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By January 23, 2023January 31st, 2023No Comments

How did Dollar Shave Club cut Gillette’s market share down to size with a funny YouTube video?

How did MailKimp – I mean MailChimp – go viral with the help of Serial?

And how can your company fool your competitors into underestimating you, by playing the Jester?

This is Zonal Marketing – a series which explores how innovative brands are shaking up their industries with extra-ordinary marketing. In this episode I’m exploring the ‘Jester’ archetype and how applying it to your marketing can make your brand more compelling; something that is an absolute MUST if you are a challenger brand or trying to disrupt an industry.

The Jester is one of 12 personality archetypes developed by the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung in 1919. It was his assertion that each of us (he was applying the archetypes to people rather than brands) has, at our core, one single archetype. It is innate and unchangeable and is essentially the part of our personality that comes out when we’re completely ‘ourselves’. Popular culture has, over the years, played-up these archetypes in order to quickly and easily communicate the idea of heroes, villains, fair maidens and dragons etc etc.

As such, on a subconscious level, we as humans, have become extremely adept at recognising these archetypes and adjusting our attitudes, expectations and allegiances towards certain personality types accordingly.

When applied to a brand’s marketing, ‘The Jester’ is an archetype that is characterised by the use of humour to create a connection with its customers. However, as we will see, brands that truly exhibit the ‘Jester’ archetype also add a mischievous twist to their communications.

Indeed, Jung’s own label for the archetype was ‘The Trickster’ and some of the most famous jesters from pop culture – think of the Fool in Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’ or Feste in ‘Twelfth Night’ – combine their humour with a roguish insurrection that looks to undermine the powers that be.

So don’t – whatever you do – fall into the trap of assuming that Jesters are idiots. Often their humour disguises a wit and perceptiveness that allows them to identify flaws in, and poke fun at, the main protagonist, while getting away with it.

The humour comes from the fact that the audience gets the in-jokes while the (usually immensely powerful) subject of their ridicule doesn’t.

And in the next section, I’ll look at how two brands have managed to bring the Jester archetype to life with great success.


When Dollar Shave Club launched in 2012, they did so with their ‘Our Blades are F**king Great’ video. It turned them into an overnight success – quite literally.

The humour wasn’t for everybody (but then, is it ever?) It was very masculine in nature – absolutely fine given that their original product, razors, are predominantly used by men. It was edgy – note the use of the expletive in the title. But it also subtly poked fun at their competitors.

In the video, founder Michael Dubin can be heard to say; “Do you like spending 20 dollars a month on brand-name razors? 19 go to Roger Federer.” This was a not-so-veiled dig at Gillette – the Procter & Gamble-owned company for whom the tennis star was a very prominent brand ambassador.

At the time, Gillette was not so much an industry leader, as a behemoth of the razor world. So Dubin wasn’t so much bringing a knife to a gun fight as turning up armed with a disposable razor only to find his competitor owned a guillotine.

And, with all of their P&G-backed power, Gillette should have, by rights, chopped off his head. But Goliath underestimated David, of course. And, in 2017, the Financial Times noted that “Market share for Procter & Gamble… has hardly grown since 2011. Meanwhile, private-label brands have doubled their share. [But] no brand has matched Dollar Shave Club’s rapid growth during the past seven years. Dubin’s 3 million subscribers spent a reported 160 million dollars last year.”

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