The fundamental emotional need of youth is and always will be BELONGING. It’s hardwired from birth, a primal need to belong to a community, to a tribe. It’s a fundamental form of self expression that is at the core of the human psyche. The growth of social media has turbo charged young peoples ability to connect and be part of global tribes.
The best youth brands understand that youth are desperate to connect with each other, so youth marketing is not about pushing messages onto a target audience of disparate individuals, it’s about inspiring the TRIBE, so they connect with each other. It’s about talking to the WE, not necessarily the ME.
Tribal marketing in 2009 is about leading and connecting Gen C ‘The Connected Collective’ with ideas and each other, it’s about finding something worth changing and mobilizing a group of likeminded people around it.
Think the Red Bull energy tribe, Apple’s creative tribe, Nike + running tribe, Zoo York’s mischievous skater tribe, Lego’s imagination tribe, Axe’s player tribe, Roxy’s chic surfer tribe, Wii’s playful tribe, Threadless’ design tribe – just a few examples of brands that have inspired people to come together and form a tribe around their brand, a community with shared passions, interests.
So, how do you create a tribe around your brand? Here are a handful of thoughts
1. You have to have the balls to create ideas that polarize, ideally AGITATING and DISRUPTING the STATUS QUO. You have to be a little subversive and not scared to create CHANGE. Unless you spark an interesting conversation, you won’t spark a movement. The biggest mistake youth brands make is trying to appeal to everyone, they end up standing for nothing and falling for everything. Think less about your proposition, and more about your brand point of view or your call to arms.
2. Gen C are the ‘CONNECTED COLLECTIVE‘, they join tribes for the CONNECTIONS. They’re dying to mobilize around something interesting. Think about how you’re letting them connect via web 2.0 platforms and how they can work together around a cause/idea. It’s all about making it easy for youth to find each other and connect. Music festivals have been tapping into these shared ‘connections’ for the last decade and now the gaming world is doing the same with MMORPG’s.
3. It’s about leveraging PEOPLE POWER. Done successfully, the collective becomes your most powerful asset, they’re empowered to spread your idea, to create the movement. Your job is to help facilitate the interactions amongst the tribe and give them something worth talking about, something worth changing, something worth believing in. Politicians and activists have been doing it well the past few years, think Obama, think Al Gore, think One Young World.
4. Find your brands TRUE BELIEVERS, listen to them then, create utility for them, provide value in the experience and your brand will become magnetic. You only need a 1,000 or so, look at T-Mobile with their flash mobs. Virgin are the kings of seeking out their true believers and always giving them utility, no matter what category then enter.
5. LEAD THEM, all the great tribes have great charismatic leaders, you create your own brand charisma by showing leadership attitude and staying true to a belief system, committing to a cause. People mobilize around strong people/brands who believe. Red Bull, Nike are the archetype leaders in their respective youth cultures, always appealing to the fringes, but not alienating the masses.
6. CREATE CULTURE for the tribe. Create something that matters to youth, don’t try and mimic what’s happening now, give them a lens into something new. Create a new sport, create a new way of doing something, EXPERIMENT and don’t be afraid to fail. You’ll get credit for having a go.
7. TRIBAL IDENTIFICATION is important, you have to create a way of knowing if you’re in or out. Whether it’s badging yourself or an internal point of association, it’s extremely important as tribal brands have followers, not customers. I witnessed this first hand in Austria last week, with Austrian teens plastering their bedrooms with the stickers of their favourite brands, Aussie kids brand their mobiles with stickers of their favourite surf brands.
8. CONSTANT CONTENT CREATION – This takes ingenuity and effort over pure big scale production budgets. Youth brands have to think of their marketing calendars not in quarterly installments, but as an ONGOING STORYTELLING PLATFORM. It’s less about discrete uniform evolutions of ad campaigns, but about creating interesting narratives youth can follow – think youtube channels that are constantly update with new content, whether that be experiential type stuff or raw stuff. The surf brands are the kings of this, as they see themselves as media businesses, not just surfwear sellers.
Remember tribes exist, your job as a marketer is to help organize and connect these people. Find something worth changing, then create an interesting point of view on it, something fresh, something worth believing in that they’ll want to talk about and belong to.. See, easy?