Classic Wine Brand Archetypes: Reinvented

Archetypes are shortcuts to meaning. Carl Jung described archetypes as collectively inherited unconscious ideas, patterns of thought and images that are universally present in individual psyches. In other words, they are ideas that transcend time and place – and we all “get” them.

All great stories are built upon one of a handful of archetypes. Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz, for instance, share a plot and protagonist model. Luke Skywalker and Dorothy are each called to take on a heroic quest by external circumstances. Each ventures into a far away land, takes on a seemingly all-powerful opponent, and overcomes obstacles in order to discover – for all of us – the power of one person with courage and determination. Despite their shared underlying structure, these are clearly differentiated and equally beloved stories.

Archetypes in Branding

Just like films and literature, strong brand identities are based on stories. We communicate a brand’s essence to consumers through visual storytelling – in package design and marketing materials, and through the language we use to talk and write about it.

Wine marketers, who face a particularly competitive market, are challenged by the fact that nearly all premium and luxury wines share just a few classic stories. Heritage, a sense of place, craftsmanship – these are at the core of what wine “means.” And yet, the universal truth and significance of these classic wine stories renders them so familiar that they can lack intrigue and differentiation.

The good news? All great stories – from literature to movies to the latest news – follow one of a handful of universal patterns. It’s because they are universal that they work. Everyone understands them intuitively. And, just like Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz use the same archetype but are distinct from each other, wine brands can use the same core story of heritage – or terroir, or craftsmanship – and still be differentiated and capture attention. We can be true to what great wine means to our audience and be exciting at the same time.

Brand Archetypes and their Meaning

There are 12 classic archetypes. Some convey comfort, while others create excitement. Identifying the right archetype for your brand is essential.

The Innocent:
Goal: To be happy.
Traits: Strives to be good. Is pure, young, optimistic, simple, romantic, loyal.
Brand benefit: Strong values, trustworthiness, reliability and honesty. The ease of simplicity.

The Explorer
Goal: Finds fulfillment through discovery and new experiences. Wants to experience a more authentic and fulfilling life.
Traits: Restless, adventurous, ambitious, individualistic, independent, pioneering.
Brand benefit: Exciting, risk-taking, authentic.

The Sage
Goal: To help the world gain wisdom and insight, to discover the truth.
Traits: Knowledgeable, trusted source of information, wisdom and intelligence, thoughtful, analytical, mentor, guru, advisor.
Brand benefit: Helps people to better understand the world, provides practical wisdom.

The Hero
Goal: To help to improve the world through mastery.
Traits: Courageous, bold, honorable, strong, confident, inspirational.
Benefit: Makes the world better, solves problems or enables others to do so.

The Outlaw
Goal: Break the rules and fight authority to destroy what is not working.
Traits: Rebellious, iconoclastic, wild, paving the way for change.
Brand benefit: An agent of change, advocates for the disenfranchised, allows people to vent or break with conventions.

The Magician
Goal: To make dreams come true, create something special.
Traits: Visionary, charismatic, imaginative, idealistic, spiritual.
Brand benefit: Helps people transform their world, inspires change, expands consciousness.

The Regular Guy or Gal
Goal: To belong, or connect with others.
Traits: Down to earth, supportive, faithful, folksy, person next door, connects with others.
Brand benefit: Approachable and relatable, represents solid virtues, gives a sense of belonging.

The Lover
Goal: To create intimacy, inspire love.
Traits: Passionate, sensual, intimate, romantic, warm, committed, idealistic.
Brand benefit: Helps people feel appreciated and attractive, provides belonging, connection, builds relationships and delivers sensual pleasure.

The Jester
Goal: To enjoy the moment, lighten up the world.
Traits: Fun, sense of humor, light-hearted, mischievous, irreverent.
Brand benefit: Helps people have a good time or enjoy what they are doing, allows people to be more impulsive and spontaneous.

The Caregiver
Goal: To help and protect others.
Traits: Caring, maternal, nurturing, selfless, generous, compassionate.
Brand benefit: Helps people care for themselves, to feel supported and cared for.

The Creator
Goal: To create something meaningful with enduring value.
Traits: Visionary, creative, imaginative, artistic, inventive, non-conformist.
Brand benefit: Helps people express or create, and fosters their imagination.

The Ruler
Goal: To control, create order from chaos.
Traits: Leadership, responsible, organized, role model.
Brand benefit: Helps people become more prosperous, creates order, provides stability and security in a chaotic world.

The True Essence Of A Brand, Its “Why,” Determines Its Archetype

Each archetype has an emotional impact created by its underlying message. Whether it’s comfort or excitement, we need to assess the authentic underlying emotional value of our brand to consumers and build our story – visually and verbally – based on that value.

What we want our audience to feel and believe through our brand drives our choice of underlying theme. But, the personality of the brand is expressed in its details, setting, character profiles and its voice, or communication style.

Building Fresh and Relevant Wine Brands that Resonate

Because wine is a traditional product, many consumers look for traditional cues as indicators of authenticity and quality. Classic wine stories are at the core of what “wine” means to us as a culture, and as individuals.

How do the classic wine stories align with universal Archetypes? And, how can we reinvent them to grab consumers’ attention and bond them to our brand? We recently developed a series of four packages designed to show how archetypal wine stories – Heritage, Vision, Terroir, and Breaking from Convention – can find fresh expression.


Our Nobility label design concept is based on The Ruler archetype.

Heritage aligns with The Ruler archetype:

Heritage brands come with a long history of quality winemaking, accolades and expertise. They are often associated with an estate and a founding family. Key qualities are consistency, reliability, status, and trust. As established and proven leaders, these brands are comfortable and trustworthy.
Examples: Beaulieu Vineyards, Beringer Vineyards.


We designed The Visionist label concept as an expression of The Explorer archetype.

The Visionary Winemaker aligns with The Magician and The Explorer archetypes:

These brands romance us with a passionate artisan winemaker. This heroic figure has broken free from safer, less inspired conventions and founded a winery out of his/her commitment to excellence. These brand stories excite and inspire us, providing a sense of adventure and discovery. Key qualities are boldness, vision, and inspiration.
Examples: Harlan Estate, Robert Mondavi.


Our Terroir label design is based on The Sage archetype.

Terroir aligns with The Sage, and sometimes The Innocent

Terroir brands celebrate the magic of nature’s work in the vineyard. They focus on the vineyard’s climate, terrain, exposure, viticulture, and provenance as the differentiating factor in their wines.
Examples: Ridge Vineyards, Stags Leap Wine Cellars.


Based on The Outlaw archetype, Notoriety builds a visual story that appeals to those looking to rebel against convention.

The Rebel aligns with The Outlaw archetype

In the wine world, the rebel is an edgier, rule-breaking version of the visionary winemaker. Rebel wines give consumers permission to drink what they like without worrying about the “rules.”
Examples: Bonny Doon / Randall Grahm, Orin Swift Cellars.

Using Archetypes to Build Your Brand Story

Review the core values, strengths and benefits of your brand. Which archetype fits? Once you identify the best archetype to work with, use your brand’s assets – the quirks and unique personalities of its people, history and/or provenance – to make that archetype your own.

For instance, a heritage brand should always convey the Ruler’s leadership, and represent a secure choice in a sea of options. The comfort and confidence a heritage brand provides are at the core of its appeal. However, there’s no reason for the expression of heritage to be boring. As long as we honor the underlying archetype of a brand, we are free to style and finesse its story and image into something unique and ownable.

If your brand’s true essence is terroir, it must be steeped in its sense of place. The underlying archetype in this instance is the Sage. Create imagery that expresses the greatness of nature, but find a new spin on that story. Channel the ancient wisdom of nature in a voice that resonates with today’s consumer.

The truth is, wine is grown in vineyards and made by winemakers. It has history and tradition behind it. These truths form the basis of the stories that have meaning for wine. But, just like George Lucas took the Innocent on a hero’s journey into a galaxy far, far away, and created an iconic brand, we are free to retell wine stories for a new generation of consumers. We can – and should – remix and reimagine these classics while preserving their structure and meaning.

For a more inspiration on how everything old can be new again, check out this fascinating video series, Everything is a Remix. And, for further reading I recommend The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes by Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson.

Classic Wine Brand Archetypes: ReinventedSterling Creativeworks
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