You Don’t Own your Brand
Tribal communities are a sociological phenomenon and are changing the way that businesses interact with consumers. Top-down marketing is not effective on tribes, as individuals take ownership of the brand. Tribal marketing is about enabling people to tell stories, which is now becoming a crucial element of the marketing mix. Of course, the concept of ‘tribes’ isn’t a new one by any stretch of the imagination. Over a decade ago, Bernard Cova was talking about tribes and how people’s need to recreate new connections would impact marketing. But technology – and more specifically social media has elevated tribal marketing to a level of new importance.
Many brands and small business owners alike make the mistake in believing that they own their brand, and they endevour to control the conversation around their business. The most successful brands are those who can position themselves as facilitators of the conversation but not attempt to control it as these attempts can go horribly wrong. There is no better example of a marketing top down approach to marketing which went horribly wrong is the recent case study of Nuetella. More recently the Chief Executive of Abercrombe & Fitch have attempted to exclude certain sections of society which has resulted in a mass campaign to ”Fitch the homeless”.
Consumers can belong to multiple tribes, and the stronger the tribe the greater the influence the brand will be able to exert over their individual, unlike traditional marketing top down techniques tribal marketing connects emotionally as they share common values. This connection allows the brand the opportunity to cross sell, and there is no better example of this than Apple going from the PC manufacturer business to the music industry.
Outside of Apple, I haven’t seen many truly great examples of marketing campaigns which have won tribal approval, but the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty is arguably one of the most famous examples. However, when your brand gains such a followership it is important for companies that an ownership transfer has occurred, not a financial transfer but an emotional one. This can have repercussions for the future strategy of the company was if you violate what a brands stands for the tribe will no longer accept it, and there is potential a disastrous repercussion. A famous example of tribal kick back is that of Coca Cola infuriated consumers worldwide when they introduced ‘New Coke’ with had to be quickly abandoned because of consumer dissatisfaction.