SHIFT: Personalisation key to coping with the death of the tribe

Death of the tribe
Death of the tribe

Marketers instinctively like to segment people into 'tribes', but the days of the defined target market are over as consumers opt for a more personalised, less predictable approach, writes Nicola Clark.

It is a widely acknowledged marketing truth that what consumers really want is to connect with people, not brands. Consumers have a 'herd mentality' and tend to want what other people have, are getting or wearing. In the past, marketers have labelled these groups of consumers 'tribes', defined by their interests and styles and the likelihood of them purchasing certain products.

Similarly, in years gone by, journalists and influencers would hear about a trend and, once it had been written about, it would filter down to a niche audience over time. Before the trend entered the mainstream, quick-thinking brands would adopt it and market it to a pre-defined target market or tribe. Adidas excelled in this space, quickly co-opting the Grime movement to sell streetwear, creating an association.

Marketers love segmenting consumers, but if the recession has taught us anything, it is that consumers don't act in a rational or coherent way. When people can redirect or co-opt a trend in 140 characters, they can't be pigeonholed into catch-all, immovable tribes.

For marketers skilled at repackaging, co-opting and selling movements to the masses, this demands a sea change in thinking. The fundamental truth is this: while your marketing department may be subscribing to quarterly trend reports and highly defined consumer tribes, your customers aren't.

The fashion industry has been particularly poor at adapting to such consumer contradictions. It has shown an over-reliance on spurious segmentation, based on outdated notions of people unflinchingly sticking to a single style or brand.

In reality, Japanese purchase patterns, where consumers cherry-pick an eclectic mix of styles and brands, are becoming the norm.

At a time when, in the words of Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, brands must 'move fast and break things', companies relying on steadfast notions of tribes and quarterly reports will be left behind.


What does the death of consumer tribes mean for marketers?

  1. Consumer creators - Millennials have grown up expecting their relationship with brands to be a two-way conversation. Consumer feedback is in real-time and, increasingly, customers expect an immediate response. Look at the way in which technology brands such as Twitter have opened up platforms to developers; brands that allow consumers to have a say in how their products are made will thrive.
  2. Personalisation - In an era when every consumer has a voice, customer feedback has evolved. Consumers expect to be marketed to, and listened to, as individuals. Brands such as Adidas, Prada and Burberry, which are offering highly customised products, are reaping the benefits of appealing to consumers' desire to express their individuality without eschewing the reassurance mainstream brands provide.
  3. Focus on people, not platforms - Technology may have changed the media landscape, but the fundamental drivers of human behaviour remain the same. Don't overcomplicate your marketing at the expense of people.
  4. Liquid business depends on live, liquid research and insight - Your research department may well be waiting on a quarterly report, but your customers are not; real-time marketing is key. Brands need to re-engineer their insight teams to work with live feedback and analysis. Marketers need only look at how the music industry was affected by the advent of downloads as a salient example of the risks of being slow to react to changing consumer behaviour.

g.m.o.o.t - Cardmunch

If, like me, you have multiple handbags, which snack on business cards, and a desk that looks like it has been ransacked, then Cardmunch is the app for you. Take a picture with the app and a business card is converted into a digital contact, leaving the days of rooting around for business cards behind.

It's also free, so you can stick to that resolution about spending less on apps and gadgets. Millions of business cards are exchanged every day, many of which are lost or mislaid. Cardmunch is a simple solution.

What's in it for marketers? Cardmunch shows you LinkedIn profile information and common connections. LinkedIn Mobile page views have grown 400% year on year, and keeping up-to-date with the ways professionals interact is important for brands.


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message
Lynx unleashes £9m 'Peace invasion' campaign
Social Brands 100 Youth: Pizza Hut most social youth brand in UK
Cheryl Cole is wild and arresting in new L'Oreal work
Morrisons told not to show alcohol ads during YouTube nursery rhymes
O2 head of brand Shadi Halliwell departs after 23 years at company in restructure
Tesco hit by further sales decline as it turns to digital Clubcard and social network
Branding guru Wally Olins dies aged 83
Duracell short film captures epic Transatlantic voyage
Ash runs Tinder experiment to show smokers are less desirable to opposite sex
British Airways teams up with Gerry Cottle Jnr for summer of rooftop film screenings
Arklu says 'girls can be superheroes too' with doll design competition
Coke enters squash market with Oasis Mighty Drops
Virgin Galactic signs up Land Rover as space flight sponsor
Motorola marketer Andrew Morley departs as Google gears up for sale to Lenovo
US Airways apologises after tweeting obscene image at a customer
Mumsnet admits users' emails and passwords accessed via Heartbleed bug