The sense of belonging to a group is a very deep motivator for us. We all have it. It is a big part of who we are. We will do things for our tribe that we would not do for other people. Sometimes, we’ll even take this to the extreme to prove our loyalty, like in the unfortunate context of gangs. Gang leaders make initiation particularly hard because they want to ensure loyalty and strength of bonds to the group or leader. Within the good tribal context, look to the military. Their training and leadership is bounded by no man left behind. Everyone is in it for everyone else. One person serves not only country, but team. They are indoctrinated to be for each other, to look out for one another, to be thinking of their teammates first. This sort of loyalty is a very strong motivating factor for those involved. It also helps ensure command strength.
Our tribes have not gone away. They’ve simply morphed into groups we care about. Today’s tribes are football teams. They are employers. They are families. They are at country clubs. They are at gyms. Tribes are at churches. Tribes are in politics. Tribes are in masterminds. They are found in schools. Tribes are even stronger today than they’ve historically been because we’re more desperate for the sense of belonging we all seek as humans. We must have the sense of being a part of something larger than ourselves. When this goes missing, we go a little crazy. We feel it. We sense something is wrong with us and we’re not sure what it is. It is why when we get let go from a job, we not only lose our living — we lose our tribe. Banishment from the tribe is emotionally damaging. Thousands of years ago, it meant certain death. Now, it just means it is time to go find a new employer, a new tribe to which you contribute. But it still hurts.
Strong tribes sell.
Strong tribes sell. They not only sell new entrants to the tribe, they sell within the tribe itself. Take an exclusive country club. At most exclusive country clubs, simply having the money to belong is insufficient. You must also have a connection within to get a recommendation. A member of the country club has to recommend you and your family in order for you to be considered. (Interestingly, the harder it is to get membership to not just a country club but to any organization makes people want to get in even more. It drives people crazy when they can’t get what they want when they’re used to it.) The people within the country club sell each other on how great it is to be a member of the country club, to hang out with other members of the country club, and to be a part of the exclusive tribe (though they’ll never call it that). The country club becomes a self-reinforcing system. People want to be a part of it. Families are involved. It is high end and exclusive and somewhat pompous. It is also a fabulous way to meet movers and shakers within the community. People on the inside sell each other on its merits each day and people on the outside want to get inside because of its perceived value.
Strong tribes create mega brands.
Strong tribes create mega brands. Look at Apple. Apple may have the strongest tribe of any brand. Early in its existence, Apple was for people who thought differently within the creative context. Apple sought the designer, the computer engineer, the architect as fans of the brand. The company differentiated itself from the competition by positioning IBM as your dad’s brand computer vs. Apple for the young, for the creative, for the non-conformist. Through the decades, Apple still markets itself as being for these people, but within a larger, consumer products context. Those who love Apple have loved them for years, some for decades. They’ve owned several MacBook Pros, iMacs, and PowerBooks throughout their professional careers, and they wouldn’t think to use any other hardware in their work and play lives. Further, their enthusiasm for the brand is infectious. Apple users love talking about the brand, its products, and its latest announcements. Apple users become Apple’s best, unpaid brand evangelists. They do it because they love it, not because someone is making them. All these unpaid brand evangelists go about their business making, creating, and doing while they speak passionately about Apple to anyone who will listen. This strengthens Apple’s tribal bonds and creates new connections for the brand itself. Passionate end users sell others. Who has more authority and authenticity than a passionate end user who isn’t paid to speak positively of the brand? These passionate end users are the Super-Connectors for Apple, bolstering its brand image and strengthening its bonds through passion and enthusiasm. These Super Connectors sell in a Jobsian-like fashion, the way Steve did it. He’d get really excited about an Apple product, would talk features, but more importantly, what those features would do for the end user. It isn’t just “Here’s a W1 chip.” It is “This has a W1 chip, which allows you to listen to your favorite music wirelessly for hours.” Jobs let prospects know what was in it for them, which is one of the keys to selling. This kind of salesmanship created the early Cult of Apple, and its strength continues to this day. The Apple Tribe is rock-solid worldwide. They have the passionate end users to prove it.
Salesforce created a mega brand by creating an industry within an industry. And also by creating a tribe of passionate end users. Taking their show on the road was one of its early marketing strategies. They created their own tour, showcasing the software, its features, what those features did for end users, and educated the marketplace city by city. Salesforce ran into early resistance due to their different way of doing things (software as a service vs. the traditional client / server model). Through sheer determination, force, grit, and excellent salesmanship, they not only created a new industry, but transformed the way software is delivered to companies and end users worldwide. Now, everyone knows the brand, the company, and its products through its terrific marketing and through DreamForce, it’s multi-day training convention.