Thursday, 5 November 2009

Up the revolution

Did you ever wish you were part of a revolution? Wouldn't you have loved to be pulling down walls in Berlin, dying your hair green or embracing free love?

I'm afraid I didn't do any of those things. The closest I've ever been to becoming a revolutionary was walking through Trafalgar Square about five minutes before the peacefull Poll Tax protest turned into an out and out riot, but those crucial five minutes ensured I missed even that!

But hey, you know what? I have the opportunity to be in at the beginning of something new, a trailblazer and banner waver. What? What? I hear you cry and is it legal?

Yesterday I attended a New Brand Tribalism workshop. Get used to this phrase because I believe it's going to become much more commonplace in the years ahead. Not wishing to steal the thunder of those who came up with the concept, why not pop along to their website to find out more.

In short, these clever folk believe:

"Brands don't belong to corporations anymore, they belong to the people, the customers, the employees, the media, the analysts, and the activists. We are now all part of a myriad of sub-tribes and can choose at any moment to act, to comment, to contribute, to participate, to consume - or not.

We call this new reality New Brand Tribalism™ which is the biggest challenge for companies and organisations to address when they want to manage; sustainable, responsible, relevant and successful brands in the next 5-10 years."

Tribes create a sense of belonging. Today we associate that with the brands we buy and support or even the TV programmes we watch - who has been on the X-Factor forums? You're a part of that tribe. A brand is no longer just about image and identity - culture is moving us way beyond what has always been the norm. Brands are creating association and building communities - often out of the control of the very companies themselves. In five minutes, for example, I could nip onto Facebook and create a fan site for any brand of my choosing - powerful stuff.

As I understand it, brands today stand on a tipping point. Increasingly redundant are the companies still thinking "20th century" who focused on being a complex functional organisation. Change was slow and structured. Strategy was black and white. What's happening today as the world shrinks and new markets emerge is a more fast and fluid approach that shifts with the tides and fashions. Interpretation is open, involvement from consumers and suppliers becomes an essential component of the mix. Just think of Apple - whose suppliers for their ever popular Apps are most times the very consumers they sell to. Who would have imagined this even a few years ago? This is a fundamental shift in business where we see consumers no longer buying just the product but the experience too and likewise employees are demanding more - what does it feel like to work here? What am I getting out of it? Right now we are just seeing the start... now just imagine the possibilities! What's important to remember is that after such major corrections, the world is never the same again - look what Rock n Roll did to pop music! Management of brands going forward therefore must be based on different notions.

For an internal communications professional like me this is incredibly exciting stuff which sends all my creative bells a-clanging in a deafening fashion! If companies get this right and align passion for the brand with their employees and their consumers then a bit of magic happens - what the new brand tribalists are calling the 'sweet spot' where fully engaged employees and consumers drive loyalty by building a tribe and, by default, increase business value.

It's all about creating authenticity in both your brand proposition and culture. We spend far too many hours of our week at work for it not to have some meaning for us. Bringing your employees into a tribe and creating a sense of belonging is therefore key. Work no longer has to be about turning up, getting the job done and going home. It can be much more than that. It is our job as communicators, marketeers and HR professionals to ensure that the meaning and experience our colleagues and customers take away is really something quite special.

What excites me most is how it ticks all the boxes of how I like to work, gets my creative juices positively gushing. This is all new thinking so we can invent as we go along, trying on until we see what fits and having a lot of fun in the process then adjusting and adding to keep up with the world around us. It's not prescriptive but joyfully multi-levelled, holistic and dynamic. It's never going to be about a uniform approach, one size fits all again. I can't think of a better time to be involved!

If you're interested in finding out more pop along to or contact my buddies at The Alternative.


  1. People need to 'belong'-to something and then some more!Always have(generally) People like to be liked .to be wanted .regarded.loved .copied.envied etc For the better or the worse there are so MANY facets in modern life now that enables people to quickly slot in somewhere with likeminded people & achieve these things.
    My brain hurts now. I shouldn't even be blogging-I have a friggin' market to do on Sat & I've only ONE Christmas yolkimebob made!

  2. Power to the people, we have always had it, but not the tools to exploit it. The internet is that tool we've needed. Its exciting stuff. We just wont be feed rubbish anymore, we are no longer a passive audience. I love the shake up of the advertising industry, media corporations and global brands. The revolution is happening now.

  3. The tribe concept for work has become a very big trend. Getting multiple generations of people to work together as a group almost requires it, because different generations look at work from two vastly different viewpoints. Your thinking is great!

  4. Contragualtions on finding a new tribe! :)


Thank you for your comments - I always love to hear what you think :)

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