Thursday, November 1, 2018

Brands and Tribalism



While many people consider tribalism to be a bygone adaptive effect in the evolution of human culture, many forms of tribalism exist today. Modern tribalism recognizes that humans feel more safe and comfortable in smaller groups of people with whom they share similar values. Tribes can also lead to a sense of belonging. And research has shown that the human brain can only process up to 150 individuals as fully developed complex people. After that, stereotypes, hierarchical schemes and other models for clustering people must be used to make sense of things. This is why organizations of 150 people or less tend to feel more inviting and personal. 

While tribalism has the advantages listed above, it also has its downside. Tribalism tends to lead to ethnocentrism and often to ethic or racially motivated conflict. Essentially, people in a tribe recognize each other as familial individuals who have value, while others outside the tribe are often demonized or at least dehumanized or ignored. 

While tribalism leads to greater cohesion and loyalty, it can also make understanding of a broader world and quick adaptation to changing conditions more difficult. 

Brands can become important to people by linking to their tribes. Tribes can be based on any set of values, beliefs or interests. This offers brands many opportunities to align with tribes to create greater emotional connection and loyalty. The key is to understand the underlying hopes, fears, beliefs, values and shared interests of tribal members. 

In the USA, the most visible tribes are political tribes, religious tribes and socio-economic tribes. But there are also geographic tribes, racial tribes and special-interest tribes. But any organizational affiliation can act as a tribe from Rotary clubs, Boy Scouts and veterans groups to hiking groups, equestrian groups and sailing clubs. Even university affiliations and sports teams can act like tribes.

Again, for a brand to appeal to a specific tribe it needs to know what beliefs, values and interests hold that tribe together and further, the brand needs to understand the tribal language, symbols and rituals. 

Alignment with a tribe can create staunch devotion to the brand. In fact, the brand can become another outward manifestation of tribal membership. I wish you great success in aligning your brand with one or more tribes.

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