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Tribetailing: Too Risky to Invest In, or the Only Way to Market?

Nowadays, mobile’s hot buzzword seems to be “personalization.” Every mobile-centric conference or marketing thought leader stresses the importance for one-to-one customized content on smartphone devices, cautioning retailers to avoid casting a wide net when it comes to pinpointing target audiences.

Segmentation is at the forefront of all marketing executives’ efforts, but does everyone’s intense reliance on it mean that tribetailing is alive and well, and there is no going back?

Tribetailing is a term referring to the retail tactic of catering to a narrow niche of consumers. This can include customizing everything from the brand logo to the mobile app in a way that will strike the most resonant chord with target customers. While this practice is certainly necessary to a degree, it can also culminate in retailers alienating potential shoppers who may not fit neatly into the desired demographic.

The pros: Tribetailing enables retailers to forge better connections with ideal customers. While the in-store experience should be tailored to the majority of visitors, opportunities for tribetailing on mobile still abound. For example, brands can create separate social media accounts corresponding to their various departments or collection lines. Target maintains a general Instagram account, @target, that showcases colorful branded content and snippets from commercials. It also has a separate Instagram account for its style collections, called @targetstyle. Consumers who follow this account are interested in new trends in home, beauty, and fashion, with Target uploading pertinent posts accordingly. Followers can peruse the brand’s latest social influencer collaborations, new arrivals, and must-have looks, all of which are shoppable on mobile.

This strategy ensures that social media users will not be inundated with brand content that is irrelevant to their interests. Additionally, brands can employ representatives to man each separate account and respond personally to users who choose to interact with the posts.

Another way of leveraging mobile tribetailing is implementing specific in-app content that caters directly to the audience. Taco Bell, for instance, understands that a large portion of its app users consists of younger consumers. Consequently, the fast-food chain’s app features heavy gamification elements, playing on the popularity of mobile games such as Angry Birds and Candy Crush. In this case, Taco Bell’s games featured branded, interactive content that may not be enticing to every consumer, but hits a home run with millennials.

Victoria’s Secret has also perfected tribetailing by rolling out a separate app for its Pink shoppers – called Pink Nation – that provides material relevant to teens and college-aged women. This includes the occasional mobile scavenger hunt, plenty of downloadable stickers and filters, and exclusive offers. In other words, perfect for the main brand offshoot’s usual shoppers.

The cons: While mobile segmentation is certainly useful – and necessary, to a degree – more global brands may run into trouble when attempting to configure their marketing tactics in a way that complements tribetailing. Take Coca-Cola, for instance. Coca-Cola cannot pinpoint one type of consumer or demographic that drinks its beverages, therefore making it more difficult to roll out branded materials or packaging likely to appeal to all of its customers.

Instead, Coca-Cola focuses on providing more wide-reaching mobile experiences that have a strong shareability element. For this year’s Share a Coke campaign, the beverage marketer is allowing mobile users to scan lyrics on certain bottles with the Shazam app and create a video of themselves lip-syncing to a song, which they may then distribute among social media followers. This type of campaign is likely to incite interest among a plethora of individuals belonging to very different demographics.

Coca-Cola also has several other mobile hubs, where more digitally-savvy consumers can congregate. This includes the Coca-Cola Freestyle app and emoji keyboard. While tribetailing may prove challenging for global marketers, staying true to the core brand message and dispersing more segmented content on a variety of platforms can help ensure that no consumer feels left out.

Employing a hard-hitting tribetailing focus on all social media or mobile channels may be a risky move for many marketers – especially those whose target audiences are not yet completely established. Marketing too closely to one segment leaves massive gaps for reaching other potential consumers. However, segmentation is necessary to bridge long-lasting relationships with individuals, especially as the retail sector thickens with an influx of competition from online and ecommerce brands.

Ultimately, marketers must work to uncover the ideal balance between total tribetailing and blindly sending out unfocused branded content. The good news? Mobile is perhaps one of the most versatile channels for this.

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Kristin Schepici, Director, Marketing

Kristin is a senior marketing professional with a strong focus in multimedia and experience developing and executing integrated marketing communication plans. With a strong focus on inbound marketing, she oversees the development and implementation of online marketing strategies.

Topics: Tribetailing

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