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Archetype Fueled Branding 101: Curating Information With the Sage Brand

Updated on June 13, 2014

The Twelve Character Archetypes

Find out more about how tap into the power of archetypal forms to build or strengthen your brand.

The Innocent

The Orphan

The Warrior

The Caregiver

The Seeker

The Lover

The Destroyer

The Creator

The Ruler

The Magician

The Sage

The Jester

The Sage as Teacher

For decades, the US economy has been moving away from manufacturing and has been becoming more of a service-oriented economy. Knowledge is increasingly valuable, and raw goods are becoming less important. If there's any doubt in your mind about the importance of knowledge, go ahead and take a look at the increasing cost of college tuition. College is more expensive than ever, but more people are deciding to go to college and grad school now than ever before.

The growth and popularity of the Internet is another example of how important knowledge is today. Many people make a living simply by processing some form of information on the Internet or other types of networks, or by adding content to existing Internet sites and resources, or by fixing or installing the machines and the infrastructure that enable us to access the World Wide Web.

At its core, behind the fancy backend coding frameworks that provide its structure, the Internet is just a huge bank of easy-to-access information. If you think about it, the majority of the info currently available on the Internet was always there-- but it was shelved away in libraries. The fact that anyone can effortlessly use keywords to search through massive amounts of data has changed everything forever. Of course, several problems have been introduced as well. How do we know that information is "good" and not entirely made up, for example? When we run into problems sifting through facts and figures, we turn to brands that channel the Sage.

The archetype most closely associated with transmitting, editing and filtering through information is the Sage. If you are involved at all with giving advice, education or instruction you can benefit by embedding Sage elements into your personal brand.

The Sage as a Voice of Authority

If you've ever used the Internet to do research, you have probably figured out that not all of the information out there is accurate. The Internet is still fairly young, and even though Google's search algorithm is getting better all the time, the World Wide Web is still crowded with plenty of garbage. Also, the Internet is incomplete in some areas-- especially when it comes to niche topics. So, there's a big demand for high-quality, reliable content providers. If you are an expert in a particular area, you can channel the Sage and help contribute to the Internet by publishing to a website.

People use the Internet to search for how to do something or to do some research about a product or service. When writing for the Internet, being able to write using an "authoritative voice" is key. If there are grammatical errors or if you aren't clear, people will think that you're a little dim in the head and they won't trust what you have to say. But there's more to being a trusted authority figure than projecting intelligence. The Sage archetype can show you how to present yourself with style and in a compelling way by using imagery that we typically associate with the Sage. Any highly skilled professional (public relations experts, lawyers, doctors, IT people, etc.) can benefit from improving their authoritative public image by incorporating Sage elements into their personal brand.

Let's take a look at some popular advertisements from ads that channel the Sage, and see what we can learn from the professionals.

1. Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports has been evaluating products like cars, food and consumer electronics since the early 20th century. Advertisements for Consumer Reports have always tapped into the Sage. In this ad from 1990 we see that the elderly, wise-looking person narrating the ad is wearing a white coat, as if he happened to be in the middle of a testing procedure when the commercial was shot. We also see images of vehicles going through a series of methodical tests. After seeing this ad, the audience feels comforted knowing that all the products reviewed by Consumer Reports go through a rigorous testing process.

Instead of explaining why you are an authority in your area, "keep it real" by showing your audience why you know what you're doing by exposing the nuts and bolts of your daily operations, or by showing yourself in the middle of some Sage-related activity.

2. Nexus 7 "Ask Anything"

Like Seeker brands, Sage brands often provide a helping hand. After all, doing research or looking up information is a time consuming (and sometimes very confusing) process. It's easy to get overwhelmed. Even expert researchers need some assistance from time to time in order to locate the information that they are looking for. In this ad from Google, we see a piece of computer equipment take on some oracle-like characteristics. The Nexus 7 seems to be able to listen to a question and respond with the answer. It knows how much the earth weighs. It also seems to be able to determine whether you want to know about when the next ice age will occur, or if you want to see Ice Age, the animated movie.

When incorporating Sage elements into your brand, show how you can help your target audience access the most important or most accurate information quickly and easily.

3. Chevron "Addressing Climate Change"

This ad from Chevron combines several different archetypal elements. Chevron's advisor Arthur Lee is their expert in the area of climate change, and a complex topic is being discussed, so it's obvious that the ad will be Sage-oriented. At the same time Chevron is positioning itself as Caretaker, since it is trying to appear to be concerned about the fate of the world as it relates to climactic change. The ad also features Magician elements as well, since Chevron is helping invent new technologies that will help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Chevron is one of the major multinational oil companies in the world and their opinion on the oil business is easy to take seriously, but would you necessarily trust an ad from Chevron about climate change? Probably not-- unless a respected expert in the field of climatology put his or her stamp of approval on it. Chevron understands that which is why they dug up a professor from MIT to tell us that Chevron is participating in a program designed to come up with new climate change technologies.

One thing to watch out for when building a Sage-oriented brand is that the Sage can come off as arrogant or stiff. Chevron's representative Lee avoids coming off as a know-it-all by showing some humility. Instead of taking a preachy Al Gore style "hellfire and brimstone" position on the subject, Lee kicks off the ad for Chevron by noting that climate change is a complex, difficult-to-understand phenomenon. At the end of the commercial, Lee admits that he is still struggling to understand how climate change works.

If you lack the credentials needed to show that you are an authority in your field, rely on the knowledge, opinions and experience of well-respected experts.

4. Xerox "Brother Dominic"

This ad from Xerox that was shown during the 1976 Super Bowl balances out the previously mentioned stiff, boring, arrogant tendencies of the Sage with some Jester-style silliness. There's also a small feeling of "wow, look at what this new technology can do" going on here, but you might notice the absence of dazzling colors, special effects and lights. Instead of going with the Magician style, the creators of the ad opted to go with the Sage and present the 9200 as if it were the modern equivalent of a hardworking medieval monk.

In medieval times before the printing press was invented, monks painstakingly reproduced the Bible by hand. Xerox's use of the monk as a symbol in this ad was a good choice, since Xerox machines can do the same tasks that monks used to do in the old days.

In the first few seconds of the commercial we see Brother Dominic laboring away at a desk, and we notice that he is reproducing a page of text the old school way. When he finishes he brings the pages to his boss, who orders him to make 500 more copies. In the next scene, Brother Dominic is in an office ordering copies from a tall, intelligent, hip looking (or at least, he was probably hip looking at the time) guy with glasses. The man operates the Xerox 9200 with apparent ease while a voiceover tells us that the machine has a "computerized program that controls the entire system" and that it can "duplicate, reduce and assemble a virtually limitless number of complete sets." In other words, the Xerox is your personal Brother Dominic.

Use archaic, Sage-related imagery to introduce a little bit of humor into your Sage-based brand while at the same time communicating that you represent wisdom and mastery over knowledge and information.

5. Kindle "Introducing the Brand New Paperwhite"

The first thing the voiceover in this ad says is "we're the people with the smile on the box." This ad from Kindle tempts us to buy the new Kindle product by reminding us how enjoyable the act of reading can be. It also shows us a different aspect of the Sage: the Sage as the lover of wisdom and knowledge. This commercial shows us images of people smiling and reading from a Kindle in various situations: on the beach, in a cozy looking library, on an airplane, in the morning in bed, etc. Additionally, the images shown in the ad help make the Kindle appeal to a broad demographic. The ad shows all types of people (adults and children, males and females, black people and white people) reading a Kindle. The approach used here makes sense, since anyone from any walk of life can enjoy reading.

If your Sage-based brand has anything to do with learning, reading or studying, appeal to a wide demographic by reminding everyone how joyful, pleasant and peaceful those type of activities can be.

6. Tide "Coach Hawkins Vs. Bargain Brand"

Sage related brands don't necessarily have to be related to learning, knowledge or technology. The Sage can also be used in brands that represent ordinary products and services. Any time you see a commercial where a "real life test" is conducted to prove the superiority of one brand over another, the Sage is present. People who find the Sage appealing like to see some evidence or hard proof before buying. Testing Tide against an unnamed "bargain brand" detergent is a reoccurring theme in Tide commercials.

In this particular ad from Tide, we see the down-to-earth Orphan archetype paired with the Sage. In the ad, a home economics teacher schools a football coach on how Tide is far superior to the cheap detergent he's been using. It's really hard to get much more down-to-earth than that! The Sage/Orphan combination works because like Orphans, intellectual Sages like a "just the facts, maam" style approach and aren't impressed by emotional ads.

Even though the scientific validity of the "test" is questionable (the fine print tells us that "Tide's advantage may vary by washing conditions and formula") the confidence that Tide has in its superiority when stacked up against other brands makes us at least open to the possibility that Tide is a high quality detergent. After seeing an ad like this, it's easy to see how a Sage-minded mom might buy some Tide to find out if it really works the way it does in the commercial.

When using Sage elements in your personal brand, use real-life examples and scientific test results to appeal to the Sage's need to see the facts.

More about the twelve character archetypes and how they manifest in pop culture and human personality: Rulers, Sages and Jesters: the Twelve Character Archetypes

The Twelve Archetypes

  • Exploring New Worlds With the Seeker - If you are in the business of helping others experience new things or travel to exotic locations, spice up your brand with some Seeker zaniness.
  • Tangoing With the Lover - Reveal hidden truths or work sexuality into your brand to harness the magnetic power of the Lover.
  • Channelling the Magician - Use the Magician archetype to fascinate an enthralled audience-- or make them reconsider everything they think they know.
  • Partying With the Jester - Take the edge off of your brand and create a fun atmosphere by clowning it up a little with the Jester archetype.

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