5 Innovative Brands Part IV: Digital Marketing and the Power of the Tribe

2018-06-13T15:12:37+00:00 August 30th, 2016|

Today in our final blogcast in the series, we look at the power of the tribe, and an ad-free era of marketing. If you haven’t already, at least listen to part one of this series when I introduce our five innovative brands.

I’m most excited about today because it’s in line with what we do at smithHOUSE every day. We make companies shine and we do it in the digital space.

Understanding the Tribe

Around the year 2010, I shared with a colleague that the most powerful voices on the Internet are moms with blogs.  

He chuckled because he thought I was joking.  We both built websites all day, so we were both pretty attentive to trends.  But I was newly married and with our first child, and my wife would discovered a creative, interesting, and supportive network of other young mothers. These women were well connected to one another on social media.  I was in awe of that these women had created a new, fashionable culture for young moms. And the tribe got bigger every day.

Of course, today, mom blogs are a big deal. They’re now a part of our contemporary culture.

This same “tribe building” is happening at this very moment. A common interest emerges, and a handful of people find one another.  Together, these people make YouTube videos, podcasts, and blogs. They share their stuff through social media and learn from one another. New people get involved and the tribe grows.

As we’ll see, the our innovative companies are paying attention. They’re eager to build, join, and nurture a tribe.

Biolite on Kickstarter

Kickstarter is where passionate, creative people get funding for their projects.  It’s also where tastemakers go shopping for new products and experiences.

Let’s take a look at BioLite’s success with Kickstarter. BioLite as a company began in 2009, and after a few years in proof-of-concept, BioLite kicks off their first product by crowdsourcing capital on Kickstarter. Here’s what happened:

  • 2014: BioLite launches the HomeStove on Kickstarter and brought in $1,032,443 and made 3,783 people very happy with a cool stove and a pizza-making accessory. 
  • 2015: With all of their momentum and focus on off-grid energy, BioLite receives $5 million in Series-B Funding.
  • 2016: BioLite decides not to spend the $5M on their new off-grid BaseLantern lighting and phone charging station. But instead, they used a fraction of that money to create and manage a fun Kickstarter campaign that brought in $816,966.

Although the dollar value raised in 2016 was less than 2014, BioLite made a substantial leap in the number of backers: 3,783 to 4,860.

BioLite has 4,860 backers who are eagerly awaiting their new gadget. They’ll brag about it on Twitter, they’ll show the unboxing on Snapchat, and many will go on YouTube to review the product and show everyone how it works. That’s a lot of people who are eager to share the news with their tribe. And the tribe can’t wait to retweet.

Lessons Learned:

Again, did you notice what happened here?

  1. BioLite is getting paid for products before they are even made. Bravo to Kickstarter!
  2. BioLite is getting significant buzz–for free.
  3. BioLite added something exciting and cool to tribes of outdoorsmen, humanitarians, and engineering nerds.

None of these these major wins are possible without serious planning and flawless execution. But the results are fantastic.


Poler Stuff and that Hashtag

Using #campvibes helps outdoor lovers find inspiration, new destinations, and one another. 

Poler Stuff has created a sub-brand called “Camp Vibes.” You’ll see it in all the obvious places like shirts and hoodies. But there are two critical products that, I believe, were created primarily to generate buzz on Instagram:

  1. Camp Vibes Mug – The mugs fit perfectly into any photo when you have that perfect view.
  2. Camp Vibes Hat – Poler’s hat has the words “Camp Vibes” written bemeath the brim, and then the team at Poler Stuff showed people how to snap a photo with the brim framing the top of a perfect view. Now there are 1000s of these shots on Instagram.

How successful has this #campvibes campaign been? There are 822,239 photos tagged with #campvibes on Instagram.  That’s 822,239 ads that will never go away. That’s 822,239 ways for people to discover Poler Stuff.

Once you’ve found them, Poler Stuff wants to make sure you find adventure. They have created and documented over 100 adventures that will give you wander lust.

Lessons Learned:

  • Don’t try to get people to like you. Get people to like what you like. Then you’ll find each other.
  • This stuff doesn’t just happen. Poler invested in a social-first strategy and has committed to the long haul. This strategy starts at the very beginning with product development.

What about B2B?

The strength of the tribe is clear in the business-to-consumer model, but what about business-to-business? 

For sure, the nature of business-to-business is unique.  It’s difficult to showcase the value of complex products and services with a clever hashtag on Instagram.  If you want to expand your consulting services, it’ll be hard to garner financial support and buzz through Kickstarter. This doesn’t mean that a digital-first approach cannot work.

The methods are different, but it’s guided by the same ethos we see here today. Learn about Inbound Marketing. 

About the Author:

Matt Smith, MBA
Matt Smith is the creative force behind smithHOUSE, a Phoenix-based creative agency that focuses on the intersection of business, design, and technology. About Matt Smith.