A recent Freakonomics podcast got me thinking about tribal marketing. The episode presents the notion that people practice “conspicuous conservation,” a play on the idea of conspicuous consumption. People carry reusable bags that proclaim “I am not a plastic bag.” They put solar panels on the street-facing sides of their homes even if it’s shady, so others can see how green they’re being. Instead of the hybrid Ford Escape or Honda Civic, which look just like the non-hybrid versions, they choose the Toyota Prius, which has a distinct look. Showing to your tribe the ways that you practice conservation helps fulfill the need to belong.
The team at Toyota was brilliant to design the Prius so unlike the other cars on the road. It makes that brand stand apart from the crowd, and if you see something that looks different you believe it really is different. Buyers are basically buying a car that proclaims “I want people to know I care about the environment.” They’ve earned tremendous brand value because the car has become an icon for the green movement.
What do you think? Does it matter more to you when people see you making particular choices?