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The eye of the storm; guide to the Rebel archetype

In society, rebels have played important roles as catalysts for change—both good and bad. Their willingness to question and challenge the status quo has been instrumental in the evolution of political, social and cultural ideas. The Rebel archetype, as conceptualized in Jungian theories, represents the aspect of an individual's psyche that seeks to challenge established norms, rules, and authority. This archetype is often associated with the need for individuality, autonomy, and asserting agency.


Rebellion is not a rejection of order, but a timely storm for a higher order. Every Rebel is an eye of a storm; a soldier of an uphill battle chosen by themselves alone. Agents of change and children of time, the Rebel archetype is driven by the right to shape their own existence and renew the world they inhabit, triggering fundamental changes to the communal course and systems in place.


“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself, " said Rudyard Kipling, which we think accurately captures the driving desire of the Rebel archetype.

The Rebel 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; 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 Rebel archetype, we cover:

  • Businesses channelling the Rebel

  • Rebel stories

  • Why Rebels better walk their talk


Businesses channeling the Rebel

Businesses and individuals embodying the Rebel archetype may be inclined to resist conformity, challenge existing systems, and champion unconventional ideas. They strive to assert their identity. In businesses, the Rebel archetype can come about in various ways, from organisations bringing fairer forms of commerce to brands that challenge conventions and disrupt their industry.

In our client circle, the Rebel archetypes are often enterprises focused on social impact and sustainability. Rather than bold, disruptive expressions of rebellion, these types of Rebels tend to wage quiet revolutions, gently changing societal norms and working towards positive change by being the change themselves. Our other most common Rebel clients are fashion and lifestyle brands and retailers. These companies challenge fashion norms, embrace counter-culture aesthetics, and promote individual expression or revolutionize traditional retail models, such as online marketplaces or subscription-based services, embodying the Rebel. In the tourism industry, we’ve worked with Rebel ventures that create alternative living arrangements, such as nomadic co-living communities, challenging traditional ideas of hospitality, holidaying and residence.


One of the most interesting Rebel archetype brands we worked with was an organization investing in creative capital to fund micro-collectives of eco-conservationists in Sri Lanka. They commissioned us to create a story that drew parallels between the rare melanistic black leopard native to Sri Lanka and the environmental activists whose influence goes a long way despite being a few. We created this story with a written component and a T-shirt print that captures the quiet determination and goal-driven nature behind the Rebel.


We’ve observed many tech startups embody the Rebel archetype by challenging established norms and introducing radical technologies or business models. Businesses in advertising, marketing, and design also often embrace the Rebel archetype, pushing creative boundaries and challenging traditional approaches to communication. Arts, music, and cultural industries are also those naturally embracing the Rebel archetype by pushing against conventional norms. Alternative and independent media outlets that provide non-mainstream perspectives or reveal difficult and often political information embody the Rebel archetype with ease. The Rebel is also quite inherent to the startup culture and emerging industries, like space exploration or alternative energy, because they break new ground.

Lesser known Rebels are encountered in the alternative health and wellness industry, promoting unconventional approaches to well-being. Businesses that promote alternative education methods and challenge the traditional schooling system are also unusual but surprisingly common examples of the Rebel archetype. Restaurants or food ventures that push the boundaries of traditional cuisine, incorporating unusual ingredients or unorthodox culinary norms, align with the Rebel archetype’s nonconformity too. Companies that explore unconventional applications of blockchain technology or cryptocurrency challenging traditional financial systems may embody the Rebel archetype in the world of finance and technology. Businesses focusing on unconventional transportation methods, such as personal air travel or hyperloop technology, may align with the Rebel archetype by challenging traditional modes of transportation.

In the last five years, we’ve also observed Rebel brands in ventures involved in psychedelic therapy or wellness, exploring unconventional approaches to mental health and well-being, and companies that provide tools and resources for individuals to engage in biohacking or experiment with DIY biology challenge. These examples showcase businesses that go beyond typical industry practice, challenging norms in diverse and unexpected ways.

The character Janice, from 1971 Bollywood film ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’, broke through cultural barriers in South Asia and personified the zeitgeist of the 1970s, as a rebellious, pot-smoking nymphet played by actress Zeenat Aman. See this print story that we created to portray this feminine Rebel iconic to South Asia.

The Rebel is not an easy archetype to channel for a business. Even in our client circle, we have very few Rebel archetype businesses. We think this is precisely because of the difficulty of channelling the Rebel without getting affected by the flipside of this archetype. Because the Rebel usually doesn’t appeal to the mainstream; the nonconformity of the Rebel doesn’t do any favours when it comes to winning a mass market. Provocative ideas and campaigns by the Rebel would often raise eyebrows and even attract backlash from traditional mindsets. Unorthodox ways that Rebel companies choose to do business are often met with suspicion or apprehension by most users at first glance. However, these very characteristics that make it challenging for the Rebel archetype businesses to appeal to the masses usually help them to win over niche markets that value their radical approaches. When we helped a fashion business with a Rebel archetype to shape its story and brand name, we recommended that they focus on the niche audience of nomadic travellers and sustainable consumers who would appreciate their unusual way of doing business without a retail store.


Rebel stories

Companies embodying the Rebel archetype can benefit from narratives that emphasize their strengths. For example, we’ve often seen Rebel brands use underdog triumph stories to great effect; these are usually crowd pleasers if the story is constructed well to demonstrate how the company overcame challenges, adversity or being underestimated by seasoned competitors, to ultimately achieve success against the odds. Radical product or service offers are also great Rebel stories. These not only add to the brand legacy, but serve as direct marketing and selling stories highlighting the brand's groundbreaking or disruptive products, services, or ideas that challenge the status quo and change up the industry. These stories help position the business as a trailblazer.

Among our favourite Rebel stories are those that utilize the outsider perspective that is somewhat unique to this archetype. Emphasizing the brand's outsider or unconventional perspective, distancing itself from mainstream thinking and offering a unique viewpoint, these stories bring weight to the uniqueness of the business adding value and interest to what they do.


When we work with Rebel brands that appeal to audiences through their counterculture identity, we help them create stories that bring out this aspect. For a Colombo-based design educator who has a younger student audience that gravitates towards its secondary Rebel archetype followed by the Creator, we recommended stories that capture the unique viewpoints and freshness common to both. In promotional stories and even within their space, the Rebel was a supporting aspect of their brand persona to bring out the unique thinking that this school promised to cultivate in its students. 


Stories on personal or group empowerment are probably the most widely seen Rebel stories focusing on finding strength and encouraging customers to break free from societal expectations to embrace their beliefs and uphold their dignity. Rebel archetype companies can also use these stories to offer empowerment to audiences, encouraging customers to express themselves boldly and authentically or let go of old habits or pointless norms.

One of the trickiest story types closely connected to the Rebel archetype are narratives that showcase the brand as a challenger to established authorities, whether it's in the industry or the broader socio-cultural context. Whether it’s by challenging the current system directly or by aligning with countercultural movements, these stories can be told from the perspective of rebellious subcultures or alternative lifestyles, connecting with consumers who identify with non-mainstream values or welcome systemic change. These stories can sometimes upset or alienate certain segments of your audience and need to be handled with care. However, when a company is channelling the Rebel archetype, the backlash is almost always expected; there will most likely be some groups who don’t agree with the brand perspective, therefore being prepared with scripts and respectful responses to firmly maintain your viewpoints or politely accept mistakes is always a good idea for a Rebel business.


Rebel archetype stories tend to be inspiring, evoke heroism, and even bring on a rush of adrenaline with a sense of thrill. But, not all Rebel stories need to trigger those emotions. One of our Rebel archetype client businesses was aspiring to change the system by eliminating the long chain of middle agents in exporting coconut-based products. The delivery of this story was not the usual adrenaline-rush Rebel story; it’s a story built around the optimistic view of the changes they want to create in how food makers and consumers connect. For another Rebel brand that we worked with—a popular art festival—the messaging required to communicate the issues they wished to confront as much as inspiration for the upcoming festival; see how we brought this out with a mini script designed to trigger an initial emotion of apprehension, culminating with wonder.


Why Rebels better walk their talk

There’s a saying about rebellions; that you must do them all the way because doing a revolution halfway is a sure way to get killed. This is true for Rebel businesses as well. Going halfway with an archetype like the Rebel is a sure way to get annihilated in the market and have your audience disenchanted.

Much of the Rebel archetype’s appeal has to do with being true to their cause and the perceived sincerity of its defiance against stagnation and tradition. Consumers are drawn to brands that really stand for something, and in turn, inspire them to believe in something too. With that kind of appeal, Rebel brands must embody and conduct their values throughout their business practice. When brands claiming the Rebel archetype fail to ‘walk the talk’ it can lead to disastrous consequences, and we’ve seen it happen.

Authenticity is crucial for building trust with consumers. If a brand presents itself as a Rebel but fails to back up its claims with real actions or meaningful values, consumers will perceive it as disingenuous. Trust is easily eroded when there's a perceived gap between the brand's stories and its actual behaviour; this is why we insist on stories that accurately reflect the operations and methods of a business, especially when it comes to Rebel archetype businesses who will naturally attract more scrutiny and scepticism from a wider audience. The audience of a Rebel archetype business often tends to be loyalists who appreciate the brand’s sincerity and credibility. If a brand's rebellious narrative is seen as a mere marketing strategy without substance, it can result in a complete loss of credibility with this kind of audience, often leading to consumers voicing their dissatisfaction through social media, boycotts, or negative reviews. Perhaps there’s no better example than this terrible Pepsi ad that became famous for all the wrong reasons; it was withdrawn due to widespread criticism from an outraged audience.

Beyond the backlash and loss of audiences, not being authentic in stories is a loss of a great opportunity. All Rebel brands have the potential to bring about positive change and change in their industries. When brands fail to live up to their rebellious image, they miss the opportunity to make a meaningful impact and differentiate themselves from competitors. Inauthenticity within a brand also affects the morale of employees and internal stakeholders leading to dissatisfaction and disengagement internally.


When the Berlin artist The Wa visited Sri Lanka, Goethe Institut Colombo commissioned us to create a story documenting his work and experience on the island. The Wa is very much the Rebel archetype and a very authentic one at that. Interviewing him and watching him work with local artists, it was evident that The Wa deeply believed in the power of art as a medium of revolt. This story was created to capture The Wa’s authentic Rebel archetype, demonstrating how he not only lives his everyday rebellion but also inspires other artists to do the same.


Ultimately, for brands embodying the Rebel archetype, staying true to what they believe in is essential for maintaining the trust, credibility, and loyalty of consumers. Failure to do so can result in significant reputational damage and a loss of the very customer base the brand sought to attract. This is why Rebels, more than anyone else, better walk their talk.

To find out how we can tell your Rebel brand stories, get in touch.


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