at what is already out there.
Level 3: At its highest level, the Creator archetype fosters true innovation and beauty, and creates something enduring that is able to influence society.
All in the Family
There are different aspects of the Creator archetype that can emerge, based on the strength of various attributes. The book Archetypes in Branding breaks down the Creator into sub-archetypes (including the primary Creator) for a total of five to round out the family. The thread that runs through this family is one of imagination and realizing the intangible.
A passionate need for self-expression is the defining characteristic of the Creator. While highly imaginative with non-linear thought patterns, the Creator might be whimsical but should not be mistaken for flighty. On the contrary, you will find a Creator to be highly dedicated and achievement-oriented, with a highly developed aesthetic. Not surprisingly, perfectionism can cripple the Creator, along with fears of judgement and mediocrity.
The Visionary, insightful and perceptive, is often a very good strategist. Bringing an enlightened perspective along with a great imagination, this sub-archetype is able to see the potential for the greater good that others may not realize. However, the Visionary must avoid the temptation to shift the vision to control the outcome or to please other people.
When imagination is combined with the gift of communicating, the Storyteller sub-archetype emerges. The Storyteller thrives on dramatic expression, and is capable of bringing to life ideas and concepts that allow people to connect to something on a deeper level. Naturally, the temptation to tell tall tales is a challenge for the Storyteller. Exaggeration or misinformation for the purpose of a good story or to manipulate an outcome must be kept in check.
The Artist sub-archetype channels the intangible into a tangible form. With a deep psychological need to express itself, the Artist is often very emotional and deeply inspired. This sub-archetype, with an inborn curiosity and a playfulness, will bring an unorthodox perspective that challenges the norm. The challenges facing the Artist are a fear of failure, or taking on too much. It should also be careful not to fall into the stereotypes of the starving artist or mad genius.
Often displaying traits of a Type A personality, the Entrepreneur is achievement-oriented and ambitious. Led by a vision, this innovative self-starter is strong at generating ideas and thrives on turning dreams into reality. Unfortunately, the Entrepreneur may have a difficult time following through once the adrenaline wears off.
Real World Example of the Creator Brand: Adobe
Adobe Systems Incorporated is a prime example of a Creator brand. With core values of being genuine, exceptional, innovative, and involved, Adobe's corporate responsibility revolves around the belief that creativity is the catalyst for positive change.
Internally, Adobe epitomizes a Creator brand. From their internal innovation process (which they’ve packaged up as “innovation-in-a-box” and made available to the public) to abolishing the employee performance review in order to foster a less competitive, more creative atmosphere, they live out their values every day.
Adobe is probably best known to the general public for their software Photoshop, the image editing software whose very name has become synonymous for manipulating photos. As the industry-standard for creative digital work, Adobe brings out the Creator in all of us, at various levels.
Tutorials abound for using Adobe’s software, like "How to Create a Pencil Drawing From a Photo In Photoshop" on their YouTube channel. Remember in Level 1, the archetype is expressed by imitating others. By watching Adobe's tutorial, you can do exactly what the pros do, and gain satisfaction from creating, even if you aren't exactly innovating.
Adobe’s video series "Get Inspired by…" looks at the work of creatives and how they use Adobe products to realize their visions. With beautiful aesthetic and production, the videos themselves are works of art. While these videos will appeal to Level 1 of the archetype who hope to be able to emulate the process; they actually speak to all levels of the Creator archetype. Imagination and inspiration are key for a Creator at every stage of development, and Adobe is keenly aware of this.
Adobe and FEED Foundation, an organization whose mission is to end world hunger, came together in a 7-day challenge to design FEED’s 2015 holiday campaign. Operating on Level 3 of the archetype, Adobe is partnering to create something of true value to impact society. Part of Adobe’s statement announcing the challenge recognizes this: "As design plays an increasingly important role in business, we're seeing a new breed of entrepreneurs emerge: those who put design at the heart of their product and business strategy and couple it with a desire to profoundly impact the world at large."
Is Your Brand a Creator?
You don't have to be in art or design to be a Creator brand. Look past the obvious creative fields and ask yourself – do you value beauty and quality? Do you offer consumers ways to re-create or re-imagine something? If your product or service allows others to express themselves, encourages DIY projects, or helps foster innovation, your brand may be a Creator archetype.