Tribal marketing – a new way of segmentation and consumer engagement

Let’s face it, the ‘ad-man’ was very close to the weatherman in popularity in the past, with advertising messages mostly benefiting the brand rather than the consumer. During the past couple of years, however, there has been a significant shift in consumer behaviour and it’s no secret the consumer is holding all the chips.

I won’t elaborate, because as a marketer you are very aware of this situation and I’m sure you’re adapting tactics to accommodate the consumer. The big question is this: How much are marketers investing in getting to really know their target market?

Traditionally a marketing campaign would start with research into the target market, which would usually be based on stats and figures such as LSM and demographics. If we think about it logically, with the diversity of cultures in the world and society’s craving for individualism, it becomes even more apparent that consumers can no longer be moulded according to statistics.

For example, I fall into the white male, aged 40-45 category.  But what does this tell you about me? Nothing. I am simply a flat statistic and one of millions who fall into this category. If one delved deeper you would find that I’m an outdoor person, a keen mountain biker, a Christian, a creative person and a musician. Someone who falls into the statistical category with me may, in fact, not like the outdoors, but prefer the city and have different hobbies and interests than me.

So how can marketers address individuality, use it strategically and create meaningful interactions with the brand?

This is the new key to marketing …

Okay, so let’s get through the demographics, and from there we dig deeper into psychographics to create personas for your target audience. This is what sophisticated marketers have done in the past. But let’s dig even deeper – this is what I call consumer archaeology – into meaningful shared characteristics so we are able to start mapping consumers into tribes.

Consumer tribes are the truest expression of self – the mix of who I see myself as (my personal identity) and the groups that I think I belong to. Can marketers really see me as I see myself? Interact with me in the way I want to be interacted with? The answer is yes. And every marketer should be answering the following critical questions:

1. Who are the Tribal Influencers?

Once your tribes have been established, you need to understand their tribal influences. In other words, who they listen to, who they trust and who they share common interests with. In some cases this may be a celebrity, but in many cases it could be an expert in a specific field, an opinion leader or a friend. Tribal Influencers are responsible for greater brand loyalty than anyone else in an individual’s sphere of influence.

2. Where can they be found?

It is also crucial to understand where your tribes and more specifically your tribal influencers are communicating and sharing common goals. This is best understood in the digital space but happens similarly in the real world. Social media, blogs, forums and other online communities often come into play, but the possibility exists to create new spaces for your consumers to interact with.

The first clue is to turn to communication trends which are becoming more and more targeted, specifically regarding digital communication. With the rise of tools such as Cyborg, Smobile and even the constant improvements on targeted communication, half the job is already done for marketers. Looking even beyond that, consumers should no longer be expected to search for content relevant to them, but instead content should find them in a space where they are firstly comfortable communicating, and secondly always available. The obvious answer here is mobile and the integration of online activity in the mobile space.

3. What language do they speak?

By language I’m not only referring to linguistics in terms of our eleven official languages, but rather to ‘lingos’ or tribal linguistics. Surfers, for example, have their own codes and language which an outsider may struggle to connect with or understand. To really connect to your tribes you need to speak a language they are familiar and comfortable with.

4. How will we communicate with them?

Now that you understand the influencers, their talking spaces and their language, you have a platform for the brand and the brand needs to start connecting to these tribes. It is no longer only about communicating with them in terms of the brand or product, but rather in terms of the value your communication adds to either the tribal influencer or to the tribe specifically. We do not tell them about the brand, we weave the brand into their conversational threads, subtely but regulary.

Essentially, through these four questions and the implementation thereof, you are able to fuse Public Relations, Digital, CRM and Direct Marketing in such a way as to make a direct and emotional connection with your specific target audience. It is important to understand that this form of marketing strongly takes on the four various aspects of the traditional tools mentioned above:

1. The messaging and communication understanding of traditional PR
2. The in-depth knowledge of the target market as with Direct Marketing
3. The long-term relationship – building of CRM
4. The relevant and ubiquitous platform of Digital/Mobile.

Implementing this predominantly on a digital platform allows for instant communication, live tracking and insights, and adaptation during any point of the conversation. It is both a proactive form of communication as well as a very measurable and real-time interactive approach.

At Boomtown, we build out of these conversation platforms to crowd source ideas, do research, live-track sentiment and adapt for effectiveness during campaigns. By knowing the consumer as intimately as this, brands can become far more innovative in their product and service development, and build greater depths of loyalty than ever before.


Neil Hart will be sharing more insight and techniques on Tribal Marketing at the Direct Marketing Conference, taking place on 6 – 7 March 2013 in Johannesburg.  Don’t miss the opportunity to attend this exciting event and learn the latest about Tribal Marketing, Integrated Marketing, Consumer Engagement, Big Data, Social Media, CRM and much more.  For more information, contact or click here.

Issued by Knowledge Resources – Written by:  Neil Hart, Boomtown Strategic Brand Agency


One thought on “Tribal marketing – a new way of segmentation and consumer engagement

  1. Pingback: Social Media in Business Class Blog | Advertising’s New Medium: Human Experience

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