Building a Brand Persona

How to choose your archetype and tell your brand's story

Welcome to another edition of PROse, where we explore the science behind building a brand.

In today’s email, we discuss:

  • The different types of brand archetypes

  • How to decide which archetype fits you best

  • Examples of brands that model different archetypes

Short on time? Here’s the big takeaway from today…

I’ve always wondered why some brands grow and others don’t. The answer I found: the best brands decide who they are first—their archetype—then create content that aligns with who they are. Most importantly, they lean into their natural advantages as a company to decide who they’ll be, you should too.

Yo! I’m Darien from Antidote 👋🏾. Every week I share what I learn about the science of building a brand. If someone forwarded this email to you or you’re reading this online, welcome to the fold! What you're about to read is an unconventional view on B2B marketing.

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I’ve spent 1000s of hours thinking about why some brands grow and others don’t.

Of course the answer is nuanced. But broadly, I’ve found that it isn’t one particular content format or another that helps a brand grow.

It’s more about the general archetype & persona of the brand.

On the internet, companies fit in one of these brand archetypes: Media, Product, and Corporate.

These archetypes define how we approach messaging, content strategy, tone & voice, design, and what marketing activities we take on.

All of our companies take on one of these archetypes, whether we call it by these names or something else.

But it’s haphazard for most companies. We start with basic customer research, some disparate content ideas then start “testing what works”.

That’s backwards.

I’ve found the companies that dominate on the internet are far more intentionally about deciding who they are, then building a content strategy around that.

Let’s take a look at each brand archetype.

The Media Brand

It’s Wednesday. You’re scrolling through your feed and see a meme that makes you literally laugh out loud. You look to see who the author is - it’s a company. Wait what??

Companies are not supposed to be funny. Business is serious - making meme content is unprofessional & unserious.

At least that’s how some people think.

As a Media brand, you throw away the traditional ideas of what marketing a company should look like. You prioritize cultural relevance, and use all tools at your disposal to become the brand in your niche.

What does that look like in practice?

  1. Sharing cultural and product-related memes

  2. Creating physical and digital products

  3. Hosting IRL events & meetups

Capital is a good example of #2.

I know physical/digital products and IRL events are out of your control if you’re solely responsible for social. But they’re good ideas to recommend to the broader marketing team and leadership.

Ultimately, you’re playing a game of attention: “the brand that can capture & hold their audience’s attention wins their trust”.

And as the old saying goes, people do business with people they know, like and trust.

Auntie Anne’s does a great job at holding attention and creating desire for their product. Most days I’m not thinking about pretzels or malls, until I see their tweets.

Another distinctive feature of Media brands is tone & voice. More “I”, less “we”, and lowercase writing… because if you don’t talk like Gen Z, you’re NGMI (I’m being facetious).

Shopify is well-known for this strategy. They jump in the right conversations and get their audience engaging in dialogue.

This was posted during the 2023 Super Bowl

It might seem weird at first, but it makes sense.

If the goal is for your brand to be trusted as part of a niche community, it helps for people to think of you as a person, not a soulless company. 

The easiest way to do that is getting coworkers out in front of your audience (through content or with their own personal brand).

But you can also just personify the emotions and philosophy of the company (or an appropriate subset of it).

The Product Brand

Sometimes you can’t get away with being unhinged on the internet. Your boss, and/or their boss, just doesn’t have the appetite for it.

They care about business, not jokey jokes on the internet.

Product brands are centered around—you guessed it—your product.

This archetype works well for companies that have design at their core (e.g. a designer for a Founder/co-Founder) or are highly technical around development or analytics.

That’s because they tend to be really product and/or design focused internally - so they naturally have content SMMs (content with a strong POV, good designs, etc) can adapt for social, plus it requires less code switching for marketers.

What makes a good Product brand is the ability to build a community around the transformation they go through by using your product.

Your #1 job as a Product brand is storytelling - it’s twice as important for you than any other archetype.

The best stories are told with pictures, not words. But not just any type of pictures.

It should be tasteful, Class A creative. Sorry, just posting a web screenshot doesn’t cut it.

My favorite example of a Product brand right now is Linear. They are just **chef’s kiss** at all things design and message.

(Unrelated: I’ve got to plug this insane landing page they built. I’m a lifelong fan now)

Notion is also really good. Their Notion AI launch was A+ social content.

The interesting thing about Product brands is that they technically break all the rules we have about social marketing: “nobody cares about your product”, “don’t bombard your audience with links”, etc etc.

Their saving grace is: a) they lead with good design & creative, b) they have a community of customers who rave about their product.

Without those two things, it’s much harder to be a Product brand.

The Corporate Brand

I saved this one for last because, there’s zero reason, in my opinion, to take on this archetype. Alas, it exists.

Corporate brands are all about PR. Not the good, flashy kind either. I mean the boring, “did you clip this out of a 1950s newspaper?” kind. You typically see this at the enterprise and local small business levels.

They focus on themselves and what they’ve accomplished - “best place to work” awards, [insert award from random company no one’s heard of], article links, and the occasional employee selfie.

It’s a “lights-on” approach to brand building. The goal is to be on social platforms so you can say you’re there, regardless of if you’re actually making an impact on the business.

Lest I was unable to convince you to avoid this route, here’s an anecdote about a brand I worked with who was doing this stuff:

Final thing: you may find yourself somewhere between a Media and Product brand.

That’s perfectly okay. Maybe even better than just choosing one.

But whatever archetype you choose, make good stuff. Or said another way:

That's a wrap, folks! But before you go...

Let me know what you think about this newsletter. Your feedback goes a long way (seriously, I read & respond to every email—good or bad!)

See you next week,