The three powers of January Tribal marketing

We’ve all caught up with a friend in January for them to proudly declare, “Oh, I’m doing Dry January”, with an essence of papaya kombucha in hand. 

It’s a badge of honour. A battle cry of sorts for the self-improvement optimistic believers in the power of the new year.

The exact same can be said for Veganuary. Small talk about your homemade lunches is overtaken by “I had vegan smashed chickpeas with an avocado glaze” after lunch zoom meeting. Met by eye rolls as the rest of you gave up cooking our lunches a week into the second lockdown.

But despite resistance from non-believers, the movements are only growing. Dry January, primarily run by Alcohol Change, was searched for 2.6X more in 2022 than 2018. Veganuary had over 580,00 people sign-up for the 2021 campaign.

January has become the High School Musical of months in every marketing manager’s calendar.

But why is January the big month for tribal marketing?

Tribal marketing: Marketing strategies to increase customer base by appealing to a passionate user group through social context.

How did Dry Jan & Veganurary achieve household-name status with fierce followings? And as examples of tribal marketing, what can they teach the rest of us?

The power of a fresh start

The choice of January is no accident.

If you think about it, Veganuary makes more sense in the summer where fresh fruit and veg is abundant. 

But January holds something more intoxicating; a fresh start. 

We’re able to step away from our defining self-beliefs that guide decisions year-round, such as “I’m not a veggie person” or “I’m a big drinker”. And instead, be a version of ourselves we wouldn’t usually allow – a sober curious human or flexitarian, if you will.

DryJan and Veganuaries marketing pull on this by using messages such as “Get your fun back” to guide who the new you will be if you join their community.

Dry January reflect traits most people aspire to see in themselves

The power of belonging

We haven’t evolved that far from our caveman ancestors, and the survival instinct to belong to a group is just as strong.

Covid has made us incredibly isolated in recent years, so the possibility of branding ourselves as part of something significant is tempting for many. 

In fact, belonging’s antonym – loneliness – is experienced by almost half of us and has real-world consequences for health.

So as an antidote, New Year & January offers a collective experience where many feel together as they embark on new self-improvement projects. 

DryJan and Veganuray take advantage of this by promoting the community taking part. On the Veganuary homepage, you’re greeted by statements such as “Veganuary inspired and supported more than half a million people to try vegan during our 2021 campaign”. They then hit a double-win by encouraging you to share your progress on personal social media profiles. 

To really build a community, movements also focus on live events influencers like Earthling Ed on Veganuary’s Instagram to mimic socialising in a controlled setting.

The power of group reassurance

We tend to look for information that reconfirms the notions we already hold. This is known as confirmation bias

When you see an entire community resharing and posting the same poster-child statistics. You can’t not believe them.

DryJan and Veganuray focus on inspirational messages and key statistics each year with ‘anchors’ to help the community relate to them. Seeing these statistics and repeated messages help individuals feel reassured by the ‘tribe’ allies.

Anchoring messages and statistics means offering a comparison to something concrete in the reader’s mind. For example, saying going sober will help you lose weight has less impact than a case study of an individual’s experience.

A case study on the Dry January website is more persuasive than the statement ‘Going sober will help you lose weight”

What can brands learn from this?

  • Our sense of self is powerful. We only want to interact with brands who reflect what we believe or desperately want to be true.
  • Consider the existing infrastructure to support your tribe. Veganuary is successful in the UK because there are many vegan options in restaurants and supermarkets. You can see the community grow in direct correlation with this. The cost of living and economy also allows a large portion of the population the disposable income and mental space to experiment with belonging to the new community – inspired by (reluctantly) a primarily commercial marketing effort.
  • Social proof can go beyond testimonials. When used en-mass, it can change thought patterns and inspire further active advocating.
  • Timing can offer a competitive advantage. Look for naturally occurring opportunities. There are obvious ones, such as alertness for deals in the run-up to Christmas. But you can also consider the longing for summer in the still-too-dark March. Or the make-the-most-of-every-moment haze at the end of summer September haze.

Hopefully, we’ve given you some key concepts to consider when starting your own tribal marketing effort. If you’re looking for a fast way to increase your customer base with a guaranteed positive ROI, try out Tyviso, the brand to brand recommendation platform.

Published by Pierre Cozzani

CEO at Tyviso. Pierre started working in advertising in 2009 whilst completing his masters degree in Marketing Management at Bocconi University in Milan. From 2011 to 2015 he worked at three different Yahoo! offices in Barcelona, London and Dublin, growing accounts of key advertisers across EMEA. Most recently, before co-founding Tyviso, he worked at gambling powerhouse Entain, leading the digital acquisition team and delivering in excess of half a million new customers yearly. Pierre’s goal is to build a network of e-commerce brands where everyone can benefit from each other in both knowledge and critically increased sales.

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