what are tribes and should you be targeting them?

Admin | 23/11/15


When it comes to marketing, targeting individuals might seem like the best approach in an ideal situation with unlimited resources, but for brands, and especially start-ups, this is rarely manageable. Instead, marketers look for ties that connect niche groups together – culture, age, nationality, sex, and social class – classic market segmentation based on geography and demographics.

So, what is tribal marketing?

Instead of dividing customers based on geographic and demographic limitations, tribal marketing seeks to create groups of people based on the marketer’s insight on a shared passion across group members.

These segments, referred to as consumer tribes, are created and defined by the marketer. These tribes then provide the basis for understanding and addressing their interests, and developing specialised marketing strategies for them – the tribal marketing approach.

In other words, a tribe is a network of people who share strong identity links about a specific subject. It is not easy to identify a tribe because there are no physical limitations, like age or gender. Their only connection is passion, and tribal marketing seeks to support the tribe by availing products, services, and activities that bind the members together as a group of enthusiasts. The efficiency of a promotion is, therefore, based on internal links among the group members. 


The fundamentals of tribal marketing

The basic principle behind tribal marketing is the idea that people value brands and products for their ability to link them to people with similar passions and interests. Tribal marketing revolves around helping people to establish and reinforce that link, as opposed to creating a link between the company and its market.


The process involves three stages:

1.         Tribe discovery – find people who use your brand/product and share stories about it with other users

2.         Tribe decoding – understand the identity of your tribe in terms of their language, platforms, experiences, leaders, etc.

3.         Socialising with the tribe – collaborating with the tribe (or its leaders) to share their beliefs, values, and experiences


Why you should be targeting tribes

If implemented successfully, the tribal marketing approach can provide vital benefits to a brand as follows:

• Create effective word of mouth advocates of your brand or product – since tribe members interact with each other and prospective members, their passion about your product or brand can spread easily.

• Cultivate strong levels of loyalty – a brand or product that communicates deeply and authentically to the core passion of a tribe may encourage consumption of the product or brand with remarkable levels of loyalty.

• Potential for higher profit margins – with high conversions and equally high levels of loyalty, there is greater potential for higher profit margins, because higher consumer affinity equates to compliance to pay higher prices.

• Streamlined product development – if the tribe allows it, marketers can observe or participate in “gatherings” as a way to collect information to help evolve the product or develop future products or tactics to better serve them.

While tribal marketing offers many advantages, there are also some points of concern for marketers, like the possibility for consumers taking control in the definition and meaning of a brand or product away from the marketers. The group might also reject a brand or product, and disseminate the rejection to others, or take very long to yield any results.

The tribal marketing approach is more about partnering with the group than leading them, which makes it a more favourable strategy for start-ups compared to traditional organisations. Small businesses are personal, authentic, and carry less baggage, making them appealing to their market.

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