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?

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