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T-Shirts and Tribes

Tribes have existed as long as humanity itself. Anciently, people would band together in a common quest for survival and safety. Now, we band together for different reasons.

New Marketing Favors Small Business
With the rise of the digital age, we’re coming to understand tribes in a whole new way. Seth Godin pointed out that with the onset of the internet, the era of mass marketing is over. Marketing isn’t just about getting your message to as many people as possible, as many times as possible. It’s more specialized than that.

Modern marketing is about small, thoughtful messages targeted straight at your demographic, building trust over time. It’s about customer loyalty, word-of-mouth, and knowing your audience. It’s niche marketing – on a global level.

The most exciting thing about the new marketing model is that it’s no longer simply about who has the biggest paycheck. This rebalance makes an even playing field for small start-ups. In fact, small start-ups might even have the advantage in some ways.

Who’s Your Tribe?
When we say tribe, we don’t mean simply curious customers – one timers, who were searching for a discount. That’s not your tribe. We’re talking about the true fans; the followers. These are the people who will show up wherever your food truck is parked that day. They’re the people who research and debate your product just for the heck of it; the people lining up outside of Apple stores to be the first with the new iPhone.

These people are a tribe. And they’re a company’s most powerful marketing tools.

Is Your Tribe Mobilized?
Your tribe is made up of the ambassadors of your product. They honestly don’t mind walking around with something that basically says “ask me about this product!” because they love it, and they want to share.

Today’s world is saturated with marketing messages. At every turn, we have logos, sponsors, and endorsements begging for attention. Most of us have learned to tune it out. However, a mountain-climbing buddy talking to you about the best place to buy gear… that you’ll listen to.

Once you’ve identified your tribe, built a relationship of trust with them, and once you’ve nurtured your community, ask yourself: how can you mobilize your tribe?

Some T-Shirt Tips to Make the Most of Your Tribe
One way that brands transform customers into a tribe is with apparel. It identifies people without a word. And clever apparel will open up conversations. Here are some characteristics of the most successful t-shirt campaigns we’ve seen:

  • The shirt is recognizable, and suits your brand identity. It can be clever, classy, or chill – but stay true to yourself and your branding.
  • The shirt opens up a conversation. This might be through humor, or prompting a question. For example, we’ve seen shirts with “I have a nice app – ask me about it” printed along the bottom of the back.
  • The shirt is fun to wear. Make sure that it’s good quality, and worth wearing. Your tribe should be proud to be seen in it, so think about more than a simple logo.

Once You’ve Started, Never Stop Building Trust
Remember that the primary characteristic of a tribe is that it’s composed of many voices – not just one lecturer shouting to a room of mindless drones. Open a dialogue with your tribe, hear what they have to say. It can only make your business better.

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