The Engagers: Elia Mörling on Why You Should Target Tribal Influencers

tribal frequencies

After we launched Traackr for Sweden a few weeks ago, I became curious about the state of influencer marketing in this thriving global innovation hub. I interviewed Elia Mörling, one of Sweden’s premier thought leaders in digital communications to find out more. Elia’s blog Tribaling outlines best practices and digital strategies for tribal marketing. H&M, Ericsson, Chrysler and Save the Children are examples of the global brands Elia helps to become more customer-centric, social, and successful.

Hi Elia, your blog Tribaling is a leading guide for tribal marketing. For those of us who are new to the concept, will you explain how you define a “tribe” and why brands should care about them?

A tribe is a group of people that share a common passion such as golf, sustainability or startups. Brands should care about tribes because they capture how we relate to each other and how information spreads. Understanding tribes is the key to understanding our network society.

Many companies still define target groups the way they did in the industrial age. They use outdated traditional markers such as age, sex and nationality to define their target groups. The problem is that these groups of people have little in common. Tribes, on the other hand, make for superior target groups because they are defined by what people do and how they like to do it. Beyond common interests, tribes share a culture of values, beliefs, meaning, language, stories, and experiences. Knowing who your tribes are will make your marketing efforts more focused and effective.

What are some of the common mistakes people make about tribes?

Many people believe that tribes are subcultures; they are not. People within a subculture maintain their identity throughout the day regardless of where they are. Tribal identities are much less rigid. We carry them in the moment, and move in and out of them all the time.

You will also find people who think tribes are communities. Communities do not necessarily gather around passions, and they are many times tied to a place. Tribes, however, always center around passions and they are never limited to a specific geography.

What is your take on social influencers; and how do they relate to tribes?

Social influencers are powerful because we trust their word more than anything. Social influencers are tribal influencers. They do not simply influence random people; they influence the tribes they serve.

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In your blog, you say that one of the fundamentals of tribal marketing is to define target groups as tribes. Could you explain a bit more how brands should define their tribes?

No passion, no tribe. Passion is the social glue that defines any tribe. Learning what makes people excited about your brand, service or product, can help you identify your tribes. Many times it’s not the product itself, but the bigger experience and story it’s a part of. You can also examine the tribes your customers are members of, and the ones your competitors are engaging.

Once you have found your tribes, you should leverage the fact that they actually share a lot in common. A major piece of advice is to get out of the office or boardroom, and collect real data – online and offline. In many cases companies would do well to hire an expert to get them going.

What role does technology play in this?

The Internet and all its data has made it much easier to discover, study and engage tribes. Traackr as a tool for finding and engaging influencers is a great example of this.

As a professional trainer, you teach social marketing strategies to marketing and communications professionals in large companies and public organisations. What are some common mistakes you have seen companies make on this journey to modernize their marketing practices?

I think the biggest mistake we make is believing that we know all there is to know about something, when we really don’t. Whatever you believe the world to be, it probably changed the moment you nailed it. That’s why you need to become far more open-minded, agile and adaptive about the things you think and do. Testing a hypothesis, and having the courage to update it as you go along, is a great way to go about marketing. If there is anything you can be really sure about it’s – change. The best way to prepare yourself for change, is to keep changing.

Many marketers and public relations pros are trying to pitch news and updates to their social influencers. What do you think about that approach and how can these professionals better appeal to influencers and thought-leaders?

Most companies doing influencer marketing have yet to discover their tribes. An understanding of tribes allows for a better understand what customers value, and how to bring that value to them. A great example of a company doing that is H&M. They have a project called ”We love horses” where they engage with bloggers at the intersection of fashion and horse riding. Rather than simply asking them to name drop and showcase their products, H&M helps these influencers create new, refreshing experiences to offer their readers, such as high-quality video content.

What big changes do you predict for marketing practices in the next 5-10 years?

Looking to the future, I see more of everything. More interests, tribes, channels, tools and content. Increased fragmentation, will make it increasingly difficult to reach everyone at once, so we can’t expect advertising fatigue to go away anytime soon. The trust we place in personal recommendations and networks will increase. Understanding tribes, and their influencers, is going to be more important for organizations than ever.

Thanks Elia!


The Engagers is an ongoing interview series with “Earth’s Mightiest Marketers”, where you’ll find best practices and tips on how to reach out to your influencers successfully.