‘The Beatles didn’t invent teenagers,’ says Seth Godin in his TED talk, The Tribes We Lead. ‘They merely chose to lead them.’
Godin discusses how a tribe connects similar people, and through that a movement starts.
As marketers, we want to start movements around brands or products, but that can't happen unless we take the lead with our marketing strategy and develop brand guidelines and a brand community. We must:
How do buyers find their brand community in a noisy world?
When you’re driving on a busy road with cars all around you, you don’t think about the purpose or destination of the other cars on the road. The other cars are simply there for you to pass or follow.
However, say you are driving to a festival on the same busy road. You pass cars with bumper stickers, signs or window paint stating the name of the festival, bearing the logo or promoting the product at the core of the event. You no longer see yourself as a single driver because you recognise the common purpose you share with those other drivers.
In marketing, your buyers are like cars on a busy highway. Most people won’t walk up to a stranger and start a conversation about the stranger’s chosen tech unless they notice that they share a common interest in a certain device or brand.
To build a sense of community, you have to create unique ways for your customers (and employees) to communicate that they share a common interest.
The marks of a tribe
A strong, connected brand community elevates a brand; that's why it’s so important to create and nurture unique markers for your tribe. Markers start conversations, connect your buyers and provide social proof to buyers of the numbers in your community. So, what kind of identifiers can you create or nurture?
Visual. The most common way to communicate your brand identity is through visual markers. People see this in the design and branding on:
The things buyers carry like your products bearing your logo
The things they see and share online like your profiles, content or images
The things they wear which could be a product or simply a promotional item
It’s important to note that your visual branding must be consistent, distinctive and appealing. If you don’t get your visual branding right, even the most loyal followers won’t want to be marked by it.
Verbal. There are three areas a brand’s vocabulary can cover:
Systems. Starbucks renamed the sizes of their drinks from small, medium and large to tall, grande and venti. The way their customers order sounds different from any other coffee shop.
Products and services.Smart phones have different names depending on their company like the Samsung Galaxy, the Apple iPhone, etc. You know which company they come from by what the phone is called.
Expressions. No one said ‘I’m going to tweet this’ until posts on Twitter came on the social media scene. ‘No filter’ wasn’t needed before Instagram made photo filters common.
Every time someone mentions a grande latte, an iPhone, or a tweet, you know exactly which company they are talking about. Having a brand vocabulary allows you to unobtrusively insert your brand into everyday conversations and for buyers to recognise other buyers by what they say.
Apple’s keynote speeches before releasing a new product
Corona drinkers always putting a lime in the neck of the bottle
Comic Con events, which bring different fandoms together
Updating your iPhone and discussing the changes it brings
Liking, sharing or commenting on quality content
Behaviour is comprised of the little things like swiping right on an iPhone to the big things like trekking to the same event each year. It helps your community both identify one another and unite. They are recognisable by their actions.
These visual, verbal and behavioural cues can bind a brand community together.
Brand markers can be extremely powerful, if handled correctly, and damaging if handled poorly. Make sure you don't:
He then asked, ‘Would it be weird if I tattooed the Honda symbol on my chest?’ They met this question with laughter because Honda makes motorcycles while Harley Davidson meansfreedom and rebellion.
When the visual, verbal or behavioural marks of a brand have meaning that aligns with the values of buyers, the tribe wants to mark themselves to show they are a part of that community and hold to those values.
A strong brand is made up of members who take pleasure in finding each other and building relationships by communicating to one another that they share a common purpose. Those connections, which strengthen your brand community, strengthen your brand as a whole.