Brand tribes; where passion has no boundary

By RhythmOne | Sponsored
Download the Brand Tribes “how to guide" below.

This is a feature from the October issue of AdNews. The full content is only available in print - you can subscribe to the print edition or download a digital version here.

Knowing more about consum­ers has never been more im­portant as the pressure to deliver bang for your marketing buck, as well as give a consumer what they want, has intensified.

But are we all too focused on knowing the short term minutia details of data streams on each potential and actual consumer, instead of delving deeper into more authentic and longer last­ing segmentation tactics that focus on brand loyalty and har­nessing powerful strategies such as the old school ‘word of mouth’ approach?

A notion that has been sticking with some brands, such as Pernod Ricard, is that of the ‘brand tribe’, but this meaning, much like ‘AI’ and ‘CX’, can have different interpreta­tions and can be difficult to nail down to just one firm definition.

Neuroscientist Dr Peter Steidl defined tribes as consumers who feel very strongly about a brand and who feel a close tie to other consumers who have the same kind of relationship with the brand. The principal at Neurothinking said: “What makes consumers a Brand Tribe is not the formal step of join­ing a membership, loyalty scheme or some other kind of community.

Rather, the criterion is how people feel about others who share their passion for the brand and what it stands for, and the most reliable indicator of who does and doesn’t belong to a Brand Tribe is arguably the sharing of content.”

But are all marketers switched on to the opportunity of tribes, the power of ‘share’ or a recommen­dation and how do you spot brand advocacy?

In a bid to tackle some of the questions around these so-called brand tribes, RhythmOne (for­merly RadiumOne) held a round­table in partnership with AdNews. RhythmOne is a huge advocate of brand tribes as it very much believes in the power of the consumer shar­ing action and the intent it shows – be that via a social sharing interaction or increasingly through more intimate and telling ‘dark social’ means – such as email or direct message.

Hosted by AdNews online editor Pippa Chambers, the roundtable included head of consumer mar­keting at PayPal Liz Lefort; head of digital and social at Lenovo Asia Pacific Danielle Uskovic; founder and CEO at influencer market­ing company Social Soup Sharyn Smith; digital strategist at Spark Foundry media agency James Drewe and RhythmOne market­ing director Jodie Koning – who also has brand experiences at major brands such as McDonald’s, Smirnoff, Diageo and Blackmores.

Huge scale of connectivity boosts tribes

“Tribes aren’t new,” PayPal’s Lefort said. “If you go back to even grandma’s knitting groups or anti-fur groups – there’s always been people that are ultimately really passionate about something and wanted to drive a difference.

“But what has changed is the way that we’re connected. It’s the mobile technology, the ease and convenience and the scale in which we can communicate with each other now. That’s the real call out for me around tribes and that’s something that we’ve definitely been talking about internally.”

Lefort (below right), who previously worked at Westpac, recalled how years ago there was the saying of ‘you have a good experience and you tell four people, you have a bad experience and you tell 12’, but added she’d hate to even think what the scale of that number looks like now.

“Customers don’t step away and say ‘I’m going to go home to think about how bad that customer expe­rience was and I’m going to write a letter to whoever’. It’s actually instant – it’s on social and people are com­menting straight away,” she said.
“The thing for us is how you use that strength and you use the power in the tribes and the passion that people have, but you’ve got to be really conscious of it. It is some­thing that you need to face into.”

Download RhythmOne's Brand Tribes “how to guide" here

Uskovic said Lenovo wants its actual employees to talk about the brand and wants them to be its advocates. “We want them to be leading from the front and sharing our content, because that’s more believable than us – than that corporate branded message,” Uskovic explained. It also uses influencers and has an extreme group super-fans – some with Lenovo tattoos.

“What we look for are peo­ple that are passionate about our brand, that really want to be part of it,” Uskovic said. “It’s the same with influencers, we look at those that actually already fit in with our brand, rather than just go and approach just someone that will be a one-off, we want it to be a long-term relationship.”

The group agreed that a group of ‘fans’ alone is not necessarily a tribe, as those fans may identify with very different things about that brand. It might just be status orientated or lifestyle focused.

Social Soup’s Smith said there needs to be more than just a brand as the shared common brand tribe denominator.“Ultimately a brand should be the connector rather than the destination for a strong tribe to exist around them.”

The powerful territory of word of mouth

Spark’s Drewe said the word ‘fan’ has been watered down incredibly since Facebook. He said from a sporting sense you’d have fans that go to games, buy all the merchan­dise, actively support the product and follow their team through the ups and downs. “But when you try and use the words ‘fan’ for any consumer product, it’s like, “Oh yeah, that’s just a bunch of people who clicked the thumbs-up icon on Facebook,” he said.

Koning also argued that brands can get caught up in thinking the tribes are forming for the brand only, but actually a tribal mem­ber may be spreading or sharing content to help friends out – that is their core angle. “The fundamental human need to connect makes us happy. Connections are one of the key drivers of happiness and we continue to look for it – and the way that we connect with the world is often through tribes,” Koning said.

What’s also interesting is the sharing that’s done via more inti­mate channels such as in messenger and email, Koning said. Many brands are blind to some of the ‘dark social’ behaviours that they can be privy too – with the right technology.

See: 'There needed to be consolidation' - A new rhythm for RadiumOne

“At RhythmOne, we see shar­ing of content as a powerful signal of interest, intent and passion. Looking at over 200 campaigns across APAC, we know that tribe members over-index in content sharing and we also know that shar­ers are 9x more likely to convert than non-sharers. Great reasons to have a great content strategy, track sharing and invest time and resource in Tribes,” Koning said.

Give and you get

“People choose brands the same way as they choose their friends. So you need to foster, you need to build, you need to be authentic and you need to build that trust,” Lefort said.

Drewe concluded that the best approach is not to go in with the intention of selling and instead have the intention of building trust in a relationship – and the sales should hopefully come from that.

Despite not being a quick win and that cultivating a tribe will present challenges, all agreed that it’s worth the effort as when in full swing, brand tribes will provide an incredibly self-sustaining ecosys­tem once up and running.

Download RhythmOne's “how to guide" here to learn how leading marketers, entrepreneurs, and technologists have built and nurtured Brand Tribes, as well as extended these deep relationships to translate into better ROI for their brands and partners.

Want to know more about brand tribes and RhythmOne? Visit


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