Tribal Marketing: Why it works better than targeting demographics?
29 October 2019

Tribal Marketing: Why it works better than targeting demographics?

What age is the average surfer? What is the income range of real estate agents? What is the age range of people who do yoga? What is the age and income range of New Zealand’s top 100 CEOs? What are the beliefs and opinions of a typical middle aged New Zealander?

It is easy for the average marketer to pigeonhole each of the above groups into basic stereotyped demographics, and for many years, marketers have. Using age, income and even gender has far too frequently become the pinnacle of persona based targeting and while it may have some value, these basic demographics are not ‘tribal markers’. It is often much more effective to let go of the stereotypes and embrace a more accurate and complex picture. 

Successful advertising talks to customers in their language about what matters to them, based on interests, behaviours, loves, and pain points, not just age, gender and income.
For example:

  • Active relaxing, waves, sand, and a love of adrenaline are interests many surfers have in common

  • Wellbeing of body, mind and soul is what binds yogies?

  • A love for interior, property and sales driven environments is often what captures a real estate agents attention. 

What we are digging into here, is that what matters to your customer has little to do with the year they were born or what they bring home in their pay packet. What matters most are their interests, motivations, beliefs and the values of their ‘tribe’.

Marketing isn’t about targeting an individual. Marketing is about targeting a group (tribe).

The reason we like to develop personas based on tribal groups, as opposed to individuals, is that the behavior of an individual can vary widely at anytime. Take two 18 year old male students who make $10,000 per year for example. Are they likely to have the same interests, beliefs or values? Maybe, but most likely not. One may be a religious ACDC and Black Sabbath fan, love attending heavy rock festivals and going to craft beer houses, whereas the other may be more interested in attending Art shows, listening to mellow drum and base and attending art exhibitions. Targeting these two individuals with similar content, because you based your persona targeting on their age, income and gender alone, will most definitely alienate one or the other, or both. 

This is why we always go with grouped selections, or tribal targeting. When you observe the behavior of a self-selected group, you’ll see predictable patterns emerge. This is true whether you’re watching surfers, real estate agents, yoga practitioners, art lovers, or any segmented group. 

A great example is Generation Z. Many marketers will place Generation Z into the same category when targeting. But as we saw with the student example above, Generation Z is not a tribe, it is a collection of tribes. We automatically join a tribe or group when we see, feel and think as they do on a particular subject. Tribal marketing simply reflects back to a tribe their own vision and emotion and logic.

Brilliant ads and promotions are built on this concept.

A tribe isn’t solely targeted through carefully selected media and platforms, but also through carefully selected words and imagery. If your product or service was designed with a tribe in mind, your ads written to reflect that, and you have chosen the correct targeting parameters in your advertising platform, you are on your way to marketing success.