The world today looks vastly different than it did hundreds of years ago. From the industrial revolution to our current technological era – it’s practically unrecognizable.

But despite the years of evolution and technology that have created the foundation we currently stand on, there is one common denominator that has remained unchanged, even after centuries of growth: The inherent desire to form tribes.

Historically speaking, a tribe was a community of families that bonded over one goal – to survive and raise their next generations. Today, however, we can define tribes as something less critical, like individuals who are linked by their social interests.

Tribe Mentality on The Internet

The Internet is crawling with groups of people, subconsciously forming tribes around nearly every interest niche you can think of. There’s a group for migraine sufferers, Houston Dog lovers, and even a Porsche Club of America. You get the idea.

With virtually limitless interests living in cyberspace, an infinite number of tribes have yet to be formed and as a result, are currently awaiting leadership. In case the figurative light bulb has yet to blaze above your head – here’s a hint: This could be your chance!

Of course, this ‘target the tribe’ approach to exceptional marketing isn’t a new notion. Mega companies like DeBeers Jewellery conquered this concept decades ago through ingenious implementation of outbound marketing methods. For sake of example, lets take a closer look at their success.

An Example: DeBeers Jewellery

DeBeers focused on the expectations of their target tribe, which they identified to be women (particularly those seeking marriage). Next, they lead by recreating an age-old tradition that resonated with the members of the tribe.

Dragons and isolated towers from which to rescue damsels in distress are long gone but the idea of Prince Charming is still a common desire. How do these "modern day" Prince Charmings prove their chivalry? A diamond ring worth a quarter of their annual salary, of course. And today, many women agree – that’ll do.

Even with decreased revenue in 2012, DeBeers registered $6.1 billion in sales for the year. Talk about a diamond in the rough marketing idea. The grand takeaway, you ask?

(Drum roll, please)

Capitalize on this desire. It is one of the most direct pieces of permission-based marketing you can develop. So, how would one find a tribe and engage it, similar to DeBeers? We break it down in two steps:

Step 1: Research & Identify Your Tribe

Before you can identify with a tribe to lead in the B2C world, you must first identify your niche and define your brand position. Identifying your niche will lead to recognition about:

  • Who your audience is
  • What their interests are
  • Where they live online

From there, you’ll have the knowledge necessary to build your own tribe of targeted and connected followers. Appealing to the unique ties that bind your tribe and creating content that is valuable to them will enable you to position your business as a leader within that tribe.

DeBeers, for instance, recognized an opportunity to set a standard where there was none. They zeroed in on their target (in this case, women looking to one day be engaged to their Prince Charmings), and positioned their company as the leader of this group of women by defining the standards.

Step 2: Engage Your Tribe

So, how do we lead a B2C tribe? Let’s start with an example – a theoretical online business that sells specialized classic car parts and classic car memorabilia. We’ll call this business, Cozuma.

Let’s say that Cozuma wants to create the most advanced, yet targeted online social community for classic car owners to interact with one other. There are hundreds of events year-round across the US and around the world for classic car owners and enthusiasts to attend, so the community may want to contain the most complete list of events and information available online.

There can be blog articles, newsletters, showcase for pictures and video of member’s prized possessions. There may be a mobile/social component so that it’s easy to connect with other classic car enthusiasts in their geographic area or at the real world events. They could even have a “car of the day” feature on the homepage.

By building this social community, Cozuma leads the conversation of an audience that purchases specialized car parts and classic car memorabilia. The community can be “Sponsored by Cozuma.” Cozuma can have top placement for any advertising, and also let complementary businesses support the community.

When questions come up in a forum about how to fix the oil gasket of a 1965 Shelby GT350, their moderators can jump in with not only ‘how-to’ advice but links back to to purchase the necessary parts.

Who Else is Doing This?

Airlines have their own elite airline clubs, helping to connect business travelers together. Some car manufacturers, like Subaru, have their own magazines. Targeting the specific kind of person that drives a Subaru and now, enabling the option to organize meet ups of like-minded people, if they so wish, who drive a Subaru and read the adventurous themed magazine that Subaru provides for their adventurous target market.

These businesses are building a targeted and loyal audience that the parent company now has permission to market to. In addition, they’re delighting their current customers by connecting them to other like-minded people, also in need of connection. It’s human nature and it always has been.

The Bottom Line

To recap – find disconnect, a need for connection, evolution or community. Then, provide value by leading others in need of connection or leadership. Set the standard instead of following. Remember, guiding a tribe is a long-term strategy, not a short-term solution.

Can you think of opportunities that exist within your industry or niche where you could develop a community consisting of and for your target audience?

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Originally published Dec 20, 2013 10:00:00 AM, updated January 18 2023