I started investigating Branding and found it would be a relevant angle to bring in people I admire and look up to for their work and eye ethic towards Branding. My goal is to demystify the word Branding so that anyone can fully understand its paradoxes and implement their version of Branding.
By collecting an eclectic panel of definitions and visions of what Branding is and implies from those who do Branding, use Branding, expand Branding: Brand revealers.
I became acquainted with Kaye Putman through a French author who wrote a book on Carl Jung. I was fascinated by the concept of the archetype in general and began researching it. During my research, I came across Kaye's work and her quiz. This is how I discovered her mastery, processes, and playful yet strategic vision of branding, which I believe can be incredibly useful, healing and pivotal in brand growth.
We all resonate with her elegance, confidence, and groundedness. She reminds us that we have the capacity to embody our brand and infuse it with life. We can use our brand as a channel to express ourselves with depth and authenticity.
Kaye's approach using the branding archetype quiz is a tool for brand builders to acknowledge and work with.
Let’s start with big brands that have the capacity to dive into new archetypes. Do smaller entrepreneurs have to mimic that level of adventure?
For big brands that we know and love, such as Nike and the motorcycle brand—Harley Davidson, their primary archetypes are the Hero and the Rebel or Maverick, respectively. They are known, loved, and held in the collective consciousness of people because they’ve stuck with one archetype for so long. We have to emulate that part more than the flexibility they exhibit.
We, as small entrepreneurs, don’t have the massive body of work or experience people have built with these big brands because they have massive budgets.
We don't get to have the flagship brand experience or physical locations where people can literally step into our brands. We don’t see our logo on people's apparel and shoes, billboards, and everything else. We have a much smaller playground to express ourselves. Big brands, on the other hand, have many brand touch points people come in contact with.
They have more flexibility to play around creatively. However, they still return to their core messages again and again. Even if they deviate from it for a commercial or campaign, they come back to it.
That’s the more important lesson to take from these big brands.
Let's talk about bouncing back from a branding process that’s not authentic or working.
How do you overcome that?
That’s something a lot of brands are grappling with. With all the challenges and things shifting in the world and the culture we operate in, there’s more danger than ever for a brand to misstep. Either in its messaging or the way it shows up.
Whenever we think about either shifting or repositioning or recovering from some mistakes or events, we have to remember there’s a sort of indoctrination period. Whenever I’m working with clients undergoing rebranding and they want to pivot or change their message or position in the market, we have to understand there’s a period needed to increase communication and the brand’s touchpoints.
So we can re-educate people about what the brand truly stands for. You have to be patient and dedicate time and effort to telling the market what we stand for.
For anyone recovering from a challenge or shifting into a new evolution of who they are, make sure you plan to dedicate energy and resources to letting people know what your new message is.
It’s funny how it’s two-sided. You educate yourself to grasp the core of what you do, and you have to transmit it to the audience.
Here’s an illustration: think about the midlife crisis the cliche middle-aged man sometimes goes through. There’s always this process where we’re evolving on the inside. And it gets to a point where we get uncomfortable because it conflicts with who we are on the outside. It happens with brands and entrepreneurs all the time. We stay in our comfort zones, but on the inside, we’re evolving massively.
Finally, there comes a breaking point, and the middle-aged man buys a convertible or something else to make a big announcement to the world that he’s now changed. We, as brands, can do the same thing. We can have a big shift in our visuals or design or the intensity with which we show up. Then we can now broadcast that we’re a different brand or we’ve evolved in some way and let those on the outside catch up to what has been happening on the inside.
Right. You created this playful and innovative solution—the brand quiz. Is it something you advise your clients and students to take control of and use to spread that change?
Yes, I created the brand archetype quiz back in 2013. I shared it widely, and it’s such a fantastic shortcut. I needed to know who I was on a core and internal level. I needed a tool that was outside of myself and objective, that could give me an idea or reflect what my greatest strengths were.
The brand quiz is a fantastic way to find direction or a starting point for the emotional and gut reasons why someone would choose to work with you as an entrepreneur or a brand. It’s a great place to start honing in on what your message is.
A lot of people like the idea of a quiz—it’s like a discovery, and you’re excited about what’s at the end, especially women. They are used to doing them through magazines and personality tests. I want to know if you’ve noticed a gender difference in the people who take your quizzes.
Is this something you discovered through research—that more men or women use quizzes?
My audience is about 75% female, and I don’t know if it’s because of the quiz or how I present myself online. As a personal brand, I talk a lot about being a mother and other things that probably resonate more with women. That might be part of it as well. It’s an interesting hypothesis, and I wonder if that’s the case for other people’s quizzes.
We should dive into that—the culture around women and how we have to know ourselves.
As women, in particular, there are so many messages about what we should be, how we should be, how we should talk, and how to present ourselves. There is so much external to us that’s trying to answer those questions. I think, naturally, we desire to answer those questions for ourselves truthfully and authentically. Maybe that’s why quizzes are so popular with women. I’m not sure.
Listening to you, I can sense how challenging but, at the same time, empowering it is for a woman to stand as a brand.
Looking at the archetypes—the Lover, Magician, Sage, Hero, and others; some lean into the masculine energy and others more into the feminine energy. From your students and clients’ points of view, how do you think women engage with an archetype like the Hero? Do you see any change or phase?
It’s always interesting when such happens. It happens on the flip side too. Sometimes, men will fall into either the Caregiver or the Lover, or the Innocent archetypes. And they have the same question—those things tend to be stereotypically represented by feminine attributes and energy.
There will always be a process of taking the core truth of each archetype and looking at the wide range of examples of how it is expressed, then choosing what resonates with you. Not every representation of an archetype will resonate with every person, even if it’s their primary archetype.
There’s this curation process where you get to be like a museum curator or art director for your brand, where you choose what you resonate with. We can come back to the core ideas of the archetypes and come up with our examples and expressions of them.
For example, the Hero is often the action-oriented one. They focus on overcoming challenges and adversity. Also, they are the ones who tend to speak up for others who don’t have a voice. They are willing to go out and slay the proverbial dragon to save the rest of the community. We can take those big ideas and find the expressions of those that fit us.
Maybe you’re seeing certain entrepreneurs who are underserved in a market and often overlooked. You could make it your crusade, a part of your story and message that you’re going out and giving them a voice—a chance to shine. That’s just an example of taking the core idea. We can then shift and make it fit whatever we’re doing as a brand.
Interesting. Let’s talk about your beginnings and how you stumbled on the archetypes.
I’m a marketer by education; I have a degree in marketing. I got a psychology minor during my college days, and I’ve always been curious about why humans make decisions. Equipped with a marketing degree, I set out and started working in different roles. First in a traditional marketing agency and later in a digital marketing agency.
Working with clients, I got to apply what I had learned in college. And what I found out was; when we constructed the best marketing strategy for some clients, it worked well—they had great ROI. But for other clients, it just fizzled and fell flat. It was gut-wrenching for me as a marketing specialist. I’m supposed to be helping these clients, and it’s just not working.
We had the right amount of operations, good direct call-to-action copywriting, and all these things they say you should have. Other entrepreneurs must have experienced something similar. You might apply a marketing strategy you’ve been taught literally to the letter and get dramatically different results from that of the person you learned it from. I realized I was missing something, and I set out to find out what it was.
As I mentioned earlier, I was interested in psychology, and I thought there was something deep-seated that determines whether a brand fizzles and falls flat or does amazing. I started digging through the dark corners of the web. I was looking at the science of persuasion and the science of influence. None of that sat well with me because it wasn’t about tricking people into making decisions or buying a specific brand. That wasn’t a long-term advantage.
In a rabbit hole of internet links, sometime back in 2012, I stumbled on a website. It didn’t look credible at all. It looked like it was built on Angelfire or GeoCities for the OG internet humans. On it was a list of twelve archetypes, and they each had specific motivations, values, and fears.
It was a lightbulb moment when I could identify the successful brands I had seen and was trying to model. I could see what archetypes they were, and most of the time, they were just a single strong archetype.
On occasion, they were a blend of two but never more than that. They had a clear position using this framework. I then began to see how it connected to their massive audiences on a deep-seated psychological level. And ever since, I’ve been hooked on brand archetypes.
Do you remember the name of the website by any chance?
I went back to try and find it, which I did. I found it on page 27 of the Google search. It wasn’t memorable. It wasn’t any of the popular ones now that talk about brand archetypes. It was an amateur-looking site.
I now know that the names of the archetypes came from Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson’s the Hero and the Outlaw book. And I also know that those authors pulled the general concept from the work of psychologist Carl Jung and expanded it— applying it to big brands mostly, in their case.
I’ve made it my work to take the framework and constructs that big agencies and massive brands—the Nikes of the world have been using for decades and then help small entrepreneurs apply it to their brands.
What is your definition of branding, if you have any you hold on to?
I do. Branding itself has a branding problem; too many of us describe it in so many ways. The reason why it is so diverse is that it touches everything; it informs everything. Of course, we’ll find all these different experts who focus on different niche areas of branding.
My definition of branding is a two-step process.
• First, it is knowing yourself—doing the deep work and reflection to understand who you are and what innate strengths, personality, and perspective you’re bringing to the world.
• The second step is the decisions you make on how to express that.
Brands are built with different languages. They are built with design, actual, and symbolic or psychological languages. We need to look at each of these individually, and rooted in our truth, decide how we’ll express it to the world through colors, symbols, and even sense—if we’re in the physical space. We have all sorts of opportunities to express ourselves.
With that definition, we can see how it would inform our social media, the way our website looks, and the way we speak on stages or interviews.
Knowing yourself and expressing yourself—that’s what a brand is to me.
Wow! Spot on. You cannot brand if you don’t do the inner work. You may be branding, but at some point, you’ll need that extra truth that we’re all seeking.
Exactly. Too many brands, especially e-commerce brands and big brands in general, fall into this trap where they expect the market to dictate what their brand should be. Designing by what the average large group of people desires is a terrible way to build a brand. Because, by definition, you will blend in. You won’t stand out.
It’s important to not only do the inner work but to permit yourself to have a very singular and sharp point of view. And that only comes from some soul-searching and figuring out what you want to say.
I wonder if some big brands don’t prioritize soul-searching. I imagine a board meeting with the decision makers of the brand having to work on their rebranding. Then all of a sudden, there is this soul-searching brand expert that gets into the space. And everyone is in awe…
It’s a bit of a paradox because the big brands have figured it out—they are willing to take risks, tell stories, and do all these other things. The Nikes of the world or those big consumer brands do this quite well. It’s those in the middle that lack the sharpness a great brand requires. They’re trying to be the next Nike instead of being true to their ethos, culture, and internal truth. It's lacking in the business world for sure.
Do you think that the middle is so obsessed with the demands of the market that they cannot imagine it is worth it to take time to soul-search?
Yes, and it’s tricky because, in the end, building a brand is a long-term play. It creates value in the long term. Not to be disparaging, but companies in the middle are obsessed with data. They are obsessed with the need to know what they’re doing is the right thing to do. But at the end of the day, you won’t know if your brand is working until you introduce it to the market and spend time indoctrinating people into it over time.
You can know if something will have a short-term advantage or benefit to your business. But the real magic of brands happens over time. It takes a bit of intuitive risk-taking that most businesses lack because they want to do focus groups or market research or survey customers to see what they want. There’s value in all of that when you're coming up with a marketing language and those sorts of things.
But when it comes to your brand, it requires being bold and willing to take some risk to say something worth saying.
So true. Big brands understand that the wider audience may not find a parallel between a holistic approach and something that’s business-focused. I appreciate brands that have that.
I see a lot of entrepreneurs who start their businesses out of soul-searching. And as a result, something magical happens because they are in a certain space of purpose. Everything lines up because you are co-creating this brand, and it's building up. That's how I feel about what your brand is today. It’s inspiring and can help people start with what they have—their selves, which is the best way to start.
To tie a bow over this conversation, we can go back to the archetypes. It has been proven for hundreds of years that humans desire certain things. The archetypes we choose to embody, either as a personal or larger brand, can give us certainty. It’s not like we’re taking a shot in the dark and guessing what our brands should be. We can return to what we know is true and build our brand around that.
When you start with you, it's not like you’re building out of thin air.
What is your favorite brand today—a brand that surprises you every time you come across them?
I love so many brands, and they all inspire me. I’m inspired whenever I walk through the grocery store or a mall. I love seeing how consumer brands directly take risks and use humor and personality. For whatever reason, the one popping into my mind is a brand named Dr. Squatch. They make organic soap and sell it to men using the Entertainer archetype. It’s probably mixed with the Innocent archetype because it’s all made from natural ingredients. They have hilarious advertisements and stories they tell. It’s one of my favorites.
They’re taking what could be a mundane product and adding a ton of personality. I love it when businesses do such. Be it accounting or trucking and logistics or whatever it is you’re selling, there’s so much opportunity to have personality—to tell interesting stories if you put your mind to it.
Those are my favorite brands, the ones that elevate the mundane.
Here’s the last question. With everything you’ve understood about branding—your archetype, your personal search, and how you’re building your brand, what is the most valuable gift you’ll give your younger self?
I would give my younger self permission to be weird—to be a nerd, a geek. To embrace all the things I thought I had to hide to be successful. Because as it turns out, those are exactly the things I needed to embrace and show the world before I would see the success I was looking for. So yes, the permission to be myself.
Wow! I clapped to that. It’s not easy to take such a subject and talk about it. Within all the brand heroes and heroines so far and even in my explorations, I see a sense of SELF that is key to confidence and our truth. It’s inspiring and enables you to be you, to speak you, and everything that goes after. It’s a mindful process. I hope people will get it, seize it and work with it.
Yes, me too, because the world needs your genius. It only needs the gifts you have. And they won’t sit up and pay attention until you package it in a way that they recognize the value in it. The work is not easy—it’s often some of the hardest things you’ll do. But it is so important and valuable.
Wow. Thank you so much.
Yes. Thank you so much for having me. It has been such a fantastic experience and so much fun.
Thank you! It was so much fun. I'm honored you're part of the project. As a branding newbie, I wondered, “how did she get there?” But I understand more now. I'm unlocking keys as I'm doing this—I get answers from all of you.
I love that you're doing this project. It's so smart. Thank you. I am truly honored to be a part of it.
Have a lovely day.
Yes, have a beautiful day.
For readability, the talk was rewritten and adjusted.
Special thanks to Oluwatobi for the straightforward and respectful rewriting of the talk + Laurie's eye.
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