We are big fans of Seth Godin – a marketing wizard and modern-day philosopher whose daily emails are usually thought provoking and useful and often amusing. Today’s email from Seth reinforced the importance of tribes and chimed neatly with the reasons we have created a trail running team with one of our client, TORQ Fitness.

Tribes work

One of the reasons we are so passionate about our Trail Team idea is because, as trail runners (Julie in particular is a huge fan of off-road running, especially in the mountains) we would love to be involved in such a project. And if we would love to be involved, it stands to reason that there would be other people who feel the same: a tribe of trail runners.

But trail running is not a ubiquitous activity. This is not our national sport (in fact we don’t think it is anyone’s national sport, more’s the pity!) and even if it was, that wouldn’t generate saturation amongst the population. No, the beauty of trail running (for example) is that the people who do it are a relatively small, connected group who share ideas and passion with each other.

As Seth points out, the critical mass required to start a craze in any situation is very different – in terms of absolute numbers – depending on the size of the group involved:

For every idea that spreads, it turns out that the critical mass is different. For example, if I want to start a yo-yo craze at the local elementary school, critical mass might be as small as a dozen of the right kids yo-yo-ing during lunch. In an environment that small and tightly knit, it’s sufficient.

On the other hand, the critical mass for a better word processor is in the gazillions, because the current standard is so deeply entrenched and the addressable market is both huge and loosely knit. The chances that you will launch a new word processor that catches on because everyone else is using it are small indeed.

So what size group are you trying to target? Perhaps it is worth finding a tight-knit tribe or two to start with. People whose passion you can share and whose enjoyment/performance your product or service can enhance. If you can get that group to engage with you and your brand, try and then endorse you products, then they will spread the word about what a wonderful thing you make or do. And remember that all groups are interconnected – members of any one tribe will be members of other tribes and they will always take their preferences with them… and then you grow!


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