The Outlaw Archetype - The Badass Liberator

Outlaw brands are kind of like Robin Hood - but for their industry. They create and promote alternatives, inspiring others to create change.

Anita T is an award-winning marketing consultant with 15+ years of experience.

The Outlaw Archetype (also known as The Revolutionary or The Rebel Archetype)

A righteous vengeance for liberation drives The Outlaw. This brand archetype, also referred to as the Rebel archetype, seeks freedom, shaking up their industry in a revolutionary way. By creating and promoting alternatives, these businesses inspire others to create change in the world.

"These brands believe that rules are made to be broken..." 

These brands believe rules are made to be broken and are too often for the lazy to hide behind. Think MTV, Captain Jack Sparrow, Harley Davidson, and Robin Hood. While the Ruler seeks to build order, the Outlaw seeks to dismantle it. Transformation, whistleblowing, risk. The Outlaw reject labels of any kind, and ironically by doing so, becomes one themselves.

The Outlaw Archetype Characteristics

In its most primitive form, the Outlaw brand is an unconventional outsider. As it evolves it shocks with disruptive behaviour, and in its prime it is a true revolutionary challenging the status quo. Aligning your brand closely to your archetype will help build recognition in your target market, and make your brand feel like 'the obvious choice'.

Marketing For the Outlaw Archetype

The unconventional nature of guerrilla marketing can bring these brands to life. These are the brands that empty out the swimming pool and turn it into a skate bowl, graffiti competitor ads or pull PR stunts like how Elon Musk sent his Telsa into orbit for a cruise around earth. It's still there - here's a live stream, if you're interested.

the rebel archetype
Musk's car in space. Image source: SpaceX

While these campaigns can be jaw dropping, the Outlaw can benefit from precision in their targeting. Afterall, these brands aren't designed to appeal to the masses.

Examples Of The Outlaw Archetype In Branding

Does this mean all Outlaw brands are controversial? No, but they do aim to be 'different'.  Apple has been considered to be an example of the Outlaw archetype in branding - their 'Think Different' commercial frames it perfectly...

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.— Steve Jobs, 1997

Here's the original campaign:

Another example of the Outlaw archetype in branding is Harley Davidson, promoting itself as 'Notorious since 1903'. Its ads, like the one below, 'Ride to break free', paint a picture of independent defiance. Outlaw brands amplify what may be, 'extreme' to the customer, like a new way of life, an ideal way of life or product, and pave the way to it.

Another example of an Outlaw archetype is Donald Trump. Just listen to some of his quotes, "I don't, frankly, have time for political correctness" and, "If Hillary Clinton can't satisfy her husband, how will she satisfy America?" Controversial, much?

Outlaw brands tend to attract minority groups - those that feel disenfranchised by society. Trump promotes himself as a 'voice' for those who otherwise feel 'voiceless'. Challenging 'political rules', claiming media is somehow a coalition of 'fake news'. In rallies Trump promotes a 'us' vs 'them' mentality. He amplifies what some call 'unpopular opinion', unafraid of polarization whilst demanding an audience all the same.

The Outlaw Family

There are sub-archetypes of the Outlaw brand archetype. The Rebel is the risk-taker, pushing the envelope to bring about change. The Activist fights for a cause, the Gambler thrives on risk at an almost compulsive level, while the Maverick is intelligent.

  • The Rebel
  • Activist
  • Gambler
  • Maverick
  • Reformer

Do any of these resonate for your business? If you're interested in learning more about the Outlaw 'family', I recommend the book by Margaret Hartwell: Archetypes in Branding.

The Outlaw Archetype Voice

Here's where you take the straight jacket off your copy - political incorrectness is plain speak for the Outlaw.

  • Challenging
  • Motivated
  • Rebellious
  • Captivating
  • Outraged

These are the kind of characteristics that work for the Outlaw.

The Outlaw Colours

The rebellious nature of The Outlaw Archetype attracts bold and daring hues.

  • Red
  • Yellow
  • Orange

You don't have to be constricted to these colours of course, but pastels may not facilitate the desired brand attributes.

Vulnerabilities of the Outlaw Archetype in branding

Be warned: These brands desire to be 'bold' can make them vulnerable to overstep. If the Outlaw brand pushes the envelope too far, they can alienate key purchase influencers or find that their campaigns get banned.

Think Lynx aftershave, common to your supermarket isle. Lynx's campaigns flirt with male adolescent humor (see what I did there?). The content can rile animosity amongst a key grocery purchase influencer - women. For example, the ad pictured below is captioned: Lynx shower gel, CLEAN YOUR BALLS. Humorous for some, too confronting for others. Interestingly, the TV version of this ad, included below, was actually banned for offending men.

Example of the outlaw archetype in advertising
Lynx courts adolescent male humor, forever toeing the line of advertising appropriateness.

Dove, is owned by the same entity - Unilever and is a stark contrast in its promotional values. It means some question the advertiser's authenticity and actively encourage others to avoid the brand rather than believing it to be a decent product.

(The band ad pictured above)

Many Outlaw brands are kind of like Robin Hood - their very purpose can be decency, so ideally their campaigns articulate that. Push the envelope, be different, yeah, but getting banned can stifle your voice.

The other key challenge for the Outlaw archetype in branding is what happens as these brands grow - do they shift personas? Large corporations have rules and structure - the very things that grate against the Outlaw brand characteristics.

Wondering which archetype your brand aligns to? Take the Brand Archetype Assessment.


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