What are tribes and what is tribe marketing?

Tribe marketing is a marketing strategy that leverages the social behavior of certain groups of consumers in order to promote goods or services. A tribe is a small group of consumers who have a common passion and share and interact with each other on social media.

When forming an opinion about a company, people are traditionally influenced by their environment. Studies show that social groups influence 80% of all purchases. Tribe affiliation becomes dominant over individual preferences. This phenomenon becomes especially noticeable when observing youth communities. Even though people do not live in tribes anymore, this phenomenon uses the concept of a collective self. It includes people with the same mindset, same goals, sense of collective responsibility, motives and morals. In the modern world, a person belongs not to one tribe, but to several at once, so tribes become the main social units, and they arise around brands.

Tribe marketing in China explained

Tribe marketing in China includes forming strong communities that influence and inspire each other. Those communities use communication platforms that a brand can use as touchpoints. The tribes also recognize themselves in a brand’s values. An important aspect of tribe marketing in China is that tribes are forward-thinking and embrace trends early.

How do brands and tribes interact

Social media is an integral part of tribe marketing in China. Brands make use of a tribe’s high social media engagement and common passion points to inject messages. For example, organic posting about inspiration and trust toward brands will attract other communities and users. Shared content about lifestyle, consumption habits, and life values also help to build tribes. Well-developed social media contributes to effective tribe marketing in China. They help members of tribes to entertain and support each other and build a bond within the community.  To enhance tribe marketing in China, customers tell authentic brand stories on social media. Those within the tribe feel more strongly attached to the community as they are investing in other members of the group by sharing news about a brand they like.

What does a tribe marketing project in China entail?

Daxue Consulting uses a brand activation toolkit to identify and monitor tribes’ behavior to formulate smart marketing activation recommendations as part of a branding strategy in China. This toolkit includes the following research tools:


Successful benchmarking requires identifying the main reasons for high efficiency of a brand in terms of tribes. We will identify the main factors that allow a company to achieve high efficiency in areas such as product production, business processes or resource use.

Consumer trend analysis

We generate a consumer trend analysis by examining the factors that influence the consumption of a product, such as the needs, behavior, and motivation of consumers. The target audience is selected by tribe affiliation instead of purely socio-demographic characteristics. The advantage of this differentiation is that members of the same tribe have more in common in terms of values, jargon, places of interest, and key opinion leaders.

Identification of tribes         

For an identification of tribes, we will compare tribe members’ values and demographics.

This involves targeting a demographic of like-minded people: consumers with common traits and those who identify with a brand and its values. At first glance, the concept of tribes is similar to consumer communities. However, the focus is on relationships between consumers that share common features.

Analyzing tribes’ behavior

The next step is to analyze the tribe’s behavior through social media listening (learn more about how Daxue Consulting conducts social media listening).

Social listening is the process of analyzing social media for mentions of a brand, product, or competitor. This includes searching for keywords related to your business on social media. An in-depth analysis of customer reviews and brand mentions will help a brand choose the right brand positioning when conducting tribe marketing in China.

To analyze a specific tribe’s behavior, we may use focus groups, in-depth interviews, or diary research with members of the tribe or interest group

Creating a strategy for tribe marketing in China

Once we activate the tribe and unveil their interests and habits, it’s time to create a precise marketing and branding strategy in China to target them.

The first step to creating a strategy is market sizing with tribe as a consumer base

Determining the market size allows a brand to dive into the opportunities and market segments to focus on as well as realize the brand’s competitive advantage. After market sizing for tribe marketing in China, a brand can find strategic solutions and determine the required investment.

Branding to fit the tribe’s aspirations

The next step, branding includes market analysis, competitiveness and consumer analysis. For more successful tribe marketing in China, Daxue Consulting will segment consumers into individual marketing personas. Also, we will evaluate the use of a digital integration strategy in accordance with your business goals as well as an effective branding strategy in China.

Marketing strategy consulting to reach tribe consumer base

Daxue Consulting helps create tailor-made strategies. This includes systematic and careful analysis and feedback from our clients. We ensure the right actions with optimal positioning for rapid revenue growth and brand awareness.

Digital strategy consulting to appeal to the tribe on social media

Daxue Consulting also leverages elements of the digital ecosystem to better target tribes in China. We will help you identify unused areas for your brand’s promotion and sales and optimize your platforms for both traffic generation and website conversion. Since social media is an integral part of tribe marketing in China, understanding and breaking down the behaviors of Chinese users on your platforms is essential.

Source: Daxue Consulting, Branding concepts in China report

Successful China tribe marketing case studies

KFC: targeting basketball and video-games fans

KFC China identified two tribes to generate discussions and events around its brand in order to reinforce consumers’ relationship with the brand.

The first tribe is gamers. KFC China has been collaborating with China’s most played esports game League of Legends (LoL) since 2015. By creating Colonel KI and transforming it into a new League of Legends icon, KFC was able to take over a tribe of online players. KFC’s AI algorithm is capable of predicting League of Legends winners in real time, resulting in over 36 million topic views and 2 million comments. Over the span of 19 gaming days, KFC has reached a total of 540,000 views on the KFC app. Also, in 2018, KFC signed a one-year sponsorship deal with the Royal Never Give Up (RNG) team from League of Legends. In addition to promotion and sponsorship, KFC decorated its restaurants with an LOL theme.

League of Legends-themed KFC bucket

Source: Amino apps, League of Legends-themed KFC bucket

The second tribe that KFC targeted is basketball enthusiasts. In 2004, KFC partnered with the China Basketball Association to launch the 3×3 KFC National Youth Basketball Championship, one of the largest mass sports programs in China. The competition has rapidly grown into one of the largest and most influential youth basketball tournaments in the country. KFC also sponsored the 2017 3×3 Basketball Championship in China, in which 430,000 students from more than 4,600 schools participated. The famous Chinese basketball player Yao Ming attended the official opening ceremony in Beijing.

Yao Ming at the official opening ceremony of 2017 3x3 Basketball Championship

Source: QSR media, Yao Ming at the official opening ceremony of 2017 3×3 Basketball Championship

Male beauty brands: e-sports tribes bring more consumption

Male beauty brands also use tribe marketing in China. For example, GF cosmetics is targeting e-sports fans by using Weixiao (world-class esports player) as a KOL. Using their spirit and traffic, GF wants to signal that “all experts are using GF” (read more about targeting Chinese male beauty consumers).

 GF cosmetics promotion example of tribe marketing in China

Source: Air Paris agency, Daxue Consulting male beauty report, GF cosmetics promotion

L’Oréal also has a strong focus on esports. In May 2016, L’Oréal sponsored Tencent’s “Hero Season” video game. The two companies have embarked on a series of comprehensive collaborations from video game design to product launch, which naturally grabs the attention of video game players. L’Oréal’s masculine and fashion-forward styling echoes Tencent’s cool playstyle.

L'Oréal's collaboration with Tencent tribe marketing in China

Source: youxituoluo, Daxue Consulting male beauty report, L’Oréal’s collaboration with Tencent

Key takeaways

See our report on branding strategies in China

Branding concepts in the context of China report by daxue consulting from Daxue Consulting

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