older man and younger man walking together

Tribe Marketing: What it is and why it’s taking over

Jan 9, 2020 | DAE & Company, Marketing

Today, we’re watching as the big picture of generational marketing is being replaced by a much more nuanced view of who we’re marketing to. We’ve entered an era where we’ve practically got consumer data coming out our ears, giving us access to highly specific attitudinal and behavioral insights once unavailable to marketers without the use of expensive, time-consuming research tools.

And all the while, the age of the internet has ushered in a new social order where the global village is being replaced by a vast set of divergent tribes.

That’s why, when we develop outreach at DAE & Company, we look at how we should speak to these tribes, not how we can reach “older” or “younger” generations. That is, we look at how different tribes engage and experience brands and we determine the best way to deliver meaningful messages to the individual members of these tribes.

Tribe Marketing in the Real World

In a recent Forbes article on the topic of tribe marketing, writer Kian Bakhtiari describes this phenomenon aptly:

The digital age has enabled the creation of modern tribes, united by a shared mindset, rather than age or location. Unlike the punks, hippies and goths of yesteryear, these new tribal allegiances are invisible. Modern tribes live inside echo chambers on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Twitch and Discord.

So, if birthdate alone can no longer predict consumer behavior patterns, the implications for today’s marketers are huge. Researchers estimate that in 2020, Gen-Z will take over as the largest global generation. Brands seeking to reach this massive pool of consumers will have to go beyond the analysis of simple demographic profiles, instead listening and responding to the highly diverse needs, wants, attitudes, and values this group is communicating to us in those “echo chambers” online.

But how do we begin to deliberately process this new approach?

First, stop viewing “youth” as a marketing segment

Think of it this way. A whopping 64% of the world’s population is made up of Millennials and Gen-Z—that’s 4.7 billion unique souls. And as Bakhtiari puts it in the aforementioned Forbes article,

How can [this massive group of people] all possibly think or act in the same way? For every report stating young people are lazy, there’s another stating they’re workaholics. For every article stating they’re individualistic, there’s another stating they’re community-minded. And for every account stating they’re narcissistic, there’s another stating they’re going to save the world.

The thing is, Millenials and Gen-Z are all of those things and more, that is, when you look at them through the lens of tribe marketing. What the contradictions reveal, Bakhtiari goes on to say, is the natural consequence of attempting to paint a picture of a profoundly diverse group using the broad, oversimplified brushstrokes of age-based demographics.

Second, stop assuming generational demographic segments reflect different consumer needs

You need only take a quick look at the variation within today’s individual generations to easily understand the growing disconnect between age-based demographics and real consumer needs. As Bakhtiari points out, “Donald Trump and Barack Obama are both Baby Boomers. Jay Z and Jeff Bezos are both a part of Generation-X.”

He then goes on to list a slew more age-mates whose views and behaviors prove how very poor a determinant of identity or needs age really is. And all this is despite those undeniable shared experiences unique to each generation—those economic and social events and circumstances that shape a person’s outlook on, and chances at success in, life. While such shared experiences might define circumstances, they no longer define the ways in which individuals within a generation navigate those circumstances.

Third, start taking cues from companies like Netflix

With 139 million subscribers to contend with, Netflix has developed a segmentation strategy based on the tastes of its consumers. By breaking this massive troupe into 1,300 taste communities based solely on viewing behavior, not age or any other demographic marker, the company saves $1 billion each year on subscription churn. These results are consistent with a recent Gallup poll showing that companies who capitalize on behavioral insights have shown 85% more sales growth and a 25% greater sales margin than companies still relying on generational insights alone.

Netflix Vice President of Product Todd Yellin wrapped it with a bow when he said in a recent interview, “[…] there are actually 19-year-old guys who watch Dance Moms, and there are 73-year-old women who are watching Breaking Bad and Avengers.”

Enough said.

Interested to learn more about how tribe-based marketing could streamline your strategy? Get in touch, and let’s talk!

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