Social tribes 'more potent than social networks'

WM Circle Logo

By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on February 14, 2011

Social tribes 'more potent than social networks'

In a socially-mediated world, marketers must begin to place greater emphasis on understanding their audience as people rather than simply as consumers, according to cognitive anthropologist Dr Bob Deutsch of Brain Sells.

To build a social brand, marketers need to discover who these people really are. This requires research that can elicit stories about how people feel about their world, the subtext of which defines their identities.

This perspective will help marketers adapt to profound changes in the marketplace, including:

  • From person-as-viewer to person-as-participant, to person-as-creator-of-content.  
  • From brand-to-person communication to person-to-person conversation.  
  • From information gathering to experience gathering.  
  • From brands to 'me-as-brand'.

Marketers can therefore benefit by making one additional change: from social networks to what Dr Deutsch calls "social tribes".

Social networks are free-forming, requiring no organisation or face-to-face mediation. Social networks allow for the expression of current mindsets, but are not good at conversion or moving that mindset toward action. Marketers who can better understand the formation of tribes stand to gain a larger return on investment.

According to Dr Deutsch, the five key requirements for social tribe formation are:

  1. Possession of a unique revelation An ideology that in some way rejects the mainstream and is symbolic of an uncompromising idealism and certainty that is expressed with romantic passion and cold logic.  
  2. A belief system A mythology about how the world works and how tribe members, and the tribe, can maximize "self" in relation to that world.  
  3. Ritual The creation of recurrent, exaggerated or stylized behavioural routines that represent the tribe's belief system; this helps establish institutional memory.  
  4. A distinctive lexicon A characteristic lingo and a set of emblems to display membership.  
  5. In-group/out-group accentuation A pseudo-speciation that defines tribal boundaries (i.e. the "other" is not like me).

Having satisfied these requirements, the motivation for membership is: "I am becoming myself". In other words, belonging to the tribe gives members a sense or feeling of power to overcome and expand themselves.

From the tribe-forming perspective, marketing strategy should be aimed at (a) designing a brand persona that is relevant to the public mind and mood, (b) articulating a brand history exemplifying its complexities and evolution; intrinsically buttressing its relevance to the communal mindset, and (c) portraying current contingencies as consonant with its history and persona.

The present context of the world is conducive to the longing for tribal connections that engage people with passion and purpose. As a member of a tribe, people feel safer and more empowered. Tribal membership aids in the belief that the world is a manageable place and that one's future is assured. If marketers are mindful of the fact that brands should have a mission that arouses peoples' tribal fervour, their brands will gain higher repeat purchases, greater loyalty, and stronger brand advocacy.

More Info: