We have a natural tendency to seek out those who are similar to ourselves.
Prior to the advent of easy, cheap, and fast global travel, tribalisation comes “naturally” as the people who tend to be most similar to ourselves are our immediate families and those in our village.
Nowadays, we have easy access to different people from almost every corner of the planet both online and through easy air travel. And we can afford to indulge in more interests and passions beyond working to survive.
Old style tribalism – same skin colour, same language, same immediate geographical locale, same beliefs, same ancestors…
New style tribalism – micro-niches in the form of very specific common interests, passions, and causes. I share a larger number of commonalities with a larger number of people anywhere.
The Internet is alive with many different viewpoints and masses of information. At first glance you would think it is a great levelling platform where the peoples of the world could suddenly realise and embrace our collect differences and fundamental similarities.
Or from a business point of view, the Internet provides rich pickings for new hybrid ideas, learnings from different or complementary industries, or radical new left-of-field insights. What a tool for innovation!
But from my various conversations with people in the know, and from my own behaviour, this apparently is not so at all. Far from relishing in this never-before-available opportunity to avail ourselves of different or new viewpoints, we actually actively seek out only those that fit with our existing ones!
Take shampoo shopping. The more brands,
smells aromatherapies, “treatments”, magic ugliness-fixes and apparent variety we get on the shelves, the more many of us seem to gravitate towards the same exact brand we have been using for as long as we can remember.
It is in our nature to seek reflections from others of who we believe ourselves to be. We see affirmation of our current worldview, and confirmation of our established beliefs.
Not many of us deliberate choose to regularly expose ourselves to significantly non-aligned viewpoints. This self-selection seems automatic, a sort of default behaviour, and consequently can be hard to spot and move out of. I believe myself to be a very open-minded person, able to empathise (but not necessarily agree) with any viewpoint out there. But even for me, I have to consciously make myself step outside of the familiar sites and voices, to seek out and listen to the alternatives.
I love travelling because it exposes one to different cultures and peoples. I would like to continue to live and work in different countries for the same reason. Living with different people is interesting and exciting. But after a while, I do long for and will seek out people who share the same cultural similarities. People who get what I get – the same movies, industry interests, language and wit, humour … people who are on the same wavelength. This default state is very powerful as we are creatures of comfort, and comfort can be found in the known.
Tribalisation cannot be artificially induced. You can’t artificially recruit Facebook friends (if you wanted a real tribe).
People will form tribes of their own accord, organically. This is the spontaneous coalescing of hyper-focused, hyper-aligned groups of people from otherwise wildly divergent traditional demographics.
The challenge for businesses is not “how to create a tribe”, but rather clearly, authentically and consistently be something (a value etc) that its target audience will naturally form a tribe around. True tribe-marketing is focusing away from telling people how great you are, and to focus in stead on consistently BEING something that is worthwhile to your audience.