The Sage Archetype (also known as The Teacher or Scholar)
The Sage Archetype is the navigator of challengers and seeker of knowledge, paving the path to wisdom via relentless education. These brands are thinkers, seeking and guiding others to the truth. When others need assistance, the Sage is right there sharing know-how like Yoda.
In stories, the Sage is often depicted as the philosopher - a wise older character with silver hair. But Sage brands are not so much old as they are knowledgeable. The depiction a reflection of their accumulated intelligence over time.
The Sage Archetype Characteristics
While gentle in nature, the Sage can be outraged by ignorance and mistakes. To the Sage, knowledge is power and a lack of it, to the Sage, is the epitome of weakness. Ugh.
To avoid it, these brands are on a continuous quest - pushing themselves to gain more information - each step on their journey leading them to clarity. In the Sage's mind, more information equates to more influence. It's their intelligence, not revenue or a social following, that is their true power. Remembering that will help the Sage brand maintain its true character and market strengths.
A Sage brand's motivation can be mistaken to be aligned with the Hero or the Caregiver archetype. Both are dedicated to helping others, and whilst this has importance to the Sage brand, the Sage's primary motivation is actually the truth.
A Sage brand attracts clientele looking for answers. These clients often appreciate detail and quality, possess intolerance towards anything else, and many are willing to pay a premium for exactly that.
A Sage brand attracts clientele looking for answers
Brands that identify with the Sage archetype have a focus of quality over quantity. Less is more for the Sage, yet ironically, this brand persona often finds that they must satisfy the internet's endless hunger for quality content. This is a paradox for the Sage - a contradiction of ideals that conflicts with their values. To get around this, content managers will adopt long-form content strategies, publish exclusive content such as reports, or invite other Sage-like experts to contribute to their content, in order to increase quantity whilst maintaining quality.
Learn more about the 12 brand archetypes or take The Brand Archetype Assessment.
As with other archetypes used in branding, the book 'Archetypes In Branding', breaks the persona down into 5 family members:
- The Shaman
- The Translator
- The Sage
- The Mentor
- The Detective
Each of these have different strengths and weaknesses. For example, the mentor coach-like tendencies can be motivating but mean the brand can be prone to the ol' 'iron fist' - possessing a harsh voice, instead of a motivating one. The detective brand has intuitive intelligence but can also have a tendency to be nosy. The Shaman promises, 'the truth will set you free', whilst being philosophically insatiable.
Which do you think your brand identifies with the most?
Examples of The Sage Archetype
Any business that finds value in analysis and advancement or distributing information can easily call themselves a Sage. Examples include universities, news sources, research bodies and libraries. Google, CSIRO, TED and Harvard for example, could be called a Sage.
The Sage Archetype Voice
These brands will say no to fluffy talk and the elaborate, preferring to focus on facts. To them, this is ultimately perfection. Think: data, stories, investigation. These brands are seen as mentors and leaders in their space, and their voice reflects it.
- Up to date/informed
The Sage archetype's quest for intelligence can mean that these brands are prone to fancy-pants language that can make them seem a bit up themselves. This is fine if that's the language your audience talks, but keep in mind your content needs to be digested more than it needs to be superfluous. Sounding smart is not the same as being smart, and a true Sage knows the difference.
The Sage Archetype Power Words
The Sage Archetype Colours
The Sage archetype is a beacon on a hill, and as such these brands tend to adopt white, clean, pure-like colour schemes that reflect the 'purity' of their illuminating knowledge. Blue, of course. Green, maybe... a powerful Red? Perhaps. Black and white? Hell, yes. Your colour selection should reflect your brand's personality.
The Sage Archetype On Social Media
LOL. The Sage on social media? Are you kidding? Ok, let's face it, the Sage doesn't tend to be the most social of brands, but is happy for others to socialize their ideas. They don't tend to be one of the cool kids in the playground - they are the teacher supervising the playground and more likely to be in a lab or library, possibly even designing their own playground.
They may follow trends as an observer but participating in them is not really their style. The Sage brand is more likely to be invited onto a Podcast, not be running one themselves. When they are on social media, they're unfiltered, authentic and fact centric.
Usually, brands that fit this archetype have to hire a social butterfly to fulfil this task for them.
Take Harvard Business Review's organic content and paid content, for example:
Accepting that you're just not going to be the Kim Kardashian of your industry can be a freeing moment. The Kardashian's entire brand was built on social media algorithims, but your brand is likely to be built on your own formulas. Trying to be something you aren't, like a social butterfly, will distract you from your ultimate goal: the pursuit of truth and communication of it.
Sage brands may prefer maximising one social media channel, (quality over quantity remember?). They tend to choose a channel that focus on information over imagery, like Twitter, LinkedIn or even Reddit. Even then, the preference of these brands is that their content is high enough quality to be shared by others, OR, that they are the actual platform, like TED Talks.
The Sage Archetype Vulnerabilities
As mentioned, the Sage's quest for intelligence can mean that these brands are prone to superfluous language that can make them seem a bit up themselves. This is fine if that's the language your audience talks, but keep in mind your voice needs to be on par with your audience.
From a cultural perspective, the Sage brand's quest for brilliance can create a judgmental internal culture - one where mistakes may not be tolerated, which, in turn, ironically, can stifle progress and their search for truth. As Sigmund Freud said, 'from error to error one discovers the entire truth'. Creating a process to manage mistakes can help enable the fresh ideas that are critical to the continued evolution of the Sage brand.
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Unsure what brand archetype your brand is? Take the brand archetype assessment.