The Everyman (Archetypes #11)

Jan 15 2013

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.”  - John Donne

“Let every man be respected as an individual and no man idolised.”  - Albert Einstein

The Everyman is a key character in medieval morality plays at the heart of the story’s journey and moral of the piece. Similarly, many people talk about the “common man” in political theory. The spirit of the Everyman also appears in the music of Aaron Copland later adapted by Emerson, Lake and Palmer. If you want to think of Everyman, think of situation comedies with normal everyday families, Country and Western music, blue jeans, the English pub or the Singapore hawker centre, where everyone is equal and nobody wants to stand out from the crowd. This is the fundamental archetype of democracy (one person, one vote). When Woody Guthrie sings, “This land is your land” he is speaking to Everyman.

Everyman’s Library consists of classic literature published in a format that is affordable for and appeals to everyone, from students to the working classes to the cultural elite. The books follow classic design principles, for example those of William Morris (and the Kelmscott Press) who was equally interested in making fine art and quality designs available to everyone. The name of Everyman’s Library was inspired by those medieval plays, and every book contains a quote from one of them.

“Everyman, I will go with thee
and be thy guide,
In thy most need to go
by thy side.” from the medieval play Everyman

Nobody epitomises the ‘Every family” more than The Simpsons and noone is more of any Everyman than Homer .

One brand that epitomises the Everyman is IKEA, with its core principle of giving everyone, whatever their status, access to affordable, well designed furniture and home accessories. IKEA’s designs are based on simplicity and self assembly (allowing them to flat pack for transport and keep costs as low as possible), and more generally they are renowned for cost control and continuous improvement (in designs and in operations). Even IKEA stores embody the principle of equality, where everyone has to follow the same route around the store passing by displays of ‘everyday’ home settings. IKEA currently has more than 300 stores in 38 countries, is he third largest user of wood in the world, and is in the process of expanding into economy hotels across Europe. It’s advertising speaks clearly to its archetype.

The Everyman is also know as the Regular gal and Regular guy, Good old boy, Everyman, Person next door, Regular Jane, the Common man, Realist, Working stiff, Solid citizen, Good neighbour and Silent majority. For the Everyman, all women and men are created equal, and this gives them an empathy and lack of pretense couple with a very realistic view of the world.

Bilbo Baggins is an Everyman, as is Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter films.

The core desire of the Everyman is to connect with others, so that they can fit in and belong as one of the crowd. By contrast, their worst fear is to stand out from the crowd, put on airs or be rejected. They achieve belonging by developing ordinary, solid virtues and by demonstrating the common touch, allowing the Everyman to blend in with everyone else. Everyman has to be careful not to submerge their own character in their desire to blend in, to give it up for superficial and transient connections or become part of a lynch mob against those who are different.

The Everyman’s goal is to belong, and their greatest fear is to be left out or stand out from the crowd. Everyman has ordinary, solid virtues and a common touch. They are always down to earth, unpretentious, realistic, empathic, ordinary, connected and democratic in their behaviour.

The Everyman archetype helps customers be OK just as they are. This is a good archetype for brand which give people a sense of belonging, with everyday functionality, low to moderate prices, produced by solid company and differentiation from elitist or high-priced brands.  Wendy’s have used the Everyman archetype in the past, and Walmart has built itself into one of the biggest businesses in the world on the basis of its everyday pricing.

Another brand which has built itself on its ordinariness and ‘average’ credentials is Levi’s

The call to action for the Everyman is the feeling of loneliness, isolation or alienation, leading them to seek out affiliations with others to move away from feeling abandoned and alone. This develops into the skill for connecting and fitting in, and the openness to help and friendship. The Everyman can ultimately progress into the humanitarian who believes strongly in the dignity and decency of every person they meet regardless of their circumstances (notice some similarities with the Caregiver). When taken too far, Everyman can become a victim of the abuse of others because of their fear of being alone or they may go along with the lynch mob in order to be one of the ‘gang’.

The TV show Cheers epitomised the ‘gang’ mentality’ when kept within bounds, with the setting a ‘third place’ where “everybody knows your name”.

If your brand helps anyone to fit in and feel part of their own gang, then the Everyman could be the archetype for you.

REFERENCES

The Hero and the Outlaw by Margaret Mark & Carol Pearson

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  1. [...] The Everyperson @ Inspector Insight [highly recommended!] [...]

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