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10 Key Truths For 2008 – A Time When Business Success Requires Tribal Intelligence


– By Kevin Masi


In the increasing ferocity of global economic competition, marketers must connect to people in order to create customers and realize critical business momentum. People come together, forming culture. No matter how advanced, we do what do because we care what others think of us. Companies that want to create customers and to grow must develop Tribal Intelligence.


1. Traditional businesses are restructuring, moving from product managers and segment managers to business units. Business units suggest a marketplace. A Marketplace suggests customers. Customers suggest human beings. To be complete, these restructuring efforts must include Tribal Intelligence of their customers if they are to create critical momentum and success against stiff competition.


2. Traditional media is disappearing. The Internet is enabling communities that were simply not possible in the era of mass media. Bold splashy creative advertising will continue. But behind successful campaigns are sophisticated, relational apparati that provide access, meaning and invitations to people for their participation.


3. You can no longer sell a product in the market. Instead, you must be in the business of helping people solve problems or reach goals. There are countless creative ways to develop Tribal Intelligence. Each brings organizations to clarity about what people desire, how they behave, where and when to meaningfully reach them. Tribal intelligence is a shift of consciousness.


4. Customers don't buy products, they choose experiences. There are simply too many products available from too many companies (and too much advertising of their existence) for your customer not to buy things on the basis of subtle experiential differences and impressions, not black and white features and functions.


  1. 5. Customers are not loyal. They choose the best value and the most desirable experience. If your product or service provides it, they will buy from you. If not, they will buy from your competitor. What we call 'loyalty programs' are really ways to create more value for customers. Re-upping "what we've done for you lately" is not an option. It's an ongoing competitive necessity.


6. Your marketplace image is created inside your company. Your own people are your greatest influencers and connectors to the marketplace. The long-term experience your customers have with your product determines the brand image they hold. Your customers' experiences affect your brand image far more than your marketing message. As does your customer service, your R&D efforts, your public policy, and even your HR policy.


7. People trust their peers more than any other source of information. Advertising still has a place in creating visibility. But that's not enough to create critical business


momentum. Your highest marketing goal should be to become a positive recommendation from the trusted peer of your next customer. Your company must learn to listen carefully, allow participation in business direction setting, and share sensitive information in useful forms.


8. People choose to buy things – demographic segments don't. And people care more than anything else about what others think of them (even if they wish to create negative reactions). People are tribal, social and behavioral. If you want to understand your customer, start your study of tribal norms.


  1. 9. The Internet is changing the way business is done. It's changing the way we live as a global community. Try searching for your product in your favorite search engine. How many links does the search find? How many competitors does it find? Note your place in the list. Does any of this frighten you? It's at the fingertips of every one of your customers.


Some organizations have figured it out and are doing many of these things really, really well. Successful adaptations of Tribal Intelligence are being made all the time in middle market companies. These companies are willing to ask the difficult questions, develop their own Tribal Intelligence and create an authentic brand experience for their customers. Although there is much to learn, there are many guides on the path to develop and practice Tribal Intelligence at the heart of your marketing plans.



Kevin Masi is Co-founder and principal of Torque, Ltd., Creative Marketing Agency [email protected]