'In Conversation with Huw Thomas'

Our ‘In conversation with Huw Thomas’ series is written by blogger Bethan Williams, alongside PMC. Based on conversations with our Managing Director, Huw Thomas. Bethan is an anthropology graduate turned dance teacher turned blogger and writer. This series takes snippets of the conversations between Huw and Bethan, where their interests and areas of knowledge overlap, and turn them into pieces which are relevant to retail and business in general.

This is the final piece in my little series on Brand Tribalism and I want to think about what the phenomenon means to businesses and marketing teams. We know that having a good product or service doesn’t automatically give companies a competitive advantage. I’ve explored how loyalty is generated though consumers self-identification and how they feel emotionally or collectively connected to a product. So how can brands harness this consumer power and use it to their advantage?

Brands need to find their tribes and tap into what makes them tick but, more importantly, what makes them buy! This involves listening to their customers and attaching to iconic or influential individuals to reinforce the connection between your brand and the tribe.

If you know your demographic, they are your most powerful marketing tool; walking, talking adverts. In short, I think a brand survives and thrives by virtue of its relationship with its tribe. Keep them happy and they’ll stay loyal!

As I explored in my previous piece, loyalty to brands comes from a sense that the products can say something about a consumer’s identity or the identity of a collective group of people. This can be a really positive thing for businesses because people who connect emotionally are more likely to buy their products.

An interesting tangent here is the power that this gives to consumers themselves. Style Tribes, for example, who turn to vintage or upcycled clothing and furnishings, have the power to force retailers to bring back discontinued lines or take their products in a slightly different direction to suit their aesthetic preferences.

In a world of social media, Instagram icons and fashion bloggers, this ‘customer as consumer and marketing tool’ dynamic is both fascinating and important.

I think this idea of ‘two degrees of separation marketing’, as I’m going to label it, is really interesting. It shows that you can market a product by first making it iconic by attaching it to a certain individual or group and then allowing them to sell it for you to those who admire the individual or the trend.

We’re already seeing a move towards this with social media and celebrity Brand Ambassadors who benefit, either financially or by receiving free products, from advocating a certain product above others.

A similar effect is achieved through product placement on TV or in films because people, not out to purchase something, connect to a product because they associate it with the show, characters or actors.

It’s my opinion that we’re going to see a lot more of this kind of marketing in the coming years. While the phenomenon of Brand Tribalism and the art of selling through celebrities are far from new ideas, changing social and technological contexts are only making it more possible and effective.

So, to go full circle on the idea of personalisation and loyalty, collectivity and tribalism breed loyalty. Attaching emotional value to a company, or what a company stands for, generates a sense of community which people very naturally gravitate towards. As technology develops which gives us, as consumers, access to more choice in the marketplace, I think the possibilities this opens up for more personalised means of marketing are really exciting. I look forward to seeing where this could take us! Until next time.

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