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Brand Archetypes — Meet the Innocent

Nyla Smith | Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The cute kid, the dreamer, the optimist, the do-gooder. What do they all have in common? They are manifestations of the Innocent brand archetype, used by corporations to speak to two often unmet needs in our fast-paced, hectic lives – simplicity and happiness.

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 Innocent

The Innocent

  • Promise: Life doesn't have to be hard. Keep it simple.
  • Core desire: To experience paradise
  • Goal: To be happy
  • Fear: Doing something wrong that will provoke punishment
  • Strategy: Do things right
  • Gift: Faith and optimism
  • Motivation: Independence and fulfillment

The Innocent is an eternal optimist who always sees the good in people and in life. Purity is at the heart of every action, and as a result the Innocent believes in redemption and lacks guile. Free of corruption, the Innocent seeks the promise of paradise.

This brand archetype is associated with simple pleasures and wholesomeness. With our busy lifestyles, we are attracted to the focus on simplicity. For prime examples of the Innocent archetype, look no further than Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, Ronald McDonald, Real Simple magazine, and Coca-Cola.

The Innocent in Action

The Innocent archetype is most prevalent with mom-and-pop shops, nonprofit organizations, and churches. Their marketing often appeals to the nostalgia of simpler times and may use muted color palettes and gentle imagery.

The products behind Innocent brands are quite often natural or pure (e.g. cotton, soap, organic foods). The organizational culture and customer service is focused on being truthful, honest, and reliable. Generally not very innovative, these companies stick to what works and is predictable. Pricing tends to be low to moderate.

The Different Levels of the Innocent Archetype

Each of the 12 different archetypes has levels. The lower levels are less mature while higher levels are more developed.

Level 1 of the Innocent brand archetype includes people who feel paradise is their birthright and not having it makes them angry. They are defined by a childlike perspective and traits such as naïvete and narcissism.

Level 2 is the midpoint in the process of achieving innocence that focuses on renewal, reframing, and cleansing. People at this level are still searching for paradise but haven't quite found it yet. Innocents at level 2 are seeking to reinvent or renew themselves through new beginnings.

Level 3 belongs to the most highly evolved Innocents who believe that people make choices for a simpler, values-driven lifestyle and as a result create their own paradise and sense of spiritual oneness. The belief is that innocence (paradise) comes from within, not from outer experiences.

All in the Family

Within the Innocent family are many different angles of the archetype. The book Archetypes in Branding breaks these nuances down into sub-archetypes (including the primary Innocent archetype) for a total of five.

  1. Innocent
    With an unbridled sense of wonder, the Innocent sees the world as honest and wholesome. This sub-archetype embodies a sense of renewal, inner peace, and nostalgia. It is pure, virtuous, and faultless. The challenge it faces is the tendency to avoid or deny problems.

  2. Child
    Bursting with energy and a positive attitude, the Child is easily amused, entertained, or fascinated. The Child demonstrates a relentless belief in the goodness of humanity and is open to possibilities. Its curious nature tends to bring out the best in others. Challenges exist in that the Child is easily influenced and unable to grow up and assume responsibility.

  3. Dreamer
    With the ability to be swept away by possibilities, the Dreamer communicates abstract ideas with the help of a vivid imagination. Possessing the faith of a child, this brand archetype prefers to live in the paradise of the mind. However, it lacks the structure necessary to execute ideas in the real world.

  4. Idealist
    The Idealist is driven by the belief that the individual can make the world a better place and believes in the possibility of positive change. Motivated by the ideals of harmony and peace, cooperation and collaboration, the Idealist acts as a catalyst for positive change. Unfortunately, the Idealist tends to view the world through rose-colored glasses and chooses not to see potential dangers.

  5. Muse
    As its name implies, the Muse is a source of inspiration and serves as a conduit to knowledge and understanding. Although the Muse excels at motivation, its unfocused energy can sometimes bring chaos.

Real world Example of the Innocent Brand: Coca-Cola

Even though the product itself is not wholesome (here, have an artifically flavored glass of sugar and acid that will rot your teeth and give you diabetes!), the company still positions its brand as an Innocent (remember, branding is all about perception and meaning) and the world believes it. During WWII Coca-Cola was marketed as a cool, refreshing, nonalcoholic drink for soldiers and soon the bubbly brown beverage became directly associated with American idealism.

In 1971, Coke rolled out one of their most well-known campaigns. Singing about wanting to buy the world a Coke, a diverse group of individuals, glass bottles in hand, extolled the product’s diplomatic virtues. With the slogan “It’s the real thing,” Coke aimed to unite the countries of the world through carbonation.

Another commercial shows that even during the busiest moments of parenthood, a cold Coke equates to a simple moment to breathe – and accompanies a pregnancy announcement. For soda drinker, this is happiness epitomized.

Switching between the perspectives of a 100-year-old man and a new baby arriving in the world, a third commercial reflects the ideals of the most developed level of the Innocent. The centenarian narrator tugs on heartstrings as he travels from his island home to the city and speaks about a self-realized paradise, one in which relationships are what is important in life and happiness comes from within. In an interesting twist, this commercial also speaks to the lower level of the Innocent archetype which believes that “happiness is your birthright.”

And finally, in true Innocent fashion, the company used a childlike commercial, complete with sweet polar bears and a cuddly cub, to prove that Coke does, indeed, make everything alright.

The Innocent Consumer

Consumers drawn to the Innocent brands are looking for products that provide an experience of peace and goodness. They like brands that make life simple and when they find a brand they can trust they are loyal to it. These consumers long to have the ideal life, complete with a perfect mate, well-behaved kids, a fulfilling job, and a nice home. They strive for goodness, are very often trusting, and have a great deal of faith in others. They are a traditional lot and do not seek change.

Is Your Brand an Innocent?

Ask yourself: Is the goal of your company to help people find or realize happiness? Does your company value simplicity and ethics? If you answered yes, it is very likely your brand is an Innocent. To get the most from your marketing dollars, you should do all you can to communicate these values to customers.

Still not sure which archetype defines your brand? Take the brand archetype quiz to find out your results and then check out an overview of the 12 brand archetypes to learn more.

Nyla Smith is a Graphic Designer, Web Designer, Front-End Web Developer and Consultant with over 13 years of experience. She is the owner of n-Vision Designs, LLC in Hampton, Virginia, which exists to provide marketing support and brand consulting to small- and medium-sized businesses needing creative solutions. Contact Nyla if you'd like to discuss your next creative project. She can usually be bribed to a meeting with a cup of green tea and an oatmeal cookie.
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