Brownstone Blog

What’s your tribe?

What’s your tribe?

Yes, we know that sounds like a really bad pick-up line from the ’70’s. But for today’s businesses – especially those undertaking any kind of digital, social media or web-based marketing, then knowing your tribe is the key to your success.

In the past, marketing and consumer research has traditionally thought of consumers as individuals who were broken down into groups ranked by socio-economic status. However, despite this segmentation, consumers were thought of as individuals within the group rather than the group itself. With the advent of the internet the consumer tribe has been born and the focus has shifted from the individualistic to the concept that groups of people influence and exercise choice in the marketplace. Another way of looking at this is to see it not as the individual consuming your product or service which defines their lives – but as the activity of sharing the product or service for the group defines meaningful social connections. In other words, your tribe creates your brand experience for you.

It’s a brave new world for both agencies and their clients as both have to grapple with the concept that the USP (Unique Selling Proposition) is dead for most brands, and trying to sell products or services this way is pointless, wasteful and archaic. Instead of competing on USP or price, savvy advertisers have realised the only way to engage with their clients is to participate with them rather than broadcast a message about perceived benefits. In the digital realm, this means creating and/or accessing communities of shared interests in a particular product or service – known as a digital tribe.

These ‘tribes’ are defined by who they hang out with on the web and via their mobile devices. So – if you know who your ‘tribe’ are, you know where they are hanging out and can aim your digital strategy towards them via the things that interest them. Taken another way – while it’s important to know your product it’s now just as important to know your customer. Forget defining them by socio-economic group and start defining them by their interests. In the past, advertising functioned on the ‘one to many’ approach – the print, television, radio and even early internet campaign that in reality was nothing but a scatter-gun approach. Fire enough rounds across enough ground and you’re bound to hit some game. As we’re now aware, this is now being replaced with a ‘many to many’ approach where entire ‘communities of interest’ are created and communicated with, a task made easier with the advent of social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

However, because people often belong to more than one community or ‘tribe’ this brings new challenges when it comes to leveraging one’s budget – along with the fact that by definition, tribes are nomadic and digital tribes are no exception. The trick is to know ones tribe and which communities they are interacting with at any given time.

If this all sounds daunting, it doesn’t have to be. ‘A good digital agency has its finger on the pulse of the social zeitgeist in these on-line communities,’ Brownstone’s Dave Jabbie explains. ‘It’s incredibly exciting and at the end of the day, there’s huge opportunities out there to direct these tribes via promotions or other on-line tactics, back to your own company’s website and then keep them there.’

So, how does one interact with or even find these communities in the first place? ‘There are key sites where they hang out,’ Jabbie continues. ‘Sites such as The Huffington Post. Gamer sites like Addicting Games. There are music sites, coding sites – the list goes on and on.. But these communities are massive. If you can direct even a small proportion of users to your website or Facebook page the rewards can be enormous.’

But as usual it’s finding the right fit. Your offering has to resonate with the tribe – which is why you need to know which tribe you belong to in the first place. Brand definition plays a part in this – know thyself first and then you can define your brand ‘experience’ and then how this will enhance that of your tribe.

‘Once we move away from the notion of just selling units of a product and instead embrace the concept of how the experience of the product can enhance our tribes lives, then we are in a position to create demand.’  Jabbie believes that marketing to tribes is in fact th digital equivalent of thetown market. ‘In the past if you had a product to sell you’d set up a stall in the town square. You’d take your product to the tribal market. This is the digital eqivalent of that – it’s about figuring out where your consumers are and taking your content (products) to them.’


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