Monday, August 31, 2009

Tribal Knowledge

When Seth puts pen to paper people listen.

When he bangs on a keyboard, people listen louder.

Perhaps the most influential marketing expert of the 21st century, his is the Number One business blog in the world. With nine bestsellers to his credit, Seth has changed the way millions think about the way we buy and sell in the new millennium. He is also the creator of many catchphrases now entrenched in our everyday business vocabulary, including ideaviruses, purple cows and meatball sundaes.

If these terms are foreign to you, there is a lesson in itself.

Seth's new catchphrase for 2009 and beyond?


As Seth explains, "A tribe is any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea. For millions of years, humans have been seeking out tribes, be they religious, ethnic, economic, political, or even musical (think of the Deadheads). Now the Internet has eliminated barriers of geography, cost, and time. All those blogs and social networking sites are helping existing tribes get bigger. But more important, they're enabling countless new tribes to be born - groups of ten or ten thousand or ten million who care about their iPhones, or a political campaign, or a new way to fight global warming".

Traditional marketing - radio, TV, newspaper ads - has focused on yelling to crowds. Today, people and companies that succeed won't be yelling. They'll create and lead far reaching tribes that become longer lasting and more powerful.

Would you rather yell and sell to a crowd or nurture and nourish your tribe?

There are no shortage of examples where the latter is gaining traction in the digital age, including New Jersey-based wine expert Gary Vaynerchuk, the builder of a devoted following while growing his family wine business exponentially. Another is Texas-based Wizard Academy, the only 21st century business school of its kind; attracting students from among the world's most successful and forward-thinking educators, scientists, inventors, journalists, ministers, artists and authors. Located on a 30-acre spread outside of Austin, Wizard Academy is also home to the open-air Chapel Dulcinea which has created another interesting "tribe" of its own.

Seth Godin believes tribe building begins with your desire to change the way things are done, the ability to connect members with each other and your willingness to lead. There is plenty more to be discovered about "Tribes" as Seth explains in this recent interview:

If you want to dig into this subject deeper, here is Seth at a TED conference earlier this year, explaining "Tribes".

Barack Obama leveraged Tribal Knowledge and wound up in the White House as John McCain struggled with e-mail.

Arianna Huffington is building the most popular blog in the world around her tribe as major newspaper conglomerates continue to hemorrhage red ink.

Tribal Knowledge also explains why "Cheeseheads" spread from Wisconsin, "Red Sox Nation" becomes a New England export and "Hulkamaniacs" dutifully followed through with their prayers, training and vitamins. Tribal Knowledge is also the common denominator that fosters Trekkies, Oprahligion and the KISS Army.

Harley Davidson, Apple, Starbucks and the Running Room are flourishing tribes for the very same reason. They offer a chance to be part of brands that matter.

The only way to create a tribe is to lead it.

Like Canadian real estate mavericks

If you are serious about leading your company or fashioning the career of your dreams it means you need to challenge the status quo and start connecting with people who can actually make a difference. If you can't pull that off, don't whine about everything that is wrong with your business, your non-profit or your career.

Are you prepared to play the role of the heretic? Ready to ruffle some familiar feathers and risk sacrificing some all too sacred cows?

Ignore what "Tribes" is saying and a bigger risk may present itself.

You could fall in line with other "sheepwalkers" - fighting to protect status quo at all costs, and missing the enormous opportunities Tribal Knowledge has to offer.

"It's not for you to somehow beam your message to strangers and convert them, because you can't convert strangers anymore. Not one major new consumer brand built in the last five years was built on the back of advertising. Google and Facebook, etc. are built because one person brought another one by the hand, not because someone bought ads on the Super Bowl"

Originally posted February 12, 2009

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