4 Steps Towards Tribal Collaboration


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This is an attempt to describe the process of working with tribes. It is not meant to be a waterfall method, but rather small agile loops. Truth be told, it’s meant to be more of an instrument for reflection and mind-set than strict real world application. Reality is just too complex to be captured in a model, and this is especially true for human interaction. When interacting and communicating with people you should not be acting out of a manual, but rather your full human capacities. Regardless, I hope you will find this useful for thinking about your own tribaling efforts.


spottingTribal spotting

This first step is only relevant if you are looking to locate or expand the tribes you are collaborating with. Tribal spotting is the art of finding tribes which could make a good match for your organization and it’s endeavors. What are you trying to accomplish? Do you want to develop and test new ideas and products? Increase the value of your brand or sales? A good match will nearly always find commonality in shared values, purposes or ideas. For example: Red Bull shares the ideals and values of dangerous sports. Their pursuit for adventure, and pushing the limits of the self, would not be an ideal match for the safe confinements of snooker or darts.


investigationTribal investigation

This is about going native, in order to understand and decode the social aspects of the tribe. During this step your tribal spotting will either be confirmed or challenged. The aim is to go beyond the evident and read between the lines to find the meaning created through shared experiences, stories and symbols. Where others see the how and the what, you must dig deeper to see the why. While most would say “Hey, they are building stuff out of organic materials”, you should be able to say “Yes, and it expresses their longing for a deeper purpose, to re-connect with nature and be a part of the whole”. By understanding the significance of tribal phenomenon you can understand what the tribe really desires and what you could possibly offer.


contributionTribal contribution

Supporting tribes is really about mutual benefit, collaboration and exchange, rather than exploitation. The deeper understanding gained, from your tribal investigation, is going to help you share stuff that the tribe truely values, not merely for it’s functional benefits, but symbolic. If you have stuff to share, then it will most likely need to be ‘translated’. You will need to re-code your assets based on what you de-coded during your investigation. The aim of tribal contribution is to introduce yourself and build trust. It is not really that different from regular relationships. Someone has to take the first step, and display sincerity and respect.


collaborationTribal collaboration

This is really about getting your hands dirty and becoming an integral part of the tribe. It’s about doing stuff together, letting loose and having fun. It’s about sharing experiences and stories which are rememberable and sharable. You are there to listen, learn and make an impression. In one way this approach and it’s conclusions is the anti-thesis to traditional marketing.

You could call it un-marketing. Or tribaling.


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I like your opening statement, that the process should be taken small agile loops. Agile is so important for aligning with communities and finding channels that connect best with the users who benefit most. What I'm looking at now might fit in your contribution stage, but rather than respond with content, follow up with shifts in the product. The tune back in on the tribe via social media listening to gage the response. This way the interaction is an interaction of tribes with the brand and offering, and subsequent adjustments in the direction of best use and value. Love the post & would like to see examples from midmarket or niche brands in future pieces, too!


The idea of creating an instrument for reflection that is based on an iterative process really appeals to me. And there are so many parallels to my work. This makes me wonder if you face or have faced some of the problems I used to when I started out in the field. 


People tend to be a bit nervous about a blank-canvas approach which can be adapted and moulded to create a bespoke solution. There is greater confidence in a one-sized-fits-all approach, which may not necessarily be the ideal solution, especially when we are dealing with human interaction. There are far too many variables to streamline this approach, which is why I like your 4 step framework which begins with spotting and culminates in collaboration. It seems to be quite an intensive and organic process which makes you reconsider assumptions.  


I'm quite interested in the mechanics of the reflective aspects that an individual/ organisation/ team goes through. For example, the point about identifying goal (or what needs to be accomplished) is quite a big task in itself. What are some of your strategies to deal with different approaches, opinions and goal-posts. 


I like the level of engagement you identify in the process of tribal investigation. And finally, the principle of re-coding assets based on investigation is quite fantastic, and I want to know about the real mechanics of the process. I am very curious about how you prepare the people you are working with to reflect and to dig deeper. 


tribaling moderator

 @MaseratiTorque Thanks for the kind words. It means a lot coming from you! I am really keen to hear more about your tribal-product-tuning-and-collaboration insights. I will definitely try to  follow up with examples of midmarket and niche brands in the future. 

tribaling moderator

 @gopaldass Abhay, thanks for sharing your invaluable insights. You make many interesting points and pose great questions. 


Regarding the task of identifying goals you are absolutely right. It is a big task and I think there are many aspects to this. One being that your goals will never be better than your insights and understanding of the challenge at hand. Sometimes organizations are good at understanding themselves, their products and services, and competitors. However I often find that they lack a good understanding of the people they are going to benefit. The real challenge is to flip perspectives. From the inside out and from the top down. This is in itself a journey for everyone involved. All-in-all it is about acquiring a hero-centric-view (or as some prefer to call customer-centric).


I have a lot to say about the workings of investigation and re-coding of messages, and will address that in much more detail in coming posts.