Tribal Marketing: Ushering New Wave Of ‘Knowing Customer’

By studying other consumer tribes or creating their own, marketeers can identify influencers and use them as tribal leaders to reach the next level

Companies today are using every trick in the book to outsmart each other in marketing and branding their products and themselves. From social media to loyalty programs and niche marketing the list is endless, they are in a relentless pursuit to ‘know their customer’ and believe that by mere segmentation they can identify their target audience and weave strategies to woo them. With changes sweeping in, like Industry 4.0, personalisation and globalisation, human lives are undergoing transformations socially and economically and there is a correlation of all these elements with technological advancements coupled with speed and intensity. Marketers are thus finding innovative methods to identify and reach out to newer customers. These rapid changes mentioned have catapulted the concept of ‘knowing the customer’ to newer orbits.

Seth Godin, an American author, former dot com business executive and marketing expert, says, “…. Marketing is now about tribes, not market segments, not brands, not advertising”. Tribal marketing is a kind of marketing strategy that seeks to identify and create communities and social groups that revolves or are centred over a product or service. This collective group or tribe are unique as they share common needs, passion and culture and this create links and bonds within the members of this tribe even if they do not know each other. Belonging to a tribe occurs when members delineate from non-members. Shared beliefs and common collective behaviors are basic characteristics that result in the creation of tribes.

Tribe characteristics are unique from tribe to tribe and there is a slight difference between them and brand communities. Brand communities are those groups which are often initiated by a company in its effort to brand itself and represents “a specialised, non-geographically bound community, based on structured set of social relationships among admirers of a brand” (Muniz and O’Guinn, 2001, p.412). Brand communities created by Harley Davidson and closer home the Scorpio from Mahindra & Mahindra, which has carved a brand amongst its members indicating ruggedness and who share the passion for driving. Another classic example is that of Royal Enfield who is all set to conduct ‘Rider Mania’, its 11th edition of its motorcycling festival at the third week of this month in Goa which aims to propagate the use of plastic and ensure that its riders will enjoy the other fun and experiential activities. This proves to be an excellent strategy to ensure branding within and outside the ‘Royal Enfield Tribe’. Consumer tribes on the other hand is not under any brand or company but a movement where consumers come together on a shared passion and value-creating community (Goulding, Shankar and Canniford, 2013). The vegans, fruitarians, the Spirit Tribe a creative community consisting of musicians, artists, yoga enthusiasts and have come together for a sustainable and alternative way of life that is more in sync with nature are some examples of tribes. It’s a known fact that all companies and products strive to advertise their brands and in their endeavour to create a brand with their customers result in creating a culture. But over a period, these communities have evolved into tribes too. Social bonding is the fundamental link in a tribe. This bonding force may be tangible or not, may be imaginary and not real and may be functional or not. The Harry Potter fandom, and Star Trek enthusiasts are found all over the world who indulge in online as well as offline activities. Spotify has moved to be a mere music streaming app that has a huge community of fans similarly Pinterest, Apple has all huge groups of consumers which enable community-focused marketing.

At the end of the day, marketeers need to remember the Pareto principle of 80:20, when they analyse the relationship between the efforts and results of their branding and marketing strategies with the outcomes. Therefore, by studying other consumer tribes or creating their own, they can identify influencers and use them as tribal leaders to reach the next level. Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe should be the motto of brands henceforth.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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