Social tribes are more potent than social networks

In our socially-mediated world, marketers must place greater emphasis on understanding their audience as people rather than as “consumers.”

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 will benefit by making one additional change:
From social networks to social tribes.Social networks are free-forming, require no organization 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 will gain a larger return on investment.

The Five Requirements for Tribal Formation

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 behavioral 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. The “Other” is not like me.

Having satisfied these requirements, the motivation for membership is: I am Becoming myself. Belonging gives you a sense of power to overcome and to expand yourself.

Tribe as Brand

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.

Brands as Missions

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 fervor, their brands will gain higher repeat purchases, greater loyalty, and stronger brand advocacy.

About: Dr. Bob Deutsch is the founder and president of consulting firm Brain Sells (, Boston, MA), Bob has worked in the primeval forest and on Pennsylvania and Madison Avenues. His focus, since the mid-’70s, when he was living with pre-literate tribes and chimpanzees, has been to understand how leading ideas take hold in cultures.

Read full article on