Who’s Leading the Tribe?: How Technology Shifts Corporate Power


I needed a quick sprint of inspiration and turned to Seth Godin’s must read, “Tribes, We Need You to Lead Us.”  If you haven’t read this jolt of leadership – you must!

Godin discusses marketing ideologies in an internet world.  He speaks to traditional influences from consumer messaging.  Traditionally, the ad community has conveniently placed consumers into generic categories like “general market” and other stereotypical and usually demographically-driven targets.  This has become the foundation of their media buying strategy, thereby broadcasting through consumer advertisements.  To the contrary, Godin argues that mass marketing is dead, primarily due to the internet’s immense connectivity and everyone’s ability to share and voice their ideas and interests. He finds that the end game lies in winning through leadership and influence.

The internet has caused a shift from the brand management approach to a tribe leadership rage fest.  These changes are significant for large companies who manage a huge portfolio of assets with deep company traditions. This is also the environment where brands are manufactured through cubes.

The ‘old way of doing things’ approach has slowed evolution and ultimately innovation. The idea of a tribal following is far from thought.  Think about the companies on tonight’s news that cannot find a way to bounce back.

In some instances, the lack of change will not only impact big business but devastate entire industries. The Record Industry, Godin’s leading example took a turn for the worse in less than a decade. In its own admittance, it lacked leadership, vision and connectivity.   They were unable to make the transition from being leaders of technology without hands-on development to having technology lead them such as the Apple’s iPod. As a result, the industry unraveled and their business model changed; a throwback to “Who Moved My Cheese.”

ipod-shot-2-chromatic

With that example, I was forced to look at my own industry which is near-and-dear to me. My professional experience comes from inside the broadcast entertainment space with a primary focus on radio.  Records & Radio have been two industries that rely heavily on each other’s success.  And just like the record industry, Steve Jobs rocked radio’s world too.  iPods and similar technology offers a very personalized, on-demand user experience.  Unlike the competition in the record industry, radio competes with all entertainment mediums like television.

Radio is the original conversationalist, often leading community influence and hosting a place for like-minded individuals to host conversation. Hyper-local content and local radio’s heartbeat is one with the community it serves. Radio has a distinct advantage that links directly to the engagement and community-focused appeal of social media.  I think few would argue against the belief that innovation is much harder than competition.  Innovation requires a change in industry-mindset, management, even ownership and sometimes existence.

So, in light of Godin’s concept who is leading your industry’s tribe?

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