Share the Love on Tribal Frequencies

It doesn’t really matter if you are flying people to the moon, if nobody knows, shares, or cares about it.  While we like to believe that the best man wins, far less superior solutions win all the time. Regardless of what we may think, it all boils down to one thing. Availability. Availability rules seven days a week.

It seems like everybody, and their cat, has something they would like to share with the world these days. This could make it difficult for your brand, project or product to make it big. Do you get ever get a sense that you are at odds? Are there other ways of becoming more mentally, socially and emotionally available? When others zig, you zag!?

Language can open and sustain frequencies

Can you converse in steampunk? Each tribe has it's own language.

Can you converse in steampunk? Each tribe has it’s own language.

HELLO (in caps)
Boss (See: Shit people say in Mumbai. Thanks Abhay Adhikari for sharing this!)
Yo dawg
Nanoo Nanoo

Language has the power to open frequencies, but it’s really up to people to tune in if they feel like it. If you approach people in the wrong way you will turn them off. For example by being too salesy, over-confident, or akward. You may be opening frequencies in the wrong way, because you are acting like a wannabe.

When we speak with young children we tweak our voice, and when we referee a game we shout. But it’s not only how we say, but what we do and where. With the right approach you can connect with the most buttressed of individuals. You simply have to find, master and share the right frequency. It may be golf, travel, or something as exotic as steampunk.

Crowded frequencies

Still from Modern Times, Dir. Charlie Chaplin, 1936, United Artists.

Still from Modern Times, Dir. Charlie Chaplin, 1936, United Artists.

We all carry hundreds of different frequencies, but most companies are jamming the signal on a select few. Many either following their brand book like mindless drones, more concerned with stringency than connectivity, or have a very shallow understanding of the people they want to reach. It’s not really their fault, because they are following the industry handbook.

It’s safe to say that the relevance of mass frequencies is in decline. They are not what they used to be, when middle-aged Joe:s in the city had a lot in common. Volvo:s are bought by both young and elderly, and runners can be found in any shape and size. Markers like age, sex and nationality, do not have the same relevancy as they did for our ancestors. Many people find it hard to get excited about being approached as a middle-aged Joe.

Luckily there are some potent and untapped frequencies that you can use on your trek towards availability.

Tribal frequencies

I used this original art to promote my blog post about lifelogging and connect with the Quantified Self movement. The post made it to the top of

I used this original art to promote my blog post about lifelogging and connect with the Quantified Self movement. The post made it to the top of

We all carry hundreds of different frequencies, because we all belong to many different tribes. Tribal frequencies are powerful, because they tap in to our need to belong, and make sense of the world. When we open tribal frequencies we connect with people and their passions, whether it’s for golf, startups, vintage or meaningful brands.

In contrast to mass frequencies, that address individuals with little in common, tribal frequencies are all about connectedness. Tribal frequencies are rich, because they have deep wells to draw from. They can be created and sustained from a shared repertoire of meaning, beliefs, and values. Which in turn are derived from symbols, experiences and stories. It’s important to understand that tribal influencers are the true masters of these frequencies. They can both help you to tune in, as well as lend you their halo.

You should never use a tribal frequency as a scheme to shove stuff down people’s throats. Focus instead on bringing authentic value to people’s lives, and share what matters. Brands that do this well receive a special perk. Over time, they themselves become a symbol – a secret handshake – that people can use to connect with others and express their tribal membership.

If you are a small player in your niche, like a personal blogger, startup, small business or crowd-funder, you can use the fact that you can’t communicate with everyone to your advantage. Rather than operating mass frequencies you can become more accessible to people through their passions.

If you represent a large player in your niche, but find it difficult to cut through the noise, then you should consider a more refined strategy that uses tribal frequencies to your advantage. Red Bull for example communicates over 35+ frequencies to connect with passions ranging from ice climbing to rugby. Chances are at large that you, as a big player, already touch upon lots of tribal passions, but need new ways of thinking and doing.

Examples of brands opening tribal frequencies

Kellogs Nutri-Grain opened the world's first glow-in-the-dark skate park in Australia this year. They  also take photos of skaters in the park, and identify them using RFID chips in skateboards. Kellogs Nutri-Grain opened the world’s first glow-in-the-dark skate park in Australia this year. They also automatically take photos of skaters in the park, and identify them using RFID chips. (Shared by Feffe Kaufmann, checkout

The MYO, gesture control armband, tunes in to the stars wars and sci-fi frequency encouraging people to unleash their inner jedi. The MYO, gesture control armband, tunes in to the Star Wars frequency and encourages people to unleash their inner jedi.

Hoote Suite, the social media management dashboard, elegantly taps in to the Game of Thrones tribe with their Social Media "Winter is coming" infographicHootSuite, the social media management dashboard, elegantly taps in to the Game of Thrones tribe with their Social Media “Winter is coming” infographic. This is a really nice example of understanding, and tapping in to a tribal frequency.

Gumalon, an interactive game powered by chewing,  was developed by Stride Gum. I contacted them to ask them how they used this game to connect with gamer tribes. It appeared that they weren't. A missed opportunity! Gumalon, an interactive game powered by chewing, was developed by Stride Gum. I contacted them to ask them how they used their innovative game to connect with gamer tribes. It appeared that they weren’t in that mindset. A missed opportunity!


Your 4 step plan to gain increased availability

This plan is built upon the wisdom of digging where you stand.

1. Discover the tribes your customers treasure
2. Select one or a few
3. Understand the codes required to authentically open and sustain tribal relations
4. Master the tribal frequency, and join the tribal co-creation process

[zilla_alert style=”yellow”]Do you dig the concept of tribal frequencies? Do you think that they help you – your startup, business, blog or project – grow?

Please tune in and leave a comment if this post resonated with you. Thanks![/zilla_alert]


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Great stuff! Frequencies are a good way to look at it. i have been struggling with concept of channels. It feel so industrial, dosen't work in a social context. Frequencies is much better. You can tune in and out a both receive and transmit on multiple levels and so on. I like. The world is a bit more clear. :) 


@timrayner01 I love the concept of the Prismatic Self, and its ability it shed light on tribal frequencies!

Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer

This is so cool and a great subject you've picked up on, Elia. In PR, there's a similarity with this line of thought and "framing", i.e. placing messages in favourable contexts using language that specifically appeals to a niche audience.

I like the example of a glass of water. If you state that the glass is half empty, you tune in on people who see the glass the exact same way. And more importantly, you signal that you wouldn't mind a refill as opposed to stating that the glass is half full.

Awesome article, as always.


Commercial empathy, makes great sense Elia.  Said I'd try to explain...

“What will distinguish those who thrive will be their ability to understand what makes their fellow woman or man tick, to forge relationships, and to care for others.' Daniel Pink, A Whole New Mind

Part of forging relationships  and using appropriate attention channels is the capacity to walk in someone else's shoes, in this case a tribe (but tribes consist of individuals with common interests and attributes). 'Treat others as they would like to be treated' involves many things, but finding a language that beckons a response is part of that.  So empathy, and commercial because in essence the goal is to make money by opening the channel to people who want to buy - your product, idea, services, etc.

Hope that clarifies...David


Thanks for a great article and your mention in the blog. appreciate it!

Your article reminds me of when I shake hands or hug (or both) with friends from different groups. Its kind of hilarious how wrong it can get because you haven´t been hanging out for a while. Thats a perfect example of the many frequencies your talking about.

But I have a inner belief that a brand, corporate or organisation should be very careful trying to tap in to hard into this frequencies. Like everyone who skates, surf och snowboard have a common term for people trying to hard, talking to much and having all stuff. Usually the also ride bad but not always. They are called posers and just like brands trying to tap in they should avoid get the poser stamp on them. Its not a good one ;)!

I believe its delicate and the approach must be as flirty as gentle like a first date.  

Digital eMspace
Digital eMspace

Language is a fascinating subject! It seems so very volatile, often exactly in the moments when you don't want to leave room for interpretations.

Do you think that tribal frequencies would be more on the unpredictable side, if emotions get in the way? I did find myself seldom trying to tune on the same wave with other people, but ending up touching a raw nerve by using symbols I thought were safe.

tribaling moderator

@ftorstensson Thanks Fredrik, I am glad you like it! I think you will find that frequencies are much  more versatile than channels. To open a frequency you need to know about the "how" (the language) and the "what" (the message), as well as the "where". You can  also use frequencies to connect with people mentally, socially and emotionally. What are your thoughts on that?

tribaling moderator

@davidhain Thank you, I really appreciate your perspective on this! You phrase this beautifully and It's clear that you have given "commercial empathy" a lot of thought. How do you go about helping people come to the same realization? What are the hurdles? What are the steps?

tribaling moderator

@FeffeKaufmann That's a great story about frequencies, thanks for sharing!

I agree that tribal frequencies need entirely new ways of thinking and doing. To add on top of that each frequency has it's own culture and way of going about things. 

Salomon is an excellent case of tribal marketing. They didn't follow the industry rule book with a smart ass positioning followed up by massive advertising. They took a "soft sell" approach, and sent their marketing team to visit places and hang out with snowboarders. With time they invited members of the snowboarding tribe to help them design their first boards. Was this the moment they went ballistic? No. They continued to show up at snowboarding sites and invited members to try their boards. When they decided to start selling their boards they were an integral part of the tribe. They knew exactly which tribal media and events to sponsor. Within a short period of time they became the third largest in the snowboarding market. They used the exact same approach for inlines.

Red Bull used a similar approach. They toured the country with representatives that showed up at parties and places where people needed energy. They only went broad once they had a cultural understanding and foothold. 

So I totally agree with the "flirty as gentle as a first date" approach, and I hope people will follow suit. :)

tribaling moderator

@Digital eMspace Thanks for taking the time to read and comment! I agree that language can be really tricky at times, because of it's many nuances and constantly evolving nature. I think it's good that we acknowledge that tribal languages exist, because that will help us become more attune to them. 

I do think that tribal frequencies are an explosive way of connecting with people's passions, and that it can take a bad turn. However I also believe that being real and transparent goes a long way despite how many mistakes we make. I find that people appreciate when I try to speak their language, when abroad, even when it's really awful.

I love this discussion, because it really highlights both the fundamental nature of communication and it's depths. In the end it's really about being human. 


@tribaling @Digital eMspace In the end it's really about being human! So true - people spot inauthenticity a mile off - be congruent, consistent and genuine and language will never be a barrier!