Do you remember your first day at middle school? High school? Walking into the lunchroom, unsure of where your friends are and needing to choose a table? You don’t want to be embarrassed. You want to sit with the cool kids. You want to be with folks just like you. At an early age, you realize that who’s at your table can define who you are. Sound juvenile? Sound mean?
Brands are always trying to define their consumers. Customer segmentations help define what type of people make up the customer base and and why/how they engage with the brand. While this is a tried and true method of strategically targeting consumers, it’s also becoming a bit old school. More brands every day are moving away from thinking in terms of segmentation and towards thinking about their tribe. That way they can connect with consumers based on a sense of character, intrinsic motivations and shared values.
To connect with these tribes, which are often made up of people across a broad demographic, some brands are identifying a cast of characters that really put a stake in the ground. You could almost imagine a lunch table of different, yet like-minded middle schoolers. Two recent examples are Jägermeister and Cîroc. Both are liquor brands where image is everything (unless distribution is everything, but that’s another story).
A few years ago, Jägermeister focused on a collection of “Men with a Stronger Bond”: Freddie Roach, a no-nonsense boxing trainer who has guided the likes of Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto, was at the table; Bob Smets, a rodeo clown who puts himself in between pretty faces and monstrous animals for a living was also there, as were Slayer guitarist Kerry King, former NFLer Keyshawn Johnson and tattoo/street artist Mister Cartoon, among others. “Today, a group who lives up to this legacy has been offered a seat at The Table, a place where men who have lived lives darker and brighter than others come together.”
The Cîroc ads, which first aired in 2011 and are still on today, are more party-centric, though still comprise a collection of characters. In these ads you see a smooth group including model Eva Marcille, Entourage actress Dania Ramirez, Sopranos star Frank Vincent and Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul. The point is, P. Diddy knows how to throw a party, and he’s put together a group that’s out and about having fun till the break of dawn.
When I see these spots, I immediately start thinking of other brands outside of the liquor category that should start to use tribes in their marketing efforts. I like the idea of cool, but cool isn’t only about being uber-famous, right? How about a tough tribe, a table of badasses for a tough brand? How about DeWalt?
DeWalt, part of the Stanley Black & Decker crew, has been around since 1936. DeWalt is “Guaranteed Tough” and leads with a bold, no-nonsense logo and a color palette screaming “construction.” With products that have “XR® Extreme Runtime” and “FlexTorq™ Screwdriving Bits,” DeWalt pushes a tough image in messaging, marketing and product development. They are ripe for being part of a tribe. Here’s my choice for a DeWalt table of eight, tough badasses:
Randy Couture – First UFC world champion in two weight classes who also won the heavyweight belt for the third time when he was 43-yearsold, beating a 6’ 8” fighter comically nicknamed the Maine-iac.
Gene Hackman – Even his eyes are tough! (A 25-year-old colleague of mine just swore that he doesn’t know who Hackman is. I also just realized Hackman hasn’t done a movie in 10 years so that kinda makes sense). Hoosiers. French Connection. Crimson Tide. Uncommon Valor. They say that out of 100 movies, he hasn’t made a bad one. I’m also secretly hoping that if Hackman is at my table, Tex Cobb will show up.
Serena Williams – What confidence. The most dominant women’s tennis player ever, plus she designs her own catsuits. She. Is. A. Machine.
Chris Christie – Love him or hate him, he’s tough. His interviews and town halls? These aren’t cell phone videos of a drunk Rob Ford. This future presidential candidate intends to yell at his voters!
Joe Pesci – Stabbed someone in the neck with a pen.
James Frey – A kickass writer who forces you to read his books at a mile a minute. Even if only some of A Million Little Pieces is true, he still gets a seat at the table.
The A-Team – Could make a tank out of a golf cart. A crime they didn’t commit. Yeah, right.
Anthony Mason – Quite possibly the most intimidating human I’ve ever seen. I watched Mason play in NY for five years and never once saw anything resembling emotion on his face.
Trapped with nothing but DeWalt tools, I’m pretty sure this table could topple any regime, tackle any situation and get themselves out of any conflict. Casting a seemingly random group that actually has interesting connections is an effective way for any brand to connect with a tribe. It encourages the like-minded consumer to sit at your table. Isn’t that all you can really ask for?