Tribes have existed since the beginning of human history, and while the modern tribe is somewhat different from its predecessors, the basic premise remains the same.
In his book Tribes – We Need You to Lead Us, Seth Godin notes: "A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea."
For a tribe to form there needs to be a common interest, and a method in which members of the tribe can communicate. Godin says the internet "eliminates geography" and has facilitated the proliferation of tribes of various shapes and sizes.
He does, however, reiterate that "the internet is just a tool, an easy way to enable some tactics. The real power of tribes has nothing to do with the internet and everything to do with people".
With tribes on the rise, there is seemingly a need for brands to target their marketing efforts towards them. Opinions on how to go about this, however, appear to be mixed.
Talk, don’t shout
Some brands have clearly defined tribes that they target with experiential activity; others, meanwhile, prefer to focus on the broader population.
On the topic of tribes, Owen Laverty, senior fanatic manager at agency Ear to the Ground, says: "Every client we work with, from Nike and Samsung to Grey Goose and Foot Asylum, is interested in connecting with tribes and sub-cultures.
"In the worlds of sport and music, we look at these tribes in the context of fan bases. This is because we are increasingly finding that these unique groups tend to congregate around their passion for particular sports or types of music. The difficulty for brands in this space is that too often they fail to look beyond the basic demographics or brushstrokes of these emotional, and at times irrational and complex, fanbases," he adds.
As for the benefits of marketing to tribes, Tom Scott, managing director at agency Create London, explains: "Brands are tapping into tribes and sub-groups more and more because it’s within these groups that a lot of peer influencers and trendsetters lie. By appealing to these groups, the brand will benefit from the trickle- down effect to their wider, more mainstream, communities.
"Ninety-nine per cent of trends start within a small niche group, and it is important for a brand to be seen as authentic. If they were there first, they have won half the battle."
Delving deeper: The tribes that should be on any marketer’s radar
Tribes come together based on their collective interest in something – age, gender, location and other demographics don’t necessarily play a part.
Aisling Syme, brand manager at Dorset Cereals, says the company employs this approach in its marketing efforts: "We target attitudinally, talking to consumers who share our values. This goes way beyond strict demographics."
With this in mind, the brand sought to reach consumers across the UK with its recent activation, the Mobile Breakfast Lodge, which served muesli and granola at locations such as harbour shows, seaside towns and festivals.
"We know our customers don’t always conform to the norm, so we offered them a multi- touchpoint experience to let them discover the brand.
"The Dorset Cereals consumer is a foodie at heart, excited about being the one to discover new things. This formed the premise of the experiential campaign," adds Syme.
It’s likely that you have come into contact with one or all of the following tribes – you might, in fact, belong to one yourself.
Some of them have been around for quite a while. They are, however, still considered very relevant today.
The Oxford Dictionary defines foodie as: "A person with a particular interest in food; a gourmet."
Foodies’ fingers are firmly on the culinary pulse – they know about the latest restaurant openings and the chef or restaurateur of the moment. They are often willing to spend their week’s wage on a seven-course degustation at a top restaurant, because food provides much more than sustenance – it is considered an art form.
Members of this tribe may be interested in cooking meals themselves. Their Sunday afternoons could be spent baking sumptuous treats for the week, and mid-week meals can be a gourmet affair.
No longer the stereo- typical New Age type, eco-warriors are everyday people with a passion for the environment. They might be involved in an organisation or ‘tribe’ such as the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which works to conserve the world’s marine environment, or opt to donate to one.
Alternatively, they might pledge their involvement at a grass- roots level by recycling, ensuring they only ever buy locally or cycle to work rather than drive.
When it comes to new technology, tech heads are early adopters. They can be identified by the Apple watch on their wrist, the multiple gadgets – including the mobile phone and tablet they use – and a willingness to embrace new payment methods such as Samsung Pay, launched in Korea last month. They are the go-to person when it comes to all things cutting edge in the world of tech.
Gamers also fall within this category. This group is characterised by their interest in video games, and separate tribes tend to develop around particular games or genres.
Coconut oil, chia seeds, goji berries and activated nuts are among the health advocate’s pantry staples.
These individuals are passionate about eating well and typically choose to make meals from scratch to avoid hidden ingredients in food, such as refined sugars and preservatives.
Fitness fanatics, such as those who subcribe to CrossFit, Les Mills workouts or simply enjoy the outdoors and being active, are also part of this tribe. They care greatly about their health, an interest that is backed up by their enjoyment of physical activity.
The Modern Parent
The modern parent is willing to spend as much time and money as is needed to ensure the best for their child. They can be identified by their Bugaboo-branded stroller, opt to feed their babies organic, natural food and beverages – served in eco-friendly reusable containers – and tend to congregate in hip cafe´s to discuss the latest in child-rearing techniques and trends.
Bloggers were once considered to be individuals who sought to spread the word about their interests or passions via an online platform. Today they are forces to be reckoned with. Fashion, beauty and travel bloggers, or ‘slashies’ who cover all three, have proliferated in recent times, spawning their own tribe.
Social media has made it much easier for people to showcase their carefully curated fashion-focused outfits, beauty looks and travel shots. Established bloggers have thousands of followers, and have encouraged others to forge a similar path, who now also consider themselves to be bloggers.
Vloggers – video bloggers, including those who have found fame on YouTube – also fit under this umbrella.
While Dalstonites may be identified by their street address – they live in the east London locale – there are more layers to this tribe.
They might not necessarily live in the area, and it’s likely that they used to hang out in Shoreditch, the former mecca of cool, which is now ‘too gentrified’. Dalstonites tend to have an interest in the arts, and often work in a local bar to fund their artistic pursuits.
They can easily be spotted by their man bun, overgrown beard, tatts or eye-catching clothing, and like to hang out in venues that have exposed brickwork and low-hanging lights, where beer sourced from small local breweries is in full flow.
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