Since the dawn of civilisation, man has always been characterised by his need for social belonging to a particular group. Earlier, groups used to be formed based on the proximity of humans to each other. Later, groups were formed based on religion, language, caste, ethnicity, etc. Of late, the culture of individualism started, where most of us started feeling that we were unique, and did not need to join any particular community or group, or anyone else for that matter. We felt we were self sufficient, and wanted to stand out from the crowd. So marketers used this trend among people to sell their products – companies tried customising their products to meet individual needs as much as possible. For example, iphones are so designed that you can have a unique theme, a unique set of applications, unique ring tones, and so on by just downloading whatever you liked from the internet. Your phone may be an iphone, similar to what your friends have, but its appearance and functionality is all you. Yahoo too, tried a similar approach.
However, we see these days that a reverse trend is occurring. Although people are trying to be unique, they are still drawn by their primal natures to belong to a particular group. These groups are different from what used to be earlier. They are based on a very micro segmentation – like a common passion, or a common street address, or a common hate. For example- Jackie from the USA, Mehek from Dubai and Kalyan from India may have nothing in common on a first glance. But they may be willing to be a part of the same community since they all have completed their MBA from a university in Ohio, and own Harley Davidson bikes. Similarly, Indians in the US belonging to a particular Indian state may be a part of a community there.
Marketers these days are also trying to tap these micro markets. To do this however, certain facts have to be kept in mind. Firstly, companies have to remember that these consumers don’t really care about having a personal relationship with the company. The company must focus on providing goods and services that help the people in a community (or tribe) come closer to each other. Instead of marketing one’s products at places where a consumer might visit as an individual, they must market their products using the rituals and meetings of the tribe or community. For example, a company selling high end puja material in the US for the Indians there may want to use occasions like Diwali and Dusshera to market their products. Again, within the tribe there may be people with different levels of affinity – there may be trend setters, sympathisers (who believe in the cause, but are not really into the tribe so much), adherents (who take everything the tribe stands for very seriously) and so on. Marketers have to focus on a set or a cross section of these variants.
Tribal marketing thus is one of the few things that companies can’t afford to ignore anymore. Tribes are all over the place – on social networking sites, in chat rooms, etc. The tough task is to identify tribes, and to design an appropriate marketing strategy that will draw them in.