12 Tribes to Move Targeting Into a New Age

In recent cycles, successful campaigns have moved beyond demographics and into microtargeting. It’s an unmistakable step forward, but if a campaign is searching for cost-effective ways to reach and move voters, it’s simply not enough.

In an era of failed traditional institutions, neither does enough to organize people into groups that reflect who we are, how we think, what we need and what is most important in our lives.

Anthropologists think of such groupings as tribes. I would argue that both marketers and political scientists should think about consumers and voters in the same way. Identifying the tribes is the first step, but the greater benefit lies in the commonalities that very different tribes may share and in finding messaging that has appeal across those tribes.  

A campaign manager needs to know more about a voter than the fact that he’s a white small business owner who lives in a suburb. Microtargeting creates profiles using information about the beer one drinks and the stores one shops in and then aggregates that with political data points. It’s a good predictive tool for voting behavior, but it doesn’t do enough to develop a coherent message that moves large groups of people to your side and keeps them there.

Think of it this way: Microtargeting lets me to talk to one person and demographics target thousands or hundreds of thousands. Where is the intermediate step? How can a leader look at the entire electorate and create the model for a governing coalition?

Finding an answer to both answers is where my research is headed. For now, we’ve identified the 12 tribes I believe each of us belong to in some way.

In developing these new tribes of our information age, I’ve looked at our own IBOPE Zogby polling and dovetailed off the work of two others. One is Rob Walker, the market columnist for the New York Times Magazine and author of “Buying In.” He writes about the power of connections among like-minded people. The other is Tina Rosenberg, author of “Join the Club” and a proponent of the ability to move people and behavior through peer pressure.

These 12 tribes serve as the starting point:

Flash Drivers are “techies” who rely on the Internet and digital tools. Four in 10 would agree to have a computer chip implanted in their brain. 

Ecolytes live a greener, more environmentally-friendly lifestyle. They are more likely to be liberal, women, unmarried and spiritual, but not born-again.

Rule Breakers believe the ends justify the means if they personally benefit.

Nouveau Luddites are overwhelmed by technology, work only to make money to live and view retirement as a time to do nothing.

Mobiles travel, think globally and have affluent and urbane habits.

The God Squad believes all wisdom emanates from the Bible and its members are more likely to be married and male.

The Mission Driven are into causes, not money. They tend toward liberalism and believe the American Dream is about spiritual fulfillment.

Secular Idolaters believe in U.S. exceptionalism and can be found at fast-food chains and Walmart.

New-Agers are usually over the age of 50 and more focused on friends, family or community than jobs or possessions.

Out-of-Boxers are creative, entrepreneurial and describe work as “very fulfilling.”

Left Behinds are fearful about maintaining basic household needs and often unhappy in their jobs. They tend to be poor, but also include higher earners.

Even if you have a hard time thinking of society being departmentalized so specifically, my belief is that you can still find great benefit in this approach by looking for the multiple crossover points of interest among all 12 tribes.

Take global climate change, for example. Ecolytes of course care about it, but so do New Agers, Mobiles, Out-of-Boxers and even the God Squad, who view it in the context of man’s stewardship of God’s earth.

This research and its applications will rely on the universality of social media and using it to find our tribes, reach them and establish their crossover points. You will be hearing much more from me on this topic. Stay tuned.

John Zogby is chairman of the board and chief insights officer of IBOPE Zogby International.

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Sounds about as scientific as Zogby's polls. Wow, envionmentalists tend to be liberal! How insightful.

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