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Consumer Behavioral Analysis

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Consumer Behavioral Analysis of Consumer Tribe of Vinyl Records Collectors: Implications for Contemporary Marketing

Consumer tribes become a significant phenomenon of contemporary commercial society that marketers seriously consider when devising marketing strategies, expanding product lines, and shaping strategies to drive up profits. The existence of consumer tribes triggered the emergence of tribal marketing that shifted its focus from emphasizing an individual experience of consumption to the shared social consumption experience as an integral part of one’s life experiences. Companies that engage in tribal marketing possess a significant competitive advantage over their corporate rivals (Cova, Kozinets, and Shankar 20). Examples of consumer tribes include bikers, surfers, runners, environmentalists, pet lovers, lovers of organic food, and other groups. One of the currently existing active consumer tribes is the tribe of vinyl record collectors. The behavioral analysis of the consumer tribe of vinyl record collectors shows that a successful marketing strategy aimed to tap into this consumer tribe must consider such factors as strong loyalty and interpersonal connections among its members, deliver values that tribe members expect, appreciate, and find meaningful in the tribe’s context, and consider product choices, demographics, and passions of tribe members.

As opposite to brand communities, consumer tribes are not united around a particular brand. On the contrary, members of a consumer tribe may prefer varying brands and trademarks. They possess characteristics that motivate them to socialize with each other, associate with a particular group, hold on to particular values, lead a certain lifestyle, or be engaged in a tribe on the basis of some other shared interests or characteristics (Cova, Kozinets, and Shankar 21, 22). These shared features may be common passions, generational dynamics, life events, demographics, geography, or product choices. Dahl defines a consumer tribe as a “community of heterogeneous consumers bound by consumption behavior and shared experiences but few other demographics” (22). Mitchell and Imrie present the following definition of a tribe, “Tribes are consumer driven groups that hold meaning for constructing an individual’s self-identity and creating new communities based on shared beliefs, passions and ideas” (52). Therefore, it may be concluded that the core identity and a common feature among tribe members is a presence of a shared experience or an idea that shapes consumption behavior. The following analysis shows that although members of the vinyl record collectors tribe may have a different motivation behind the desire to purchase and collect, they share a common and mutually shared appreciation for vinyl records.

Connolly from BBC News Magazine argues that there are eight groups of consumers that still shop for vinyl records. The author says that they may be considered as one greater consumer tribe since they all share a common interest in vinyl records (Connolly). The first group of the tribe consists of nostalgic buyers and may include journalists, bloggers, and librarians. The second group consists of new buyers and fans that collect music. The third group includes evangelists of vinyl records, label bosses, and audiophiles of all ages and genders. The fourth group is made out of young enthusiasts who appreciate superior quality of sound and find listening to vinyl music more rewarding (Connolly). The fifth group includes music romantics and lovers who appreciate a variety of ways to listen to music. The sixth group consists of DJs who collect vinyl since they find it easier to work with in their professional setting. Dealers comprise the seventh group of the tribe of vinyl record collectors. This group is interested in vinyl records for the purpose of selling them and doing business. The eighth group consists of “sighing skeptics” (Connolly) who cannot adapt to the modern ways of consuming digital music and prefer vinyl-based experience.

Mitchell and Imrie studied the issues of membership, loyalty, and consumption of a vinyl record tribe (40). They sought to gain better understanding of the roles and background of consumer tribal membership and how consumer roles can be used to maximum advantage for creating sustainable loyalty (Mitchell and Imrie 39, 40). This study is valuable since it helps marketers to understand how tribal membership influences buying behavior of vinyl record collectors and connect with their tribe more effectively. Mitchell and Imrie established the following characteristics of tribe members. First, they found that tribe members value a superior emotional experience of listening to vinyl records. Second, love for the product (vinyl records) successfully moderates differences between members. Third, a hierarchy may exist among members whereby one person may act as an organizer and opinion leader among the group (Mitchell and Imrie 52).

The findings of the study by Mitchell and Imrie have several important implications for marketers. For example, vinyl records acquisition is triggered by appreciation for the medium and rarity of their availability as well as by nostalgia for the music (Mitchell and Imrie 46). Also, vinyl records acquisition was a means of establishing and maintaining a status in a group. The tribe is very vocal and serves as a way to emphasize who the members are and highlighting members’ collective behavior and shared habit (even an addiction) of listening to vinyl records (Mitchell and Imrie 47). Furthermore, the tribe members shared three distinctive values: (a) the aim of uniting people via shared music consumption; (b) appreciation for heritage, art, and high quality associated with music; and (c) collecting and sharing knowledge about vinyl records (cultural capital of the group) is highly regarded as a way of participating in tribal life (Mitchell and Imrie 47). Additionally, many tribe members view their participation in a tribe as an integral part of their identity and strive to achieve a certain intensity of relationship with other tribe members. Finally, the study presents a finding that may be of a particular value to marketers. This finding states that participation in the life and activities of a tribe was found to significantly influence the consumption of music and vinyl records in particular (Mitchell and Imrie 49) since the possession of records was associated with linking value (creating and maintaining relationship with others in a tribe) and raising one’s status in a tribe. Finally, Mitchell and Imrie found that the stronger a member is connected to the tribe, the greater influence a tribe has on consumption dynamics and intensity (49).

Mitchell and Imrie suggest that marketers can exploit dynamics of tribal roles to increase the demand for products the tribe is interested (vinyl records) via using the following tools. The first tool is providing accessible social networks that gives information about music culture, purchasing places, and collecting culture (Mitchell and Imrie 50; Goulding, Shankar, and Canniford 827). Aforementioned actions enhance a person’s ability to belong to the tribe, provide knowledge of the tribe’s culture, reach tribal networks, and access relevant resources (Mitchell and Imrie 51). The second tool is commercial support of events that keep tribes growing and help to expand the membership. For example, creating the environment that fosters purchases of vinyl mediums by organizing forums, fairs, and other events keeps tribal community alive (Mitchell and Imrie 51). The third tool is using the chief of the tribe to understand tribe’s dynamics, connect to the communities of collectors, and receive feedback on a firm’s marketing efforts, offerings, and a marketplace positioning (Mitchell and Imrie 51). Another recommended tool that marketers can employ for driving sales up is building business-tribe relationship by (a) increasing bonded loyalty via facilitating interpersonal communication among tribal members, and (b) appealing to the tribe by adopting and expressing values of a tribe in a company’s product offerings, marketing communications, and in a company’s own brands (Mitchell and Imrie 52; Dahl 89).

Goulding, Shankar, and Canniford corroborate Mitchell and Imrie’s findings and argue that business and marketers should learn to be tribal in order to market successfully to the communities and groups united around shared interests, passions, and ideas (827). Goulding, Shankar, and Canniford point out that a marketing strategy that aims to engage consumer tribes should take into consideration the following factors. First, the company’s products or services should be aligned with existing tribe’s social and personal identities. Second, authors state that businesses can form and maintain tribes that are going to become consumers of their products (Goulding Shankar, and Canniford 826, 827). Therefore, marketers should engage tribes by aligning their production, values, and social and emotional relationships with the tribal ones. The aforementioned goals may be achieved by creating platforms for tribal interactions and even working closely with tribes (Goulding, Shankar, and Canniford 827). However, platforms should be devised with a notion in mind that tribe members trust much more judgments and opinions of other tribe members in comparison with non-members.

The analysis of the cited sources indicates that in order to be able to tap into marketing potential of a consumer tribe of vinyl records collectors, business should take the following steps. First, marketers should either engage the existing tribe or develop a new one. Second, business should deliver the value that tribe members expect, appreciate, and find meaningful in a tribe’s context. Third, marketers should consider product choices, demographics, and passions of tribe members. Finally, in the case with vinyl records collectors, firms should take into account strong tribal loyalty and interpersonal connections that exist among this consumer tribe.

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