Marcus Collins straddles the worlds of marketing and academia, as the head of strategy at Wieden + Kennedy while also a professor of marketing at the University of Michigan. In For The Culture, he shares a combination of scholarship and personal insights based on his experiences.
You can read For The Culture as someone who appreciates marketing as a curious outsider, an actual marketer or entrepreneur who wants to up your game, or even as someone who despises marketing and wants to know how it’s all done. I suppose I possess a little of each of these contradictory tendencies. Collins himself expresses some odd ambivalence about the field, alternately praising its manipulative tendencies and emphasizing the need for ethics.
I recently read an old classic for the first time, Robert Cialdini’s Influence (which he recently updated). Collins quotes and praises Cialdini in this work, while the renowned author (who also kind of combines academic and hands-on marketing) provides generous praise of Collins’ work. Both works mine topics such as social psychology and anthropology to explain how influence and persuasion operate.
Fans and Customers as Tribes and Congregations
Collins, as insightful as he is, doesn’t really question the validity of a world where everything is a commodity. For example, he makes the now familiar metaphor of a tribe to describe people who are loyal to a brand (I believe this was invented or at least popularized by Seth Godin).
Collins also brings in the notion of a congregation as a group of tribes. However, if you really think about it, isn’t there something a bit off about equating consumers with members of a tribe? A tribe, as Collins well understands and explains, is a group of people who share values, beliefs, and behaviors. After all, his book is called For The Culture. But can culture really be reduced to our buying choices?
Objections have been raised to using “tribe” as marketing jargon because it appropriates the original meaning of the word and its association with indigenous people. Collins actually addresses the issue of cultural appropriation but it apparently doesn’t bother him in this context. For example, the brand Yeti no longer uses the word in its…