Updated: Aug 7, 2019

What makes us choose to buy from one brand over another? Holly Pither explains why making people feel they're part of something bigger encourages them to become not only your customers, but your raving fans.

The gap between business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) communications is narrowing.

Gone are the days of dry, corporate press releases and boring thought leadership copy. Today, organisations know they need to target a far more essential audience: people.

At Tribe PR, we know that people don't just buy from brands, they join them. This means that good brand communication is all about engaging directly with people, understanding what makes them tick, responding to their needs and then turning them into fans. These people then become brand advocates and do something every PR professional dreams of; they tell that brand’s story for them.

If this sounds hard to believe, think about the following scenario. It’s a hot day and you’re thirsty. You pop into a shop to buy a drink. When faced with a fridge full of juice, which product do you choose? It’s a hard decision, because these days we don’t just buy a product because of what it does, its health benefits or how it makes us feel. We buy a product because the brand helps us define who we are.

Buying from certain brands helps us feel part of something bigger. As the consumer, we know that we’re one of a group of people who support that product. We all have something in common. We’re a consumer tribe.

This is why, for example, we may decide to buy an Innocent smoothie over a Sunny Delight. We know that the Innocent brand—from its name to the way it advertises its products—makes us feel free, wholesome and optimistic.

It works for all kinds of products. We buy our outdoor kit from The North Face because we want to feel like we’re part of an explorer tribe. We buy a family car from Volvo because we want the reassurance of belonging to a brand that values safety and reliability. Brands that have defined their consumer tribe win over those that haven’t time and again.

So, if this is true, and customers don’t just buy products for their features but to be part of something bigger, what does it mean for you? Whatever your brand, you need to consider how best to find your consumer tribe. Then once you’ve found it, you need to make the most of it.

Here are my top tips to help you do just that:

Know what your tribe stands for

Spend some time working out what your tribe’s shared belief is. Consider what people will get out of being part of your tribe. Likewise, when someone buys your product or service, how can you reinforce their sense of belonging? Once you've figured this out, make sure all your written and social communications are consistent. Be sure too that all employees, spokespeople and brand influencers you work with also sing from that same hymn sheet.

You can’t be everything to everyone.

If you’re clear about your brand and what it stands for, you’ll always find that some people will be left out. That’s ok. Think back to Harley Davison. Sometimes making your tribe exclusive makes people want to join it even more. You’ll lose your brand message and purpose if you try to be everything to everyone. Instead, focus on your message and make sure you're clear about what you do and who it’s for.

Be authentic

Authenticity is a word we hear bandied around all the time, but with so many brands shouting loudly on social media and in the press, there’s never been a more important time to get it right. Remember that people can spot a fake a mile off, so make sure you’re genuine and stay true to your purpose. If you’re passionate about what you do and live up to your brand values, people will follow you.

Know the difference between loyalty and advocacy

These two terms often get mixed up. Loyal customers are people who keep returning to your brand, but they might not actively be talking about your brand to other people. On the other hand, brand advocates are people who are both loyal to your brand and proactively share it. Your advocates will tell your story for you. As such, it’s essential to turn your brand loyalists into brand advocates.

Take a look around you. On social media, in the street, on TV… consumer tribes are everywhere. Now have a think about your own brand. Who’s in your tribe?

Holly Pither is the founder of Tribe PR, an independent communications agency specialising in earned media to help organisations of all sizes increase their brand advocacy. Tribe PR works in partnership with both B2B and B2C brands, earning them reputation, helping them understand their audience and deepening their media relationships.

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