“If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.”
The Jester archetype is often misunderstood and assumed to be synonymous with the behavior and mindset of a clown. While both clowns and Jesters entertain an audience, the role of the Jester is much more nuanced and therefore wields a much greater influence.
In Medieval times, Jesters held a privilege that none of the common folk, nor many of the King or Queen’s court enjoyed: the freedom of speech. The court jester was able to freely speak his mind without causing offence and was somebody who could use humor to mock, gibe and joke about the lords, ladies and nobles of the court.
The modern day Jester fills a similar role in our society as he did hundreds of years ago. The fast-paced nature of our lives leave us yearning for a way to blow off some psychological steam and loosen up after a stressful day or week. Jesters take a lighter look at life by bending perspectives and interpreting events and people in unconventional ways. The qualities of a Jester are originality, irreverence, wicked humor, and mischievousness, all the while maintaining bold and facile social skills. To the Jester life is a journey to be enjoyed and everything is a potential playground.
When the stresses of our social and professional lives become too much, a Jester brand that can remind us to live in the moment and enjoy ourselves with well-timed humor can relieve this social pressure. However, many of us have experienced being the butt of a joke that quickly goes from pushing the boundary to being embarrassing or offensive. The vice of the Jester is that his humor if pushed too far can become a cruel trick. A successful Jester marries the concepts of being clever, funny, and entertaining, but knows the importance of knowing boundaries and their audience. In Medieval times an improper joke taken too far could carry a severe punishment for the Jester, while in the modern age a commercial that doesn’t take into account social demographics or potential fallout of an overly insensitive, or poorly thought out joke could mean severe damage to the brand’s image.
An automobile brand commonly known for their utility and reliability, Subaru relays this message in its commercials and advertisements through clever and inoffensive humor. With the bulk of car commercials seeming to blend together due to their similarities and sheer number, Subaru has successfully gained the quality of being memorable through humor, while still clearly articulating their brand values. They’ve found the formula that incorporates the right amount of the Jester archetype to be a foil for their main archetypes (Explorer and Caregiver).
Subaru Spot 1: Jr. Driver
To promote the idea that the Subaru brand makes vehicles that lost a long time, a father asks his son if he’s ready to step up from his toy car to drive a real car. The segment that ensues takes place in the child’s imagination about the not so glamorous aspects of driving. Particularly witty and inoffensive, the combination of the portrayal of real life situations coupled with the ridiculous idea that a 5 year old would be experiencing them encourages the viewer to watch the whole commercial and empathize with the child. With the bulk of the commercial focused on this segment playing out in the child’s imagination, they end the commercial by the son coming to the conclusion that he’s not ready for the Subaru, but because it’s made to be so reliable, it’ll be there when he is.
Subaru Spot 2: We Should Do That
A couple driving a vehicle over challenging terrain including muddy roads, ancient forests, arid deserts, and towns that are off the beaten path in order to try new things seems like the epitome of the Explorer archetype. It is, but again, just like the previous commercial, Subaru uses comedy and the Jester archetype to make the Explorer archetype that much more prominent. Spontaneous and up for trying whatever comes their way, the couple makes frequent stops to challenge themselves with unorthodox experiences including log rolling, eating fried bugs, and bathing in a hot spring (that turns out to be a known nudist gathering point). The comedy comes from the couple reactions to the various activities, which come off as genuine and something that the viewer could potentially experience. Subaru reminds us that being an Explorer doesn’t have to bean extreme or grueling experience. Instead, it can be fun, spontaneous, and easy to do.
From its first Super Bowl commercial in 2005, GoDaddy has committed to the Jester brand archetype with its humorous and racy commercials. Constantly pushing the envelope, GoDaddy hasn’t shied away from controversy. Instead, it relies on the mantra of “there is no such thing as bad publicity.” Even its 2013 commercial, “Perfect Match,” that was labeled as being sexist and was hated 3-to-1 by viewers, catapulted GoDaddy’s sales numbers at that time to their highest for a post Super Bowl Monday ever.
When Humor Fails: GoDaddy Puppy Commercial
Their luck with this strategy seemed bulletproof, until their GoDaddy Puppy commercial fail. Assuming that everybody will understand the satirical nature of the ad, it didn’t go through the steps to think of all the possible consequences and groups that might take offense to it. Seemingly loving their pets more than other people, many Americans took offense to the cruel humor in the commercial. Outrage spearheaded by groups like SPCA and PETA, a campaign pressured GoDaddy to give in to demands of pulling their commercial from playing during the 2015 Super Bowl.
Do you think your brand might have attributes of the Jester archetype?
Compare it against the checklist below to find out.
☐ The products or services your brand sells focuses more on the experiences they provide the user, rather than the tangible product or service.
☐ Your brand doesn't take itself too seriously.
☐ Your company appreciates the individuality and quirkiness of all of its employees.
☐ Your corporate culture attracts and retains employees who can laugh at, and learn from their own mistakes.
Put it to Use
If you find that your brand does fit this archetype, here are some places to put it to use.
Design – The color scheme and styling of your branding should be vivid and full of life. (website, print collateral, business cards, videos, etc)
Content - The copy displayed on any brand messaging should be easy to read, casual, and contain the type of humor that matches your brand message.
Images – The imagery on your marketing material should be simple, pleasing, and fun.
Social Media – A tone that is playful, witty, and approachable work well for this archetype.