Jonathan Wallace
08-Oct-2019 17:22:45

Identifying Your Tribes: Why is it so important?

Cultural Tribes may sound like yet another marketing buzzword. But they're also the key to unlock both new engagement opportunities with your existing audience and discovering new audiences to grow your brand.

A real understanding of your tribes provides brands with detailed insights about the people you want to reach, in a way that traditional demographics cannot. This approach is not about an alternative to using demographics in your marketing. But it is an approach to help make your engagements more relevant and contextual.

identifying-tribes2 (1)

Tribes are an approach for a real-time world

Culture moves fast. Real-time insight is more relevant to the brands and enables much faster activation. It helps brands to maintain relevance throughout the year, as opposed to getting something at the mid-2018 and only implementing in early-2020. By the time it appears, culture has mainly moved on. Traditionally, once a concept travels through strategy, creative and media, the campaign might happen 8 to 10 months after the insight. 

While fundamental human truths would still be relevant, but how those truths are playing out and where they're playing out could have shifted. Inserting your creative insight or your dramatisation into that changing landscape makes it much more difficult for you to engage. You're left always trying to chase after a culture that's moving faster than you can respond.

It's critical to understand the customer from more than one dimension and to be comfortable/confident in marketing to these varied dimensions. 

Best practice involves understanding the association between your brand and the multidimensional aspects that comprise the tribe. It is how you unlock plentiful creative opportunities and distinguish your brand. 

Let's take a hypothetical brand in the coffee industry. If they pick a coffee lover tribe and market to them solely about their coffee that doesn't need any audience insights. But what if the tribe also has a shared love of cake? What are the creative possibilities in the space between a coffee brand and a love of cake?

How to measure and monitor the impact of tribes?

Some metrics can be a red herring when it comes to measuring the impact of tribes.

Standard marketing metrics (e.g. awareness, consideration, content engagement, etc.) have precipitated the demographic-led audience views that we're fighting. Demographics are easy to quantify and compare. But, in reality, culturally-relevant content will lift all these metrics regardless of your customer view. 

The most indicative metrics are 'relevant to me'/'would recommend'/'is like me' metrics. However, these take a substantial amount of time and commitment to move. In the short-term, then, measure shareability and conversion.

How is understanding a tribe is different from social listening?

The difference between social listening and truly understanding a tribe is clear. Consider another situation where you engaged with another person in conversation and only had a predetermined list of keywords or topics that you were able to engage with that person in. That conversation isn't really a conversation now.

This is the critical downfall of only employing social listening to engage with people, brands end up in industry sized echo chambers continually  looking inwards and never discovering new opportunities for conversation outside of their existing audience. 

By successfully employing networks of tribes and actually observing what they are engaging with, brands are able to discover topics and conversations that they can engage with their target and undiscovered audiences.

The pitfalls of getting it wrong

Marketers often become fixated on specific pieces of information. Soon enough, this fixation becomes the base of all decision making. As a result, they have a habit of disregarding some (or all) of the bigger picture. For example, marketers make assumptions based on demographics; for example, an older person wouldn't like a particular idea because of their age. As well as being discriminatory, these biases blind us to genuine communication opportunities. 

Ultimately, this leads to short-sighted communications and an unwillingness to change. Back to the coffee example earlier: a coffee company, whose target audience is a substantial coffee purchaser, will likely only communicate to that audience about their coffee. However, by considering the other things the tribe may hold important unlocks new creative opportunities, ways of engaging with new people and the potential to gain market share.