The Tribal Marketplace

Ever wondered why some brands seem to have a frustratingly loyal following even when other products with better features at lower prices are available? In today’s marketplace there is a new influencing factor on purchasing decisions. These days features, price and even quality may not be the final determining factor in a buying decision.

Often it comes down to the question of “What tribe will I be joining with the purchase of this product?”

clan flags and socksWe are tribal

We are hardwired to be tribal. Being a member of a tribe ensured our survival. Now that we’ve mostly moved beyond city states and clans in our geopolitical structure we have found ways to sort our selves into tribes – alma maters, sports teams, electronic devices. 

Consumer tribalism is beautifully illustrated in Windows products ads. They resort to the old school marketing of putting their product next to an Apple product demonstrating all the cool features of theirs and poke fun at where the Apple product falls short on nifty capabilities.

And yet those of us of the Apple tribe will not be swayed.

Being a member of a tribe means we are a member of a special group with shared sensibilities and values that create a sense of belonging among the group and distinction from others.

The Apple clan are design snobs. Harley riders are proud riders of an American product and lovers of the freedom of the open road (even if it is only on weekends). Honda or Ducati could make rocket bikes. A member of tribe Harley still wouldn’t be caught dead on one.

Purchase decisions are driven by something features and specs can never touch – identity.

Tribal marketing

Want to have frustratingly loyal customers?

Give them something to love beyond just the product. What does (emotionally rooted) identity does this product represent? Rebel of the open road? 

Build community. A tribe is a social structure of belonging and inclusion. Rewards programs are not community. Genuine interactions with fans and among fans are.