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“Brand leaders and their agencies are often sitting in ivory towers unaware of their audience’s beliefs.”


“Brand leaders and their agencies are often sitting in ivory towers unaware of their audience’s beliefs.”

By Christina Ioannidis, Chief Engagement Officer, Aquitude, a boutique brand engagement consultancy which works with corporations to engage with their main stakeholders i.e. their employees and customers

Today’s marketers are operating in a market, which is shifting with demographics changing drastically. Generational divides, rifted by digital savviness and social changes, have created a complex marketing horizon. Today’s marketers need to develop a razor-sharp vision into what motivates their target customers.

It is no longer enough to say ‘I am targeting ABC women aged 19-34’. That is marketing myopia. It is like trying to garden with a lawn mower: targeting everyone in your sight but not necessarily those who you are trying to nurture and prune.

Why a ‘tribe’?

Brands that get it right are the ones that understand that their target customers have values connecting them. Zeroing into those values is the key to their customers’ hearts. That along with talking their language and offering them an experience that defines and connects with them is the Holy Grail.

“A tribe is a group of individuals who are connected to each other, to a leader and connected to an idea.” I concur with Seth Godin’s definition.

The sports arena boasts a few great examples of these tribal initiatives. The “Tough Mudder” movement, which has caught the imagination and the dedication of adventure athletes worldwide in a very short span of time, is an excellent example. And “This Girl Can,” the UK’s movement to get women to lead an active lifestyle is another. The same goes for Always’ “Like a Girl”.

All of these are easily discernible as ‘movements’. They are not one-time-wonders; they engage consumers on an emotional level and connect with them through a clear message that makes the audience feel part of a bigger movement.

These campaigns don’t promote a product. They target tribes – each with differing beliefs and aspirations.

Success is in emotion

“Tough Mudder” is for the athlete who aspires to go beyond a gym workout; who seeks thrills and adventures with a strong sense of camaraderie.

“This Girl Can” acknowledges that not all women are pristine, perfectly sculpted gym-bunnies. It talks to the average woman who has insecurities about her jiggly bits and who would benefit from her own tribe of women to engage in sports.

“Like a Girl”… well, it talks to girls and women on the conviction that women can do everything that the guys can – in their own way.

Zooming in on your ‘tribe’ has widespread appeal. But, brand leaders and their creative agencies are often sitting in their ivory towers unaware of the thoughts and beliefs of their target market.

I used to be a brand manager (thankfully never nestled comfortably in my ivory tower) and could see my peers do just that. It takes guts to get out and have honest conversations with existing and potential customers. Consumers may reveal things they don’t like or approve of about your brand. However, by the same token, they will also share their pearls of wisdom on how to position a brand and create a magnetic movement that brands could, and should, be spearheading.

Mind the generational gap

The need to truly understand your target audience and make them your tribe is even more pertinent today when a significant percentage of your audience is either millennials or those belonging to Generation Z. They are like no other generation before them – digitally savvy, opinionated, with aspirations of world domination. Fearless, fierce and forceful, they take no prisoners. They want it all their way. No shallow attempts, no softly-softly messaging. They want conscientious, differentiated, world-changing and community-conscious movements to be part of. And they are thrilled by change.

A great example is the US start-up Angie’s Kettle Corn that co-created its new brand and image with the help of millennial girls. Angie’s new brand “Boomchickapop” was targeted at ‘mota-vators’ – a tribe of young female millennials who love snacks with super fun graphics, creative flavors, seasonal specials and of course, Instagram–worthiness. The product is now the masterbrand for the company’s Angie’s Artisans product line – still under the artisanal proposition yet with a razor-sharp focus on that defined mota-vator tribe. Not bad – the brand generated over $40.1 million in sales within three years of the new brand launch.

So, marketers in the GCC and wider Middle-East: what is the tribe you are targeting? What are their core beliefs and how are you creating a movement to tap into your tribe’s emotions, imagination and aspirations? And what is the longevity of your brand message? These are pointed questions which need to be answered honestly by marketers, as I still see too much generic marketing for brands which, to be honest, do deserve to sit on a shelf and gather dust.

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