Branding - not blanding: The Jester

In archetypal branding we often think of The Jester as bringing joy, fun and relaxed pleasure. Think again: every archetype has its 'dark' side.


Many brand managers try hard to position their brand to appeal to as many people as possible. To do that, they often focus on the most important motivations and benefits in the market. In many markets today, connection with other people is a dominant motivation. Online sharing, mobile communications and entertainment brands all offer customers the ability to connect.

If, like us, you are inspired by using archetypal branding, it might seem that the archetypes of Connection & Belonging (The Lover, The Jester and The Everyman)  offer an obvious way to position brands to deliver 'connection'. These archetypes share goals of building relationships. fitting in and avoiding negativity or alienation.

But a brand that alienates nobody is often a brand that inspires nobody. A very good example of this is the much misunderstood Jester archetype.

Scary Jesters

This recent article from Smithsonian reminds us that Jesters and Clowns frighten some people whilst making others laugh. In fact a true Jester is not a bland and inoffensive character.

Historically, Jesters lived on the edge. They were licensed (officially by 'the King') to make fun of The King and Court without fear of retribution. Shakespeare's Fools/Jesters lived in the margins between 'the court' and 'the people'.

Whilst the Fool performs and enjoys the adulation of the group, one of his tasks and competences is to speak truth to power: not the harsh truth of the Emperor's New Clothes delivered by an Innocent but truth couched in smart humor, word-play and jokes. It is this smartness that allows a Jester to challenge without causing direct offence,

The Jester Brand

A Jester brand should be able to keep the Ruler true without causing shock in the way that  direct challenge might.

So a Jester is not a bland and inoffensive archetype. A Jester is smart and finds win-win ways of telling truth without causing wholesale alienation.

If you are positioning your own brand as a Jester,  here are three questions to ask:

1. In your category, which brand is 'King' or Ruler '?

2. How are you challenging and speaking truth in a category with this Ruler brand?

3. How do you challenge without alienating your customers and prospects?

What other things do you think a Jester brand should do?

It's a hexagon!

A quick note on how our new product development is progressing.

The story so far:

Some of our many smart and inquisitive opento members suggested we develop a light, easy-to-use product to help inspire entrepreneurs and new brand managers discover the power of archetypal branding.

We listened and agreed some tough success criteria for this new product:

      • the new product should use the same structured model and logic as all our Marquetypes products
      • it should guide members through a thoughtful assessment of their brand, customer and market context using their own expertise and insights
      • we should be able to deliver unique and useful direction and inspiration to our members within a couple of days

We explored many options and chose to develop a Brand Positioning starter kit.

We started by mapping out the building blocks and shape of the product using our trusty Artefact packs. Then we reworked it and pruned it and reshaped it and played with it and finally settled on the model shown in the photograph.

Looks like it's a hexagon!

Next, we built the prototype product and tested it with the help of three demanding opento members. We'll slightly disguise them as: Ann - senior marketer with multinational branding experience; Bob - account director in a top tier advertising agency and Chris - owner of an innovation and strategy consultancy.

They loved it!

And they gave us some useful feedback on how to make it even better.

We're just putting the final touches to it before adding it to the other products for sale in our Marquetypes department.

Lover Brands and Love Triangles

By exploring the psychology of love in depth, we can find inspiration on how to build strong archetypal Lover brands.

In popular writing on archetypal branding, the Lover brand is commonly represented as a sensual female character - often a movie star, such as Marilyn Monroe, or an attractive model personifying a brand such as Victoria’s Secret. Of course, we all know that there are many different types of love: parents love their children, we love our friends and we even ‘love’ chocolate! However, the frequent link to sexuality means people often think about the Lover archetype in a very stereotypical way.

Dive deeper to find archetypes not stereotypes

There are some fascinating insights on types of love and how to be a good lover hidden in the vaults of academic research. For years, we’ve been capturing these insights and turning them into tools to help businesses build strong Lover brands.

One of our most powerful tools is inspired by Sternberg’s triangular theory of love.

The triangle of intimacy, passion and commitment

Sternberg’s theory describes three dimensions of love:

intimacy, encompassing closeness and connectedness;

passion, related to romance and physical attraction;

commitment, linked to the decision to maintain love longer-term.

We use this model to explore and define more precisely what behaviors a brand needs to succeed in different Lover roles.

Romantic Love

A romantic lover is positioned on the base of our love triangle. To communicate romantic love, a brand needs to emphasize passion and intimacy using behaviors such as touching and sharing. A brand that does this brilliantly is Haagen-Dazs by linking passion to product pleasure.


In contrast to romance, friendship or companionate love focuses on commitment and intimacy on the right-hand slope of our triangle, Brands can emphasize this aspect of love by showing loyalty and sharing time together without the overt passion of romantic love. Again, Haagen-Dazs manages this very well, extending their portrayal of love into aspects of friendship where appropriate.


Varieties of Love

By combining commitment, passion and intimacy in different relative strengths, we can find many different types of love. So, there are many roles that a Lover brand can play, some squarely in romantic love, some sharing the protective nature and commitment of a Caregiver or Ruler toward the top of the triangle and some closely related to the companionship of the Everyman archetype. The triangular model is a simple but powerful tool to help you position your Lover brand more precisely.

Using the triangular model

To get a better definition of your brand's role in the Lover territory, use the triangular model to map the combination of commitment, passion and intimacy you are delivering.

Check that it relates to customer needs. Are you delivering the right combination?

Finally, if you have competitors who are also playing a Lover role, make sure that you own the definition of love in your category by delivering it in a distinctive and superior way.

Take a look at opento's Marquetypes products to use tools like this in developing your brand positioning.


Sternberg, R.J. (1986) A Triangular Theory of Love. Psychological Review, Vol. 93, No. 2, 119-135