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Tribal branding allows marketers to benefit from greatly enhanced levels of consumer devotion to brands. Richardson incorporates the approach of ethno-marketing to expertly explain the opportunities for marketing and branding professionals to co-create brands with, and develop new ways of marketing to, tribal groups and brand communities.



1. Tribes, Tribal Marketing, and Tribal Branding

Imagine a scenario where everyone you want to promote your brand to is so enthusiastic about the brand that they are already promoting it to one another. Instead of a situation where jaded or cynical consumers feel a sense of apathy towards your products, they feel a sense of commitment and excitement about your product that they want to share with other people. Imagine a situation where instead of only having a small team of developers trying to generate new product ideas, you had access to a huge pool of people who continually devoted their time, energy, and love to developing new ways of sharing your product with one another? What if instead of having to devote huge resources, in terms of time and money, to bring this about, you could rely on your customers to do it for free? Is this a marketer's utopian dream? Not at all. Welcome to the world of consumer tribes.

Brendan Richardson

2. What Is Tribal Marketing, and Why Hasn't It Been More Widely Implemented?

To return to the question posed at the beginning of Chapter 1 – what is tribal marketing, and what makes it different from other, more conventional forms of consumer marketing? Tribal marketing seeks to establish what it is that holds meaning for consumers, and it seeks to support those things. It is about relationships, not coercion. It is about allowing people to post about your product or service on Facebook themselves, because they feel like it, not because they were solicited into e-granting permission for the brand to post as them.

Brendan Richardson

3. Tribal Origins and Idiosyncrasies – Why Brand Tribes Form and Why They Need to See Themselves as Unique

Why do tribes coalesce around brands? It is an interesting question. Why should consumers self-initiate what might normally be seen as some sort of marketing initiative? As we've seen so far, the answer is that they don't engage in it from a marketing perspective. Consumers initiate brand tribes for their own reasons, not for marketing-related reasons. They do so because brands allow them to form social links and engage emotionally with one another.

Brendan Richardson

4. Understanding Tribal Dynamics: Beginning to Engage with the Art of Ethno-Marketing

This chapter introduces the ethno-marketing phase of tribal branding in more detail. It explains the need to understand the tribe on their terms. It outlines in broad rather than specific detail how ethnographic techniques can be used to gain an understanding of tribal rituals and tribal values. It also takes a preliminary look at a limited number of case studies which show the benefits to be derived from cultivating such an understanding, including a review of some cases documented in the existing literature on Tribal Marketing.

Brendan Richardson

5. Collecting Tribal Data

The first thing to remember in reading this chapter is that it assumes that the sort of background information discussed in Chapter 4 has already been gathered and considered.

Brendan Richardson

6. Interpreting Tribal Data: Analysing Ethnographic Data and Using It to Build and Maintain Tribal Brands

This chapter explains the process of analysing the different data collected from participant observation, online and offline, and data collected from interviews. It looks at the steps involved in identifying patterns, checking for data that contradicts initial interpretations, and finally composing an integrated interpretation that allows the company to understand tribal values. The question of how to relate these values to brand development is subsequently discussed in Chapter 7. However, it is worth bearing in mind that because we are interested in developing a tribal marketing approach to analysis of the data, we can assume that the marketer is participating, collecting data and analysing it, and adapting their participation in the tribe accordingly, in parallel with ongoing work on development of an overall ethnographic interpretation of tribal identity, rather than waiting till a full-scale ethnography is completed before making even low-key changes.

Brendan Richardson

7. Meet the Tribes

So far the focus in this book has been on how to collect and analyse tribal data in order to gain an understanding of tribal linking value and tribal cultural capital.

Brendan Richardson

8. Towards an Ethics of Tribal Marketing

In thinking about how to develop an ethical standard for tribal marketing, it seems sensible to begin by looking at some of the principles that inform any basic approach to business ethics. Commentators on business ethics usually begin by pointing to the main distinctions between the different types of ethical theory – absolutist, or traditional, ethical theory and relativist ethical theory. Most contemporary ethical theories are relativist and recognize the benefits to be derived from a non-absolutist approach. The non-absolutist nature of contemporary theory might in some ways make it a more appropriate starting point for the development of an ethical approach to tribal marketing – but this would mean overlooking the contribution of some key aspects of traditionalist theory to the development of an ethical approach to tribal marketing, so we will take a brief look at both perspectives before beginning to draw inferences for the approach recommended in this book.

Brendan Richardson

9. Tribes and Tribal Branding – Where Do We Go from Here?

By now we have covered a range of different aspects of the tribal approach to branding. As just reiterated in Chapter 8, two of the most crucial elements in this as a philosophy are respect for the principle that brand meaning can be created outside the formal boundaries of the organization and respect for the tribe's freedom to engage in this meaning creation process on their own terms. Everything else, including all the potential benefits to the company, really does stem from respect for these two principles. This implies, as we've seen, that companies who wish to engage with tribes need to do so patiently and humbly. There is a need to approach tribes in a respectful rather than arrogant way, using the principles for cultural entrée as defined by Robert Kozinets1 and as explained in Chapter 3. There is a need to use the methods of ethno-marketing as outlined by Cova and Cova2 to firstly identify traces of tribal activity (which clearly are sometimes very obvious but sometimes less so) and then identify tribal linking value. There may be a need to participate and not just observe, in order to be accepted as a presence in the community and in order to more fully understand the basis for the tribe's sense of social connection. This is important if the marketer is to succeed in developing communications and designing products, events, Facebook pages and even Twitter feeds that are perceived as supportive of tribal linking value. And while we have looked at refreshing examples of cases where vibrant and passionate tribes have emerged and endured with little or no input or support from a tribal marketer, we've seen that it is more advisable to fulfil an ethno-marketing approach, so as to at the very least understand the tribe's passions on their own merits. This is absolutely preferable to the possibility of undermining tribal linking value through trying to enforce an overly defined brand narrative that doesn't facilitate the tribe's desire to do their own thing, to re-work brand narratives as they see fit. When there is at least some freedom to re-work brand narratives, the results can be spectacular.

Brendan Richardson


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