by Tenielle Maris. The consumer landscape, as we know it, has evolved. It is as diverse as it is multifaceted. Digital connectivity and social media have accelerated the deconstruction of consumer segments by enabling people from all walks of life to come together more seamlessly than they did yesterday.

“It’s almost impossible to use traditional demographic segments (age, gender, income, family status and more) to predict consumer behaviour. People of all ages — and in many markets — are shaking off demographic ‘conventions’ and constructing lifestyles and identities more freely than ever before.” — Trendwatching 2017

Conventional stereotypes are becoming less and less relevant as we find consumer segments merging, meshing and evolving into something that redefines our own preconceived definitions. What we have in its place is a melting pot of interests, passion points and ideas uniting people in the most astounding way.

Rise of the tribes

Consumerism has transcended age-old segmentation conventions, and instead has paved the way for multidimensional consumer tribes. These tribes are groups of people — no longer connected by demographics — but emotionally connected by similar consumption values. Unlike brand communities that have been constructed around brands, tribes are centred on the human desire to thrive within collective consciousness: the shared and intangible awareness of belonging to something bigger.

Seth Godin sums up this train of thought perfectly: “A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”

Keeping things real

Brands have the opportunity to emotionally connect with audiences like never before by leveraging the power of collective consciousness and the feelings associated with playing a role in something greater than the sum of its parts.

In order to find the key emotion that is relevant to a diverse group of people, however, a brand needs to go beyond generalisations and labels: it needs to genuinely demonstrate a deep understanding of who it is talking to, and authentically acknowledge that its consumers are unique in some shape or form.

By recognising consumer groups as a collective of individuals — and by encouraging them to celebrate their uniqueness within a collective but without the need to conform to stereotypical norms — brands stand to create a solid foundation to develop a long-term affiliation, through meaningful engagement, with its richly diverse audience.

Getting it right

A Danish TV advert for TV2, “All that we share”, demonstrates, via a social experiment, that society places human beings into boxes which stand in the way of us connecting with others. It movingly illustrates that, by stripping away stereotypes and rather by finding commonality through personal experiences, we’ve much more in common than we care to consider. Through a remarkable demonstration of being a human brand, delivered in a thought-provoking and personable way, this campaign is a stellar example of a brand that truly understands its audience.

As marketers and advertisers, we need to go the distance to uncover the nuances existing within our target markets to ultimately expose the common ground existing within even the most-diverse groups. At a time when social divides are impacting the world in the most-devastating ways, there’s never been a better reason to look beyond the things driving us apart and to instead focus on the extraordinarily intricate threads tying us all together.



Tenielle MarisTenielle Maris is strategic director at TTL agency, 34°, in Johannesburg. Beginning her career in branding and communications, she has spent the last decade in the marketing industry where she has worked upon big brands spanning the African continent. Having found her passion in understanding what drives human beings to connect with particular brands, her time is spent getting up close and personal with the people whom brands are trying to connect with. Tenielle contributes the monthly “Headspace” column, which unpacks anything and everything that helps marketers and advertisers understand why people connect with brands, to

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