Fast Company

Ignore the Crowds, Connect With Tribes

Listening to current marketing principles today; one can easily become distracted in the multitude of social media channels and where the real value lies. One basic principle we've seen promoted and more often adopted is "crowd sourcing" or "marketing to crowds" when in fact the validity of this argument is actually very weak.

The merits of a crowd--as defined by most dictionaries define it as "a collection of people." Now although the logic behind communicating to a large volume of people is clear, it's simply not a clear and effective strategy when your objective is to create change (I mean real change--like the stuff that wins you big markets). Crowds are not binded by a collective cause OR are they led by any individual member. So in fact the crowd simply has location and one interest which brings them together. It's like attending a major sporting event where you'll see families, teenagers, professionals and more all cheering for the same team. Now would you assume they will listen to the same message? Would you assume they are all communicating regularly with each other?

A very close friend of the "CROWD" is the "TRIBE." The word TRIBE immediately invokes a sense or pride, commitment and influence. A tribe has a leader. It has a common cause and a sense of purpose. Tribes are also very big, just like crowds--in fact likely to be bigger. The challenge a marketer tackles is "How to align YOUR objectives with a TRIBE to create a connection?"

Organisations invest in new markets such as the AFL with the expansion in Greater Western Sydney, Major League Baseball expand through China and the NFL are now committed to a Latina market in the United States. Each with a commitment to connect their sport with a populous market. Those markets have existing (and successful) alternative sporting codes already in adoption; most likely with good history. So in fact it's not a matter of offering a product to sell, it's more about creating a movement for long term adoption and change.

A clear communication message is critical to wining acceptance and a open sense of mind. The USA Senator Bill Bradley defines a movement as having the following basic elements:

1. A story that tells what you are and the future you are trying to build

2. A connection between and among the leader and the tribe (community)

3. Provide something to do--to participate (with fewer limits the better)

Crowds can become tribes, and tribes can become connected to your movement. To ensure you are well equipped to support such a movement you at a minimum must have the following in play:

> A shared interest--with your organisation and the tribe

> A effective way for members to communicate (hence community websites)

I am a big fan of Seth Godin who comments YOUR organisation can increase the effectiveness of the tribe and its members by:

  • Transforming the shared interest into a passionate goal and desire for change;
  • Providing tools to allow members to tighten their communications; and
  • Leveraging the tribe to allow it to grow and gain new members.

Typically organisations focus on the third outcome. Which although may bring short lived success; will remain distant from creating any real change.

How much of your communication strategy is winning over tribes in your key markets?

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