The defining power of the Sage is intelligence. The Sage explores the world and themselves through information, knowledge, and understanding. Their core motivation is truth. In stories, the Sage is often portrayed as a wise mentor or guide, offering profound wisdom and guidance.
They say information is power, but when you’re a savant of truth you know that information without knowledge only leads to the paralysis of indecision. They say knowledge is wealth, but when you’re a savant of truth you know that it means nothing without the understanding to apply it to life’s complexities. Understanding is the key to opening any door, but when you’re a savant of truth you know that even understanding only gets you so far. Without truth, you have no compass. Without truth, you have no reason. Truth is supreme. Truth, alone, will set you free.
Central to the Sage archetype is the practice of introspection and observation. Sages are known for their contemplative nature, spending time to analyze and understand matters whether it’s work, life or spirituality. Through this tendency to dissect everything, those channeling Sage archetype are never short of insights. The Sage archetype is not limited by age or gender; it resonates with any entity that has a reservoir of know-how and insight from their analyses, observations and research. Whether through scholarly pursuits, spiritual practices, or life experience, those embodying the Sage archetype are revered for their breadth in knowledge, thorough understanding in their field of expertise and the ability to simplify complexities.
The Sage is one of the twelve archetypes of the universally recognized patterns of the human psyche as theorized by Carl Jung— the Swiss psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology. We use them in our story design process. We created a more detailed guide to understand archetypes as a story design tool; it’s recommended as a supporting read to understand why Jungian archetypes provide a great framework to typify business personas in story design.
In this short guide focusing on the Sage archetype, we cover:
Businesses channelling the Sage
Is the Sage always old?
Businesses channeling the Sage
When the Sage is channelled by a business, it embodies qualities like wisdom and knowledge as well as being a voice of ethics connected to their work. Sage businesses also demonstrate a sense of authority that is quite different to that of the Ruler archetype; the authority of the Sage is intellectual and comes through demonstrating deep knowledge, expertise, and a commitment to sharing valuable insights with its consumers. Whether it's through thought leadership content, educational resources, or advisory services, Sage businesses establish themselves as trusted sources of wisdom, insight, and guidance, offering valuable perspectives and solutions to its consumers to help them make informed decisions.
Once, we helped a Colombo based financial securities group with a dominant Sage archetype to communicate their brand story within their corporate space. Ideas like the difference between knowledge and understanding and the importance of digging deeper in search of truth were central to this brand story told through space.
With truth being a core persuasion of the Sage, integrity and ethics are fundamental principles for a business channelling this archetype. Sage businesses operates with honesty, transparency, and a commitment to ethical business practices; they value integrity over expedience, prioritizing long-term relationships and trust-building. By upholding high moral standards, the Sage businesses tend to cultivate a reputation for reliability, credibility, and authenticity.
Providing guidance is natural to the Sage. We’ve often noticed Sage archetype brands offering guides, mentorship programs, coaching workshops, or personalized consultations to their audiences.
In our own business, the Sage is the second most dominant archetype after the Creator. The Sage archetype comes into play in our love for rationalising the creative process through a methodology and our insistence on creating frameworks to start all projects (to the point our clients joke about it). We also practice 100% transparency in our fees and costings; We share a complete breakdown of each and every task required to complete an order. This comes as part of our costing process; it is discussed with prospective clients before activating work. In the spirit of full transparency, we share the time it takes to complete each task and respective our profit margins. We are open to alternative forms of payment, such as barter, and digital currency with long-term clients. See the Public Works brand articulation framework that unpacks how this archetype is channeled in our business.
Some businesses naturally channel the Sage archetype; like educational institutions and online learning platforms focused on imparting knowledge and wisdom, such as universities, training academies, and e-learning platforms. Consulting firms and advisory services that provide expert guidance and strategic insights to businesses and individuals also embody the Sage archetype, offering solutions based on expertise and wisdom. Similarly, healthcare providers and wellness centers that prioritize holistic well-being and offer evidence-based treatments and advice resonate with the Sage archetype, as they aim to empower individuals with knowledge to make informed decisions about their health. Additionally, publishing houses, libraries, and media outlets that curate and disseminate information, literature, and thought-provoking content embody the Sage archetype by serving as repositories of knowledge. Spiritual organizations, meditation centers, and life coaching services that facilitate inner reflection, personal growth, and spiritual enlightenment also naturally align with the Sage archetype, guiding individuals on their journey toward self-discovery and drawing inner insights.
1901, Jiddu Krishnamurti. Public Domain. This childhood image of philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti is a great representation of the youthful Sage. Despite the obvious innocence, a mind of deep introspection is evident in the thoughtful eyes of young Krishnamurti. Further into this guide, we tackle the question of whether the Sage is always old.
When we worked with a new school entering the Sri Lankan education market with a Sage archetype in its persona mix, we found it a natural channel for the broad spectrum of knowledge the college aimed to offer its students. The Sage archetype was a key determiner of the name, strapline and brand statement that we created for this school because its unusual learning culture and far-reaching education were the most powerful USPs of the brand. We created a brand name that hinted at the spark of intellectual curiosity that drives the Sage while the strapline and brand statement were designed to give a more serious view into the breadth and depth of the learning experience at the college.
One of the most popular story types associated with the Sage, particularly in the context of a business embodying this archetype, is the ‘journey towards understanding,’ story arc. This narrative follows the trajectory of a business on a quest for wisdom, knowledge, and discovery. In this story, the business could be the seeker of the story or the mentor offering guidance to its audience.
Thought leadership is another popular and effective Sage story type; these stories help to reveal the trailblazing and visionary aspect of the Sage through groundbreaking perspectives that shape the future of their field. These stories showcase the Sage's expertise, foresight, and ability to anticipate trends and developments, inspiring others to embrace new paradigms and approaches. Narratives offering inspirational insights are great at building communities around a Sage brand. They help to uplift and motivate audiences, offering words of clarity, wisdom, and empowerment in the face of adversity. These stories draw upon the timeless wisdom of the Sage to provide guidance, comfort, and voice of reason and lucidity amidst uncertainty. Stories that delve into profound truths, those offering deep insight or unusual knowledge also favour the Sage archetype. These narratives allow the audience to see the understanding, thinking and know-how that underpins the Sage business. Good visual storytelling with on-point symbolism and semiotics are a must for Sage archetypes. When it comes to written stories, meticulous language and rich uses of literary devices like symbolism, allegory, and metaphor, lend to the Sage archetype’s affinity for reflection and contemplation, allowing audiences to appreciate the business’ intellect and thinking.
When we worked with a Colombo retailer channelling the Sage, we brought in the archetype’s wisdom to bring coherence to the chaos when COVID-19 shut down the world through a short and inspiring story offering clarity. We often leveraged the Sage’s ability to view things from unusual perspectives to bring out interesting facets of their products; like the allure of an all-black saree or finding parallels between Sri Lanka’s soil composition and the colour curation of a series of stoles.
When appropriate, we recommend some Sage businesses to include ‘How-to stories’ in their communication plans; these are stories that provide practical guidance and actionable advice with step-by-step instructions, tips, and strategies for achieving specific goals or overcoming obstacles, demystifying complex concepts and making them accessible to a broader audience. Whether it's mastering a new skill, navigating a difficult situation, or achieving personal growth, these stories serve as practical guides for success and help the Sage business build stronger ties with the audience.
Is the Sage always old?
We don’t think so. While the Sage is often depicted as an old, wizened figure and there are strong perceptions about this aided by pop culture, it’s an archetype with a relevance that extends beyond age and outward appearances. In our experience in making commercial stories, the Sage can also manifest in middle-aged or youthful, fresh, and intellectually vibrant personas. These younger Sages embody a contemporary understanding of wisdom, blending traditional knowledge with innovative insights and cutting-edge thinking. They harness the power of technology, social media, and digital platforms to disseminate knowledge, connect with audiences, and spark meaningful conversations.
Get a quick snapshot of how we visually interpreted the young Sage brand persona from these two pages drawn out from a wider brand guide.
A young Sage may lack the same depth of experience as the old, wizened Sage that we typically associate with this archetype; but the young Sage compensates with fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and a willingness to challenge conventional wisdom. They readily embrace new cultural trends, and emerging paradigms, infusing their teachings with a sense of youthful dynamism and relevance. Young Sage brands are more adaptable and open-minded, willing to experiment with new approaches, embrace uncertainty, and evolve with the times. They leverage their agility and flexibility to respond quickly to changing circumstances and address the evolving needs of their audience. Older Sages command respect and authority by their age, experience, and wisdom. They exude a sense of gravitas and credibility that comes from years of dedication to their craft. Young Sages, on the other hand, establish rapport and connection with their audience through relatability, authenticity, and shared experiences. They speak the language of their generation, leveraging social media, pop culture references, and informal communication styles to engage with younger audiences on their own terms. We’ve also noticed that young Sages often have a broader range of interests and a multidisciplinary approach to knowledge. They draw connections across diverse disciplines, synthesizing insights from various sources to provide holistic perspectives and innovative solutions to complex problems.