Tribe Mentality and Marketing

I was speaking recently to fourth year students about getting brand advocates for their new school mini-business of selling t-shirts. I suggested that they gets some of the “cool” kids in each class to become their brand ambassadors by wearing their branded t-shirt with the intention that it would inspire the masses to get in on this trend. While they were having none of it, denying the existence of trend setters and followers, it got me thinking about the tribe mentality, the human instinct to follow the herd and how this affects the way we market products.

I then thought of where I follow a tribe and I could see it, much to my dismay, everywhere in my life. While driving yesterday I wasn’t paying close attention to where I was going and nearly followed a car to the east instead of the west! Unconsciously I followed the leader when I wasn’t fully aware or present in what I was doing. I looked further at work, the sports I played and any other activity I was involved in. This tribe mentality particularly exhibited in the way I dressed. So for Yoga I wear different clothes than for Zumba and that was different to the clothes I wear for running. I wear certain clothes when meeting my friends for coffee and others when meeting my family or work colleagues. While some for practical reasons (I obviously can’t wear a tracksuit to work) most of the reason is a subconscious effort to fit in, look the part and blend in with my fellow tribesmen.

Obviously this aspect is tapped into in marketing to get the leaders to inspire us followers and why big multinationals spend millions getting our aspirational leaders to wear their clothes, jewellery or support their cause. While on a very conscious level I am aware of this happening in the media, I was unaware of how I translated that into my everyday living. How scary to think in this 31 year old body, I have my 15 year old self desiring to follow the cool gang seeking to fit in with my peers! So in a society where we all think we are individuals and are proud of that fact, the truth is telling in the clothes we wear, the houses we live in, the car we drive to the latest gadget we listen to our music on.

IPod’s infamous campaign incited us to “Think Different” showing inspirational figures of the 5% of people who do think differently, from Gandhi to Ali, to buy into a product that sells a mass product and is adopted by the masses! So the question is, how can you market true individuality when the human unconscious seeks sameness? I suppose it all comes back to selling an aspiration. In our hearts we believe we are individual while in our actions we are uniform. What is the marketing lesson? Sell to the hearts and not to the head!

Muireann Fitzmaurice, MF Marketing Consultancy

Ph: 0868932768  Mail: Web:

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Posted in Marketing.