Target Marketing Vs. Tribal Marketing


What is the age range of snowboarders? What is the income range of people who do yoga? What is the age and income range of Carolina Panthers football fans? What is the age and income range of Republicans?

What are the beliefs and opinions of a person who is 30 years old?

What the hell is a millennial?

Your intellect believes those questions have answers, but your heart knows the answers would be ridiculous. Age and income are not tribal markers. They are false categories that appeal only to the small-minded person within each of us that clings to stereotypes.

Let go of the stereotypes and embrace a more accurate picture. Successful advertising talks to the customer, in the language of the customer, about what matters to the customer.

Hills and snow and a love of adrenaline are what snowboarders have in common.

Yoga is what binds yoga people.

A team unites Carolina Panthers fans.

Strands of belief unite a political party.

What matters to your customer has little to do with the year they were born or the amount of money they make. What matters are the beliefs and desires and values of their tribe. The behavior of an individual can vary widely from moment to moment. But when you observe the behavior of a self-selected group, you’ll see predictable patterns emerge. This is true whether you’re watching snowboarders or yoga practitioners or Republicans, but it goes horribly wrong when you categorize by age group or income.

We unconsciously join a tribe when we see and feel and think as they do on a particular subject. Tribal marketing simply reflects back to a tribe their own vision and emotion and logic.

Brilliant marketing is built firmly on this concept.

I mentioned snowboarding and yoga in my opening statements because Chip Wilson made millions of dollars by selling specialized clothing to the snowboarding tribe, then switched to the yoga tribe in 1998 (Lululemon) and started making billions. Forbes currently ranks him in the Top 1,000 richest people on earth.

Chip Wilson understands tribal marketing.

Yoga people span the spectrum of age and income and ethnicity. Their education, politics, and taste in music are similar to the unfiltered public. But they all agree on yoga. And that’s all you need to know.

Ryan Deiss of is among the cognoscenti of Wizard Academy whose advice is valued by followers worldwide. Ryan says, “Identify a tribe. Engage the tribe. Market to the tribe.”

Rolex makes watches for tribes:

The Submariner is the watch for the scuba tribe.

The Daytona is the watch for the car-guy tribe.

The Yacht Master is the watch for the boating tribe.

The Air King is the watch for the airplane tribe.

The Milgauss is the watch for the technical tribe.

The Explorer is the watch for the outdoor tribe.

The President is the watch for the business tribe.

Marketing to tribes has worked out pretty well for Rolex, don’t you think?

A tribe isn’t targeted through carefully selected media but through carefully selected words. If your product was designed with a tribe in mind and your ads are written with that tribe in mind, you are on your way to joyous success.

Millennials aren’t a tribe. They are a collection of tribes, just like every other group of birth cohorts. Forget targeting through demographically correct media.

Begin targeting through tribally correct ad copy. Learn the language of the tribe.

When you’ve learned to see and feel and think as the tribe does, your ads will start working wonders.

Personification and metaphor are powerful tools for reaching a tribe. Personification gives human attributes to things that are not human. You can say, “It was hot outside,” or you can say, “The angry sun glared down at me.” Which one is more interesting?

Metaphors use something as a symbol of something else.

In the Destinae trilogy I might have written, “The stars were reflected on the surface of the water,” but I chose to make the stars something other than reflections. “Bright stars danced on rippling waters, a thousand little fishes of light scurrying in a sea of darkness.”

“Stars danced” is personification.

“Little fishes of light” is a metaphor.

Fifteen years ago a man wrote a radio ad in which the narrator described a suffocating, sticky, gummy feeling that is stripped away by a shower of hot water and cleansing soap, leaving him buoyant, bouncy, vibrant, and clean, smelling good and feeling young again, with all his natural color restored. He wrote that ad as a homework assignment during the Magical Worlds Communications Workshop at Wizard Academy. He owned a carpet cleaning company in Canada. It wasn’t until the end of the ad that you realized the carpet was describing what it felt like to be cleaned. Personification.

I’ve always wished I had kept a copy of that ad.

If you would become more persuasive, if you would make more sales, if you would hold the attention of your audience, if you would target a tribe, I urge you to begin experimenting with personification and metaphor.

It’s all a matter of perspective.

And perspective is a powerful thing.


  1. A clear, expressive and fragrant piece, Roy – with a hint of expectations and very real possibilities.
    Thanks muchly.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here