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Brand Archetypes — Meet the Jester

Nyla Smith | Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Who doesn’t like to have fun?! The role of the Jester archetype is to bring everybody together to play and appreciate the joy in life. As the ultimate entertainer, the Jester is able to make people feel good — a feeling that any brand would like to have associated with it.

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 Jester

The Jester

  • Promise: If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong.
  • Core desire: To live in the moment with full enjoyment
  • Goal: To have a great time and lighten up the world
  • Fear: Boredom or being boring
  • Strategy: Be funny and playful
  • Gift: Joy
  • Motivation: Belonging

The Jester archetype represents living in the here and now. The life of the party, the Jester just wants people to lighten up and enjoy themselves! The Jester allows others to connect with their fun inner child — impulsive and unrestrained, not afraid to bend rules, not afraid to stand out, and comfortable in their own skin.

The Jester also has the ability to think outside the box, which leads to innovative ideas. This means the Jester is a master at brainstorming, reframing concepts, and presenting new perspectives. For example, a typical Jester M.O. would be to present a social issue or political agenda in a new light to highlight its underlying absurdity. Comedians are an obvious example of the Jester, but is certainly not the only category that identifies as this archetype.

The Jester Brand in Action

Jester brands tend to grab attention. The biggest draw is usually its cleverness. While Jester brands are commonly expressed in entertainment, you can also find them expressed in industries such as insurance. Geico or Progressive come to mind, both of which chose to take a more light-hearted approach in an otherwise serious industry.

Jester brands are not afraid to bend rules or be politically incorrect, and that can be reflected in brands making light of things that are perhaps actually serious issues, or promoting something that is not actually good for you. We all know candy isn’t healthy, but let’s face it, those M&M'S commercials featuring the talking candy characters of Red, Yellow, and Ms. Brown are humorous enough to make us forget all about that.

The marketing of Jester brands may be unconventional, silly, or over-the-top. Often bright colors are used and the action is high-energy. Jester brands may be especially drawn to utilizing virtual experiences like interactive websites or augmented reality apps.

The organizational culture for Jester brands is loose and fun-loving. Traditional “corporate” rules don’t apply here. Jester brands create their own way of doing things, and due to their out-of-the-box thinking, the culture is highly innovative in their operations or product offerings.

The Different Levels of the Jester Archetype

There are levels to each of the 12 different archetypes. The lower levels are less mature while higher levels are more developed.

Level 1: The Jester expressed at level one sees life as a game. The only important thing is to just have fun!

Level 2: Level two is more advanced. Here, the Jester is expressed by combining fun with resourcefulness/intelligence (resulting in things like practical jokes, or finding ways to get around rules). This is where the cleverness and innovation is developed.

Level 3: At the highest level, the Jester knows that life is lived in the moment. If all we have is today, we should live each day to the fullest.

All in the Family

There are different aspects of the Jester archetype that can emerge, based on the strength of various attributes. The book Archetypes in Branding breaks the archetype down into sub-archetypes for a total of five (including the primary Jester) to round out the family.

  1. Jester
    Life is a playground for the Jester. With a penchant for irreverent antics, and an appreciation for the same, the Jester lives fully in each moment. Able to reframe perspectives and unafraid to speak out, the Jester can challenge convention in refreshing ways. The challenge facing the Jester is that of being too insensitive or insolent.

  2. Entertainer
    The Entertainer is playful and caters to an audience. Giving people a good show is all that matters. Quick-witted and highly adaptable, the Entertainer needs constant stimulation and feedback.

  3. Clown
    The Clown hides behind a mask in order to distance itself from serious or taboo topics in order to explore them. Highlighting the absurd in this way allows the Clown to poke fun and entertain at the same time. This sub-archetype is prone to exaggeration and drama to make others laugh.

  4. Provocateur
    The Provocateur may be controversial and polarizing, but does so with the charm and charisma that makes it a Jester sub-archetype. Of course the challenge for the Provocateur is to not come off as rude and offensive. But as a natural communicator and with an in-your-face mentality, the Provocateur stirs up change.

  5. Shapeshifter
    The Shapeshifter acts as a chameleon, able to navigate varying situations and levels of consciousness. Challenging others to question assumptions, this sub-archetype is a catalyst to help others see things differently. The weakness for the Shapeshifter is the inherent instability that comes with being so adaptable.

Real World Examples of Jester Brands

Progressive

Progressive's spokesperson Flo is quirky and silly... exactly what insurance is not. Yet, by aligning with this positioning, Progressive lives up to its name and gives people a new way to relate to insurance. Their "Name Your Price" tool (referred to in the video below) is a result of innovative out-of-the-box thinking by the company in 2009, when it was predicted people would cancel their coverage altogether to save costs during the economic downturn.


M&M'S / Geico

In a crossover commercial between two Jester brands, familiar M&M'S and Geico characters meet in an unexpected and clever ad.


Jimmy Fallon

Late night talk shows have Jester written all over them, and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon is no exception. While Jimmy Fallon himself has an Everyman appeal, first and foremost he just likes having fun. If you've never heard Fallon talk about why he does what he does, he sums up his purpose here: “…If anyone is suffering at all, this is my job. I’m here to make you laugh. I want to make you have a good time.” His method of making the world a better place is to "make you laugh and put a smile on your face, so that you can… live a longer life. Isn't that the whole goal of what we're doing — have fun?"


The Onion

Satirical news source The Onion takes current issues and presents them through the lens of the ludicrous… of course girded by the unnerving undercurrent of reality. Sometimes blurring the line of political correctness with taboo topics or reporting style, The Onion shows it is not afraid to speak on any news. In the humorous video segment below, they subtly highlight the point that no one actually knows what "the cloud" is.


The Jester Consumer

Jester consumers tend to be a younger demographic, though of course, there are people of all ages who seem to be perpetually “young at heart”. Jester consumers are turned off by serious topics or people who are too serious, so they tend to flock together with others of similar “carpe diem” attitude. They will avoid doing things that are boring, even if those things are important.

Therefore, to market effectively to Jester consumers, brands must find ways to be relevant and cutting edge in how and what they communicate. This is especially true if a brand wants Jester consumers to do something serious (like buy insurance) — it will need to find a way to reframe the desired action to be more in line with the Jester mindset and attention span. The zanier the better! Jester consumers appreciate creativity and cleverness.

Is Your Brand a Jester?

Does your brand help people enjoy life or live in the moment? Do you have a fun-loving culture? Is being clever or quirky a method you use to help people see something differently? If so, you may be a Jester brand.

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 12 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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