Brand tribes and tribal language


I was talking to a personal stylist the other day, about her web copy. We were debating the effectiveness of various words and phrases in helping her communicate with the type of clients she most loves working with.

Before the meeting, I had a look at her site, and one phrase (or rather, hashtag) really jumped out at me: #bosslady.

Immediately I felt excited. This was a group of people I could identify, with characteristics I admired. I knew who she was aiming at and I wanted to be part of the gang.

She had identified her tribe.

What is a brand tribe?

A tribe is a collection of people who group themselves around particular passions, goals, interests, experiences, rituals and so on.

This is more than simple demographics - we’re not talking about 18-30s, or people living in the South West, or commercial pilots. Instead, think yummy mummies, hipsters, foodies, skater boys, creatives, guerrilla gardeners…

In marketing terms, this is a great way to classify or segment your target customer or client group in order to get to know them better and target them more effectively.

The holy grail though, is to create a tribe that centres around your brand. Apple has done this very effectively - their customers are fiercely proud of their brand allegiance and see themselves as distinct from PC users in every way.

Why are brand tribes important?

Because they’re one of the best marketing tools you can hope to cultivate.

Tribe members are loyal. They’re vocal. They’re the kinds of people who not only use your products and services, but tell other people about them - evangelists who act as brand ambassadors, multiplying your message and leading others to you.

In effect, they’re your very best salespeople, in a world where word-of-mouth referrals and personal recommendation are king.

Talking to your tribe

In order to communicate effectively with your tribe, you need to speak their language. Want to get in with the #SCD crowd? You'll have to understand the relevance of the passo, the fleckerl and fab-u-lous, dahling.

Like any language or even accent, the best way to pick it up is to immerse yourself in it. Find out where your tribe hangs out (Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat), then listen to what they’re saying.

Do they use lots of hyperbole and irony? Intentionally poor grammar? Unique acronyms?
Are there particular abbreviations or commonly used words that unite them?

Better still, create your own tribal language. This goes beyond brand voice - it’s not just about how you speak, it’s about getting other people to adopt and start using your language.

You’ll need to keep it real though, because tribalism is built on trust and the only way to create trust is to be authentic.

Top tip: Try starting with a hashtag like my stylist’s #bosslady - it’s a great way to bring your tribe together on social media.

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