Global tribe


Let me share a piece of old news, for starters. Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa published a tweet on 5 January 2019 announcing that he will give out 100 million Yen (around 800.000 EUR) as a reward to a hundred, randomly picked individuals who retweet his tweet – so as to cash out the lucky ones with one million Yen each (around 8000 EUR per person).

Maezawa is one of the most successful Japanese businessmen, the founder and owner of the biggest online fashion retailer in Japan – “Zozotown”. The unusual tweet announcement was reasoned as a way to give thanks to customers who were shopping online during the holiday season, boosting profits of the company in the period to over 10 billion Yen. The tweet also contained a hashtag “a New Year’s gift for going to the moon”, signifying also Maezawa’s planned tourist visit to the Moon in 2023 with a spaceship constructed by none else than Elon Musk himself. One may even consider the clever hashtag as a “thank you” note from our space tourist to all the customers who contributed towards the pricey spaceship ticket.

Monday, 7 January 2019 came with another announcement from Yusaku Maezawa: his tweet reached a historic Twitter milestone with 4 million retweets, setting a new world record in the number of shares. This tweet dethroned the reigning viral message from a 16 year old Carter Wilkerson from Nevada who achieved a staggering 3,47 million retweets in April 2017 when he asked for help in retweeting his message and securing a year-long supply of chicken nuggets from a fast food restaurant chain Wendy’s. Despite the fact that the restaurant chain set the 18 million retweets as a condition for the annual supply of the nuggets, they settled for the record-breaking 3,5 million. After all, what did they have to lose? The price of getting such a viral success through a marketing campaign surpasses multiple times the cost of preparing 365 portions of chicken nuggets.

As bizarre as these stories are, they helps us follow the obvious evolution of the tool that marketing industry labels as “media buying”. These examples show us that we are in a particular “in-between” phase, shifting to a new model of outreach. In line with the traditional media buying that aims at disseminating the message to a largest possible audience, Yusaku Maezewa had the same goal with sharing his tweet. Following the pattern, Wendy’s had a clear calculation to award a year-long supply to a teenage from Nevada, after the message about their nuggets reached millions of users. This is precisely the logic behind any marketing campaign that would encompass promoting a message via billboards on the highway or the media slot in the air-time on TV.

Hence, different actors are trying to achieve identical goals with identical means but in a changed media environment. The old way of doing things, where number and type of media channels were clearly defined and limited, more money meant more media presence. The client knew exactly how many times the message will be aired and paid for the actual rotation. What the client remained unaware of was the number of people reached by the message. Data on customer engagement and understanding of the message was technically speaking unavailable, so “ratings”, “reach” and “shares” were the only consolation for the one who pays.

Today, distribution system relies on social media, where each and every one of us is a separate media channel. Unlike the traditional model, we know exactly how many people saw a particular message, but it has become harder to influence the time period in which the message will resonate with the public. That is why no. 1 concern nowadays is speeding up the sharing process so as to ensure the desired reach – a thing that is becoming increasingly troublesome due to constantly growing volumes of messages and dispersed attention spans. Many messages remain unread, forgotten or without any meaningful impact. To get the initial attention, a message needs to stand out and, simply put, be extraordinary. The effect of the first contact should be twofold: message has to be read and the content has to motivate the recipient to share it further through its network. The embedded content has to react like a virus – infecting the initial recipients and causing the eventual epidemic dissemination. The problem with this pandemic outreach is that it is generally short-lived: every piece of incredible, extraordinary news would bring a new wave and only briefly get us hooked.

Maezawa and Wendy’s are the prime examples of the transitioning, “in-between” model because they show how old methods are streamed through new distribution channels. Both of these examples showcase the relevant success by statistics and data on how many people were technically reached by the message, within the set budget and paid audience. In today’s media environment, this data is steadily losing its significance: as simple as it is to send a message to the entire world, reaching the minds of those that the message was intended for has become extremely hard.

For the message to be relevant, it has to stick out and be different. Hustle and bustle are not very helpful – no matter how many people are engaged to do the deed. The main goal of a marketing communication today is not to be as loud as possible, but to find that one individual, who will relate to the message on a personal level, embrace it fully and share it. This way, the army of prophets is growing and the reach is increased; you will touch others, and from just a few will come many – becoming the desired million.

That road is longer, harder and requires a different communication strategy. It is also the only path that makes sense. We need to unlearn the rules of market communication and start comprehending the logic and methods of tribal communication. Good thing nowadays is that we need not be members of only one tribe. We can create, join and enlarge communities across the globe.  

Seems that some of these tribes are being gathered on the Moon: if there are vacancies or free tickets for the spaceship, just tweet it, we might consider joining for the ride…

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