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Archetype Fueled Branding 101: Partying Hard and Making Jokes With the Jester

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

Gimmie a Break

Sometimes, we don't want to do any work. We need a break. We want to party! And that's when Jester archetype comes in handy.

Jester brands help us let off psychic steam. Other archetypes are appealing in their own ways, but some types of archetypes put pressure on us and ultimately make us feel uncomfortable. Innocent brands, for example, present us with an idealized version of a perfect world or a perfect body. They can inspire us and motivate us to pursue a dream. Indirectly though, they make us long for what we can't immediately have. The most compelling Innocent brands make us believe that it is easy to achieve perfection, but no matter how convincing an Innocent pitch may be we always know in our guts that there will be some amount of work involved before results happen.

The Innocent isn't the only other archetype that stresses us out. Think of the Warrior, and all the mental energy it takes to maintain the level of intensity and determination it takes to stay at that "top dog" position. Think it's a coincidence that most of the Super Bowl ads aim to be funny? Super Bowl games can get intense, so a little bit of levity is sometimes called for during commercial breaks.

What about the saintly Caregiver who is constantly making self-sacrifices for others? Or the stiff, overly pedantic tendencies of the Sage? When we are overburdened and feeling restrained by ideas about what we should be aspring to become or what we should be doing, the Jester bursts in and shakes us loose.

These days, advertising is everywhere. As a result, we are constantly being prodded, pushed and pulled in various directions. It's probably no accident that today's ads make heavy use of the Jester.

The Wild Card

Even when the Jester isn't softening the sharp edges of some of the other abrasive, hard-to-swallow archetypes, the Jester can be used to compliment a brand. The Jester's obliviousness when it comes to social status pairs well with the Orphan's egalitarian values. Lovers go out of their way to be loved, but the few people who hate someone who is beautiful out of jealousy might be won over if a Lover-oriented person also has a sense of humor. There are plenty of ads that combine sex appeal with a joke that makes us laugh. Sex sells, but if a sexy ad can also make you laugh, it's that much more effective. The Jester archetype meshes well with most of the other archetypes, which is why the Jester is frequently incorporated in advertising.

Let's Get Naughty

The other appeal of Jester brands is that they encourage us to break the rules. Unlike Outlaw brands, however, Jester brands focus around the sheer childlike joy that arises when we get away with doing something slightly bad. The Jester likes to be naughty because it's fun, not because he necessarily disagrees with the rules. This makes the Jester the perfect archetype to channel if what you have to offer isn't all that good for you. Makers of alcoholic drinks, candy and fattening foods routinely channel the Jester and seem to send a message that says: "What are you so worried about? Go ahead!"

Jester ads are used to sell foods that are not so healthy. We might be tempted to blame Jester ads for the obesity problem, but before we jump to that conclusion we also need to consider the idea that we are living in an increasingly uptight world. In the US, people are working extra hours and sometimes taking on multiple jobs just to make ends meet. Archetypal images seem to be even more compelling and powerful when they are repressed. Could it be, then, that we actually need more Jester-ness in our lives? Perhaps if people were given more opportunities to get enough sleep or to relax and enjoy themselves, the Jester would be a little less seductive.

You Don't Have to Be a "Funny Person"

If you don't think of yourself as a funny person, you might be reluctant to introduce humor into your brand. Don't worry. The Jester is not just about making a joke-- it's more about having a good time. Pretty much everyone knows how to do that.

You don't necessarily need to be a comedian to introduce some lighthearted Jester elements into your branding strategy and you don't have to be a comedic genius to follow the rules of humor in advertising. Let's take a look at some of those rules and patterns in action by investigating how effective funny ads can help build a brand.

If you are interested in peeling back the Jester's layers and taking a look at the eight major types of Jester characters in fiction, check out this article: The Jester Archetype: Understanding the Power of Humor.

1. Bisquick "Keep Your Leftovers Alive"

There's a few different Jester elements at play in this ad, but most of what is going on is exaggeration. Exaggerating a situation is an easy way to make it funny. In this Bisquick commercial, we see a woman freaking out about some spoiled leftovers. When she realizes that her leftover chicken has been sitting in the fridge for too long, she rushes it to the emergency room. There, a doctor tries to resuscitate the chicken and fails.

Besides exaggeration, the other thing that's going on is that a serious situation is being turned on its head. Usually, the ER is where we go when we break a bone. (There's a stupid joke about a funny bone in there somewhere, but your author has kindly decided to spare you from reading a corny remark.) The ad gets our attention because it reminds us of a place where we might normally encounter death and sickness, but then it flips the situation around on its head. The Jester startles us by reminding us about death and then reassures us: hey, just kidding. Don't worry about it.

This ad is pretty funny, but at the end of it you have to wonder: what does this ad have to do with Bisquick again? A large corporation like Bisquick can spend lots of money on TV spots that do little more than remind us of the name Bisquick and that their products still exist. If you use humor to promote your brand online, you won't get the kind of exposure you'll need to make your brand a "household name" unless your joke is really, really funny and goes viral in a big way. When using Jester elements in your brand, it's a good idea to tie your joke back into something that relates to whatever you have to offer.

Use exaggeration to easily add some fun into a situation, product or service that's usually seen as boring, mundane or otherwise unpleasant.

2. Kmart "Ship My Pants"

Kmart is one of those "last resort" stores that you probably want to avoid if there is any another option available. The prices are low, but everything seems cheap and of low quality. The layout of the store seems to be thrown together haphazardly. Maybe it's the soul-sucking fluorescent lighting, or the way the isles seem too close together. Some Walmart stores are pretty bad if the location is ghetto, but the interior of almost every Kmart store looks kind of trashy and dirty-- as if Kmart is trying desperately hard to save money by skimping on basic maintenance costs. Also, Kmart always seems to have trouble keeping the shelves fully stocked, which makes it seem like the company is on the verge of bankruptcy or something. Somehow, though, Kmart is hanging in there and surviving.

With all that said, Kmart deserves some credit for this ad-- it is pretty clever. One of the main reasons why it works is because it isn't trying to make anyone go walk around inside of a Kmart store. It's just saying: hey, go order something online from us for cheap and come pick it up here. We promise that you can get in and out of this dump without spending a lot of time.

Of course, we immediately pay attention to the ad because it makes us think for a second that we might have just heard a "bad word" being uttered on a TV commercial. Getting attention by being a little bit naughty is definitely a classic Jester tactic. But unlike the Bisquick ad, this isn't an effort to remind us of brand Kmart-- a clear message is embedded in the ad. The commercial lets us know that we can purchase stuff online for a discount and have it shipped to the store.

Edgy ads like this might offend some people, but they also appeal to the coveted "twenty something" demographic. Marketers know that people in their twenties have money to spend and are easier to influence than older people, on average.

Another notable thing about this ad is that Kmart seems to be playing around with the popular perception of Kmart stores: anyone who has been in one knows how "shippy" they look inside. Even though it's subtle, the willingness of Kmart to acknowledge that is unusual and unexpected, so it gets our attention and makes us laugh.

Break the rules in small, playful ways to attract attention to your Jester-based brand and to make it seem fun.

3. C&A Gifts "Are You Planning to Write to Santa Claus?"

Humor is closely related to social status. When a person with high status suddenly looks like a fool, we are willing to laugh and we don't feel bad about it or guilty at all. On the other hand when we see someone with no or little social status look dumb, we aren't as quick to chuckle. This aspect of humor probably has something to do with guilt. Nobody feels bad when a president does or says something stupid and David Letterman mocks him the next day, but if Letterman made fun of someone afflicted with actual mental retardation it wouldn't be funny. If you're using the Jester archetype to represent your personal brand, you will want to stay away from making insensitive jokes. It's okay to be "naughty" sometimes depending on the context, but if you're making more enemies than friends you'll be doing more harm than good.

One way to lower the status of an authority figure without having to worry about libel or copyright issues is to lower the status of a fictional or mythical character. C&A Gifts did this by showing Santa Claus in an embarrassing situation. It's a cheap way to get a laugh, but it works. There's also a strong element of naughtiness here as well, because depicting a big fat guy jumping around with his pants off right after going to the bathroom is actually pretty gross.

Lower the status of a related mythical or fictional character to add some humor to your brand image without having to deal with consequences of offending real high status authority figures.

4. Go Daddy "The Ticket"

Go Daddy is now so famous and well-known that their ads tend to drift into "uh, what is this ad about again?" territory. However, this particular ad "The Ticket" is a good example of how to effectively combine sexuality (the Lover) and comedy (the Jester) while still putting forth a clear message. The focus of the ad is on the girl, but we still find out that that Go Daddy is a company that offers low-cost, high-quality web hosting.

As mentioned above, the Jester pairs well with many of the other archetypes and here we see the Jester combined with the Lover. The weakness of Lover-based branding techniques is even though it is true that "sex sells," it's also a fact that overly risque ads can draw criticism from religious groups and other types of people who are offended by too much sexiness.

Some people believe that any type of attention is good attention, and that's true in some situations. However, not all types of brands are enhanced by bad press. If you want to sidestep criticism and still use sexy images in your brand, work in some Jester elements. It's harder for people to get offended by something if it's silly. The fact that Danika Patrick is making fun of the woman who is dancing on her car doesn't make her any less sexy, but the wisecracks do offset some of the bad feelings some people might feel (jealousy, moral outrage, etc.) after watching a half naked girl prance around in an ad.

The other thing going on in this ad has to do with status. The previous ad from C&A Gifts used the Jester to lower Santa's status, but here we see the Jester being used to raise the status of Go Daddy. Rappers are fully aware that attractive females are powerful status symbols-- which is why nearly every rap video is crammed with women shaking their butts to a beat, gold jewelry, expensive cars, etc. By associating itself with attractive women, Go Daddy is able to raise its own status.

Use Jester elements to balance out the negative feelings that Lover-based brands can sometimes evoke.

5. Stratos

Commercials usually try to appeal to the broadest demographic possible, so when humor appears in an ad it's usually kind of, well, broad. In the last three examples we've seen puns about "shipping" in your pants, we've imagined Santa running out of toilet paper, and we've witnessed a cop doing an impromptu strip tease dance on a car. But Jester-based branding doesn't need to be stupid for it to be effective. Wholesome humorous situations and jokes work just as well as edgy or raunchy humor, which is why babies and children are used extensively in Jester commercials. The people who run big budget ad campaigns have capitalized on the fact that kids are inherently ridiculous.

This ad from the Norwegian chocolate maker Stratos features a good kid that is extra sweet because of Stratos chocolate. Again we see simple exaggeration used to make a joke-- the angelic kid not only sets up a romantic dinner for his parents, he also puts himself to bed and buys some athletic sneakers for his newborn sibling.

Use the inherently funny nature of children and babies in your brand to channel the Jester in a wholesome way.

Two noodleslurpers.
Two noodleslurpers. | Source

6. Mondo Pasta "Noodleslurper"

Another way that Jester brands can be smart and funny is through the use of playful absurdity. Weirdness attracts attention and makes people laugh. Combining seemingly unfamiliar things in clever ways is a Jester-based strategy that can make people stop and take another look at your brand image. In this ad for Mondo Pasta that appeared in the Port of Hamburg, we see faces slurping what seems to be a noodle-- but is actually a mooring line.

This ad is creative in that it doesn't contain any of the usual stuff we see in Jester ads (babies, boobs, grossness, and so on). It isn't the kind of ad that evokes belly laughter, but anyone who sees it will at the very least be forced to appreciate the clever way that it's arranged.

Overly clever ads fail if the joke or reference is hard to understand. This ad is effective, though, because it's idiot proof. Not only that, it's a great ad because it's impossible to ignore. Passers-by who saw this image on the side of a boat would not only do a double-take, they might also nudge their friend and say "hey, check that out."

Use absurd or seemingly incongruous situations to force the public to take another look at your brand image.


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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      scott-talks 9 months ago

      Gimmie a break haha