Using Societal Signaling to Sell
As mentioned in last week’s article, societal signaling is a very ancient phenomenon that has kept us alive for millennia, if not longer. Above all else, it allows us to understand which group(s) we belong to and how to maintain (or even move upward within) a certain status within that group’s hierarchy.
So how does this apply to marketing? It’s easier to answer with questions than with statements: Are you a creative mac-head or a down-to-earth PC user? An old-fashioned pilsner drinker or a hip, young IPA drinker? Do you take the kids to soccer in your safe, white (for visibility) hatchback or take risks in your little red sports car?
Our product choices say a lot about us, and about who we should befriend, work with, and even start a family with. DISCLAIMER: I’m not saying cola drinkers and energy drink sippers can’t get married or that Goths and Cowboys shouldn’t be friends. Merely that we often telegraph our ideologies and personalities a great deal more with our clothes, food, music, and other products than we do with our words, dialects, or even actions.
And if you’re a marketer, making segments based on these in-group behaviors, and STACKING those segments based on other behaviors, can really crank up your ability to engage, acquire, and maintain customers. What do your demographics wear, drive, eat, drink, and do for fun?
Do they wear flannel, drink coffee, and have beards or ponytails? Maybe your commercials should have a coffee drinking couple wearing flannel and sporting those follicles. Are you trying to break into a different market? They should have some of the previous traits (your current demo) and some new ones found in your prospective demo.
Do your most loyal customers listen to Norwegian Black Metal? Maybe you should follow Gorgoroth and Satyricon on twitter…maybe some of your spokespeople should belong to that subculture, or your promotional material should dog-whistle (or even outright reference) things that they would care about. SciFi fans, hip-hop listeners, vegans, dog owners, stamp collectors, etc…they are drawn to different products and lifestyle choices. Actively appeal to the groups that you already passively appeal to and work your way outward from there.
The real bottom line here is this: People don’t need to be divided into teams and segments, or judged as stereotypical groups and sub-groups. But people do naturally create (for the most part, harmless) divisions among themselves and making proper use of that inherent tribalism that people will always have is a great way to create and maintain thriving marketing strategies that work because of humanity’s natural tendency to create tribes and signal their membership to them.