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Archetype Fueled Branding 101: Bossing Out Your Brand With the Ruler

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

Imposing Order

Through the Ruler's eyes, the world is not a happy place. Where a world-weary Orphan might deal with adversity by adopting a crusty, tough-minded "Que sera sera, but I'll get through this one way or another" attitude, the Ruler would opt for a more proactive approach. That is why Ruler-oriented brands are about power, organization and control. People who believe that disaster can be averted if steps are taken ahead of time tend to be drawn to the Ruler. If the people you are seeking to make contact with believe that the only way to make progress in life is by imposing some type of system, then your goal should be to communicate that you understand that and think in the same way.

Highly Exclusive

Ruler brands tend to be the most "pure" in that effective Ruler brands are often entirely Ruler-oriented. Other archetypes can be combined inside the context of a brand, but that isn't usually the case with the Ruler. Think of the Ruler archetype as the noble gas of all the archetypes-- in the same way that helium, neon, argon, etc. don't usually intermingle with the other elements, the Ruler archetype usually doesn't blend well with most of the other archetypes.

This concept makes sense when you consider that people in leadership positions need to maintain a certain distance from those who they lead. Leaders need to be willing to tell others what to do. Giving direction requires a high degree of self-assuredness that can come off as snobbish to outsiders. Those who relate to the Ruler perspective tend to think of themselves as being in touch with "how the world really works" and as a result of that point of view, they often do not understand (or, sometimes, look down upon) anyone who does not share their mentality. So, it's understandable that those who have the Ruler mentality are highly selective about the kinds of people (and brands) they associate with. For example, Rulers see Innocents as being naïve. They see Orphans as being slavish and lazy. Destroyers are disruptive and shouldn't be trusted. Seekers are too unpredictable. Jesters can't be taken seriously. Lovers are frivolous and irrelevant. Rulers are deeply in touch with the negative side of life, but not because they are "bad people" or because they hate everyone-- it's because they are interested in keeping the ball rolling.

The American Ruler

Like Caregiver brands, Ruler based brands can be difficult to construct in the United States. People in this country are easily creeped out by any large company or government entity that wants to take care of us or rule us. The resistance to the Ruler archetype is particularly potent in today's post Occupy movement era. Still, the Ruler archetype is as relavent today as ever. Even though we are wary of anyone telling us what to do, nearly everyone wants to be "a boss." The trick, then, is presenting the Ruler archetype in a subtle way. Let's take a look at some successful Ruler-based brands.

1. Mercedes-Benz E-Class "No Limit"

Rich people like to buy stuff. Expensive stuff. The reason for that is that many rich people are in leadership positions. Wise leaders know that status symbols are important tools. People in authority use status symbols to make an impression on those they lead. Studying branding tactics that appeal to the upper class is a good place to start if you want to incorporate the Ruler archetype into your brand. Mercedes-Benz has been pretty good at catering to the Ruler demographic in their branding strategy.

According to this article from CNBC, the most popular luxury vehicle among people living in the wealthiest U.S. zip codes is the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The commercial for the car features images of the car zooming through a woodland area, with some slow-motion snarling wolves thrown in for an added effect. The makers of the ad didn't tack on a wolf just to make the car seem cool and edgy-- it was a calculated move. Images of wolves would appeal to those who identify with the Ruler archetype. Being in a leadership position is sometimes lonely, because leaders are tasked with keeping things together and making decisions that are occasionally unpopular.

The other thing about wolves is that they are powerful and dominant. Wolves are respected, but are are sometimes feared and disliked-- just like a boss. Also, wolves are near the top of the food chain. Many CEOs and other high-level executives feel they, too, are in the "top dog" position inside of their particular pack. The wolf imagery is also symbolic in other ways. People with a Ruler mentality might feel that they are tasked with helping their group navigate a ruthless, "dog-eat-dog" world.

Ruler types might invest large amounts of money in order to attain a symbol of status. Marketing to the Ruler can be very lucrative, but the Ruler demographic is picky. Rulers demand only the best types of product available, and look down on anything cheap or of low quality. To drive the point home that their product is the best of the best, Mercedes closes with a very Ruler-centric tagline: "The Best or Nothing."

Use images of predators or other awe-inspiring animals near the top of the food chain to appeal to the Ruler's need to establish dominance and to acquire things that increase their social standing.

The emphasis is on tradition.
The emphasis is on tradition. | Source

2. Patek Philippe

Patek Philippe has been in the business of selling watches to the wealthy for over 200 years. Let's take a look at what they are doing to find out how they have been a successful Ruler brand for over two centuries.

It's obvious that people who like Ruler-style brands are willing to spend plenty of money, but marketing to the Ruler can be tricky because Ruler types don't go in for the latest trend. Instead, they gravitate toward traditional concepts and values. Patek Philippe relies on the aristocratic fascination with bloodlines to sell their line of luxury watches. Their ads never change. In this advert, a handsome looking father and son are shown wearing Patek Philippe watches. This type of ad has been put out by Patek Philippe for decades because the upper crust appreciates consistency.

Another key thing about Patek Philippe ads is that the look of the photograph always has a distinct vintage feel to it. Patek Philippe goes beyond trying to convince us that their watches are popular with the upper crust. The company wants us to know that their brand has been highly regarded among the wealthy for generations.

Buck the latest trends and emphasize tradition when incorporating the Ruler into your brand.

3. Ritz-Carlton "Let Us Stay With You"

Ancient rulers in Egypt and other cultures were worshiped as literal gods. The tradition of worshiping leaders continues today, even though we don't think of the elite class as literal gods anymore. These days, the idea that the ruling class is superior is expressed in subtler ways. Ruler brands often cater to the idea that members of the upper class possess special abilities, talents or powers.

Ritz-Carlton owns some of the most expensive and luxurious hotels in the world, and their "Let Us Stay With You" campaign suggests that the hotel chain itself possesses quite a few supernatural abilities. Ritz-Carlton wants their customers to know that they will not only wait on you hand and foot-- they will also stop time and move heaven and earth to make your dreams come true. The rational parts of our minds know, of course, that time will not literally freeze once you check in to the Ritz-Carlton. Still, the ad works on an emotional level. Those who are drawn to Ruler brands are searching for an otherworldly, ethereal experience.

Another thing about the ad that makes it work is that it's clear that the ad is strictly metaphorical. Snake-oil salesman tactics typically repel Ruler-oriented types, because they consider themselves to be intelligent and educated people. Feel free to use godlike imagery in your Ruler brand, but whatever you do don't claim to be in possession of actual psychic powers, or promise the moon and stars and then fail to deliver.

When crafting a Ruler-oriented brand, use godlike imagery and language to showcase your special talents and skills.

4. Dodge "How to Change Cars Forever"

This ad from Dodge is an interesting Creator/Ruler combo presentation that is a perfect illustration of how being in control is a key aspect of any Ruler-influenced brand. The narrator in this commercial follows the Creator style in that he is depicted as a supergenius car designer who has enough knowledge, expertise and authority to oversee the process of building an entirely new type of car. (Obviously, thousands of people play key roles in designing any type of car, but thinking about it as if one person is in charge of the entire thing is a far more appealing way to imagine the process.) The Ruler element is there, too, in that the unnamed designer is also issuing all kinds of orders to various teams throughout the video.

"Kick out the committees again. Why? Because they lead to compromise."

The idea that any one individual has this kind of dictatorial power at Dodge is extremely dubious, but we like the idea that some type of ultra-creative puppet master is orchestrating things behind the scenes because that image is more in line with the Ruler archetype. The idea put forth in the ad is that the Dodge Dart is a car made by (and made for) a take-charge, rugged individualist type of person.

Play up the idea of being in total control to evoke the Ruler in your brand.

5. George W. Bush "Safer, Stronger"

George W. Bush made frequent use of both the Ruler and Warrior archetypes during his presidency. Both the Warrior and the Ruler are very divisive archetypes in that people tend to either be repelled by them or strongly attracted to them. (Sometimes, people are strongly attracted and repelled by both the Warrior and the Ruler at the same time!) So, it's not surprising that Bush's personal brand image was extremely polarizing.

Leaders sometimes need to flaunt their status and superiority in order to maintain order, but doing so may rub people the wrong way. During the 2004 election, the Bush camp produced a straightforward Ruler-oriented ad called "Safer, Stronger" which simply presented all of the problems facing the country at the time. This ad represents a common way that the Ruler is expressed: the Ruler is often portrayed as the person charged with shouldering the world's heaviest burdens. Often, the image of the suffering leader goes down a little easier compared to other ways of expressing the Ruler. By positioning himself as an Atlas figure tasked with shouldering the burden of solving many of America's difficult problems, Bush was able to gain sympathy from within his support base during a tumultuous period in American history. At the same time though, Bush's reliance on his authority as the Ruler also angered lots of people.

Bush's brand image contrasts interestingly with his successor Barack Obama's. The contrast between the two leadership styles reveals how volatile and explosive the Ruler archetype can be. On the one hand, people tend to rally around a strong leader but on the other hand, nobody likes to be told what to do. That's why the Ruler's role is not an easy one to play-- especially in a democracy.

All leaders face the task of maintaining order, but there is obviously more than one way to skin a cat. Should a ruler seek consensus or take a principled stand? It all depends on the situation and the personality of the man in charge. Obama, for example, is much more likely to seek compromise and consensus when encountering a problem instead of taking a bold stand on an issue. Because he prefers to evoke the Ruler in a way that's not as direct, Obama has encountered far less opposition compared to Bush over the span of his presidency. However, it's also true that Obama's supporters are much more lukewarm about their feelings toward him compared to Bush's highly devoted followers. If Obama expressed the Ruler in a more direct way, he would energize his base but he'd also run into much more opposition.

"I hear the voices. I read the front page. And I know the speculation, but I'm the decider." - George W. Bush

When constructing a Ruler brand, it's wise to offset the volatile nature of the Ruler archetype by acknowledging the many difficulties involved with being a leader.

Flash-in-the-pan actor Ryan Reynolds posing for a Hugo Boss ad.
Flash-in-the-pan actor Ryan Reynolds posing for a Hugo Boss ad. | Source
A photo of the Hugo Boss store in Waikiki
A photo of the Hugo Boss store in Waikiki | Source

6. Hugo Boss

Hugo Boss is a German men's fashion company that specializes in expensive suits and fragrances. Their ads feature high status male models posing while wearing Hugo Boss products. The models are attractive, but the mood of the ads contrast sharply with Lover oriented ads that blatantly ooze sexuality. The emphasis in Hugo Boss ads is on social standing and power. Notably, the "boss" part of the brand name usually appears in large print or capital letters. The message is loud and clear: Hugo Boss is a brand for the elite class.

Unlike similar Ruler-oriented brands in America, Hugo Boss does not make any attempt to disguise or water down its intentions. This is a clothing company that makes no bones about its aim to channel the Ruler archetype.

I didn't know this before I started researching Hugo Boss for this series of hubs on archetypes, but Hugo Boss actually helped the nazis during WWII. Founder Hugo F. Boss was apparently a documented nazi supporter who was tried and fined for his close association with the nazis before and during WWII. Apparently the company supplied clothing to the nazi army and the SS. Worse, Hugo Boss used slave laborers to produce the uniforms. Hugo Boss's association with the nazis and history of exploiting slaves is shocking given the fact that Hugo Boss is still a popular brand name, but it actually makes perfect sense given the fact that both the nazis and Hugo Boss were deeply influenced by the Ruler archetype.

Like all the archetypes, the Ruler has a key role to play in society. Leaders emerge whenever people get together to accomplish a task, and the Ruler archetype informs us about what good leaders are like and how they see the world. But each archetype has a dark side. One can see how Hugo Boss's self-assured, elitist fashion sense was probably admired by a corrupt, narcissistic, overly nationalistic government. Hugo Boss probably drank the nazi kool-aide because he was lured in and captivated by Hitler's compelling use of the Warrior/Ruler archetypes.

Ethical issues aside, Hugo Boss ads are an interesting, brazen take on the Ruler archetype. In this particular ad we see a high-status celebrity actor posing in a fancy suit. The tagline is a cocky display of confidence.

"I don't expect success. I prepare for it."

Ironically, Reynolds career is currently in a slump. 2011's Green Lantern was a box office flop, as was The Change-Up, and Reynolds' career as a leading man is probably over. Still, anyone who doesn't know the about Reynolds will see a confident looking attractive guy in a suit and get the general idea. The image is effective because a self-assured attitude goes hand-in-hand with leadership. The ad suggests that a Hugo Boss suit can give a man the self-confidence he needs to rise to the upper echelons of society.

Use images of high status, self-confident people to appeal to those who identify with the upper crust and also to inspire those who wish to improve their social status.

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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      4 years ago

      I really appreciate this article. I am familiar with archetypal energies but had not considered to incorporate them into my businesses to that degree. Thank you for this refreshing, inspiring, and exciting idea!


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