From brand management to tribe management

December 8, 2022
Brand strategy Marketing communications

Advertising is no longer about repeating the same core messages to as many people as possible.

Consumers today are well informed and they are over saturated with a glut of advertising and brand messages. They are well aware when they are being spammed with information to buy something. What consumers want is to feel a connection to products, services and experiences. They will only make that purchase when they feel impelled to do so – when they feel it will allow them to join a tribe.

The modern consumer is buying experiences rather than commodities, and this explains the importance of brand execution in product and service categories. The decision process guiding the consumer involves brand associations, which are largely image driven, intangible and symbolic.

A brand tribe is a formal or informal group of consumers who share the same awareness, passion and loyalty for a brand or a portfolio of brands. Brand tribes can be identified as strong drivers of brand strengths for many international brands like LEGO, Bang & Olufsen, Nike, Giorgio Armani, Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts, Singapore Airlines, Timberland and many other unique brands.

Building Connection
It’s about creating a meaningful connection between products, services and experiences and people, and letting people form natural tribes around these voices.

Marketing guru Seth Godin fired up the crowd with his keynote address at the Mixx Expo in New York last week, one of the world’s premier digital marketing events. “There is too much clutter … because we’ve branded ourselves to death.” Seth Godwin has been talking about tribes in marketing for years now, and this is sounding increasing true today.

From Brand Management to Tribe Management
Thinking of brand management as a form of tribe managements is a different way of perceiving the world. Its starting point is recognising that the most important asset organisations can build is the privilege of delivering relevant and personal messages to people who want to receive it. People want that information because it helps them to connect with something larger. What people deeply want is the ability to connect not to companies, but to each other. When a company helps them form and connect to their own tribe, gives them a story they can tell and talk about, then the loyalty that grows is tangible. Becoming tribe focussed will mean rather than singling out customers for your products, you will look for services and products you can deliver to the tribe. The organisation becomes completely focused on satisfying and growing the tribe.

Who are some of the great tribal leaders?

Nike Running shoes are nothing new. However Nike created a tribe of runners who proudly wore the Nike swoosh because they felt emboldened by Nike’s messages of athlete’s driven to glory.

The Beatles Teenagers in the 1960s already were a tribe. But they lacked leadership. The Beatles provided a voice in their fans own image, and built intense loyalty through an already existing group who needed a megaphone to champion their message.

Zappos This online retailer sells more than shoes. They present a retail experience consumers love and want to share. It’s not about the shoes, “it’s about the principles of service.”

iPhone Apple introduced the smart phone to a mass audience, but the iPhone is also a badge of a tribe. “No one bought this phone because it’s a good phone. Everyone got it because it’s a badge that you’re on this team, not that team.”

Marketing today needs to be understood as tribal leadership. The role of CMO should really be understood to stand for “Chief Movement Officer,” rather than Chief Marketing Officer. The key take out is don’t market. Lead a tribe or forge a new one. Inspire. Access your brand’s passions, and you’ll tap into consumer’s passions, building a small dedicated following that will grow larger and larger as word of mouth spreads.


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