Brand Tribes

In addition to our socio-economic demographics, career path, and extracurricular interests, we are also defined by the items we buy and use. The things we loyally buy and use put us into “tribes” of people who share an experience, and increasingly, a set of values. In Brand Strategy, we were asked to identify five brand tribes we belong to and why. My answer is below.

The New York Times. There are many fine newspapers out there, but this one is my home. I have my favorite columns, favorite authors, favorite weekly features, and head to whenever I’m procrastinating. It says that I’ve visited 549 articles recently. (I share the account with my fiancé, so can’t take credit for all of them. He’s also an NYT fanatic.) I trust the NYT to keep me informed of major events and to provide accurate information. The cooking section will often inspire me to try something new, and the travel section helped me plan this summer’s trip to France and Spain. The NYT also loves me. In early 2011, when they switched their pricing model, I got nine months of complementary digital access, along with many others, as an appreciation of “frequent readership.” In the last year, we upgraded to a physical edition on Sundays, and reading the paper with pancakes and espresso at home on Sunday mornings is one of the best parts of my week.

Apple. Weird as it is, I didn’t have email or use a computer regularly until I was in college. (Very late adopter.) My first laptop was an Apple PowerBook G4. It was by far the most expensive and beautiful thing I’d ever purchased. It brought email, my own music digital music collection, and Salad Fingers into my life. I’m now on my third Apple laptop, and have acquired an iPod, iPad, and iPhone. I go to Apple products because I understand how to use them. All the major devices in my life communicate with each other, and sync music, calendars, podcasts, and browser bookmarks. The interface is clean, and my most heavily used programs- InDesign, iTunes, Keynote, and Evernote work well on my Mac. Whenever there’s an issue, I can make an appointment to have it checked out by a real person who is working on my actual computer. For free.

IKEA. My home is so much IKEA. My desk, bookshelves, plates, silverware, and cutlery are all IKEA. IKEA products are easy to match (get everything in the standard black-brown finish), easy to fix or replace (break a plate? No worries, there are thousands of plates just like the one you bought three years ago at a store near you for individual purchase), and affordable. They’ve branched out into offering a variety of colors, styles, and patterns for basics. My IKEA desk lamp, for example, comes in seven colors. I love how modular everything is, so you can mix and match components. Their designs are often clean, functional, and reliable. Once you speak “IKEA,” assembly for any IKEA furniture item is easy. They have a great return policy, design their stores for optimal functionality, and have some sustainable initiatives. They also have a fun personality.

Trader Joe’sI love Trader Joe’s. They provide fun, interesting food items, affordably. A flexible cook and eater, most of my groceries (non-produce or specialized ingredients) come from TJ’s. I like their attitude, their ever-changing samples, and their ability to cater to all diets and lifestyles. They stock all sorts of gluten-free and vegan munchies. Some of my friends are hardcore TJ’s users, and we connect over their boxed cornbread (so good), and their seasonal powdered chai flavors. Reliable, fun, and easy.

TCHO chocolateFor gifts, treats, and occasions of all sorts, I turn to TCHO. The chocolate is delicious, and between the quality, packaging, and price, I feel decadent whenever I eat it. I used to buy people Blue Bottle Coffee as a gift, but now it’s always TCHO chocolate, and I never worry that it won’t be enjoyed. As a brand, they value simplicity and good design, which resonates with me.


So, based on my brand tribes, who am I? The same as you? Different? Very different? Can you guess who I voted for in the last election? What kind of car do I drive? What kind of career I might be well-suited for? My income? My age? What are my values? What brand tribes do YOU belong to? What do your brand tribes say about you?

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