Bonfire marketing


Have you ever tried to light a bonfire? Many would agree that there is an art to it. You need to have the right amount of wood and kindling, and to keep it lit once it’s going. A well lit bonfire can keep your tribe warm for many hours. 

The same applies to your marketing. More specifically, to the stories you communicate with your audience. 

Since the start

Bonfires have been around since (almost) the beginning of time. Tribes would gather around bonfires to listen to storytellers and watch performers. In this way, human history, along with tales, myths and life lessons, were passed from parent to child, person to person, until the current day. 

Gather your tribe

Think of your customers as your tribe. Gather them around your bonfire and use it to inform, entertain and enlighten them. That sounds pretty easy, right? Well, if the stories you tell your tribe don’t hit the right note, then you could find your tribe leaving for another bonfire. If you don’t maintain your bonfire, your stories will go cold and conversations will fade.

Influencers are tribal

Many businesses struggle to keep their bonfires lit. Large brands and small businesses alike, wish to use channels like social media to sell their products and services. It’s rare to find companies that do this well. Except for one group of businesses. The online entrepreneurs - the ‘influencers’. Many influencers don’t intend to start a business, at least in the beginning. They have a passion, for health, beauty, cooking, fitness and so forth. This leads them to create content around this passion, attracting fellow-minded people and building a community. From this, a business surfaces and sales will come naturally. There are many companies that are breaking the mould in this way. Sweat with Kayla, is a fitness focussed one, and Deliciously Ella is another.

The majority of brands have the opposite origin story. They created a product and then use social media and other channels to encourage people to buy it. Their messaging often focuses on the product, and not the passion behind it. Social selling, therefore, is much harder for them. The only way these businesses can gain the kind of engagement that influencers enjoy, is to create a tribe. 

Adidas has created a running community. It also uses influencers to help promote its brand and to gain the interest of their followings. Take a look at its Instagram and you’ll see partnerships with musicians, fitness influencers, and other celebrities. 

Build your tribe

So what makes a good tribe?

  • It needs to be united towards a common ideal or goal. 

  • Under one leader. 

  • A tribe needs a shared interest.

  • Plus, a way to communicate. 

Communication between your tribe members is often overlooked. Give them a place to talk to each other. That could be a Facebook Group, or another online community page. People want to find others who they relate to. Facilitate this and your brand will benefit as a result.

Journalist and advertising strategist, Matthew Bryan Beck previously mentioned the rise of digital tribalism. We’re naturally inclined to group together. Social media has given us access to whole new groups of people to connect with. Smartphones have led consumers to be online all the time. There are now ‘mobile villages’ where people hang out based on their shared interests. Businesses need to find these and take advantage of them… or to create their own. 

Research your tribe

To understand what interests your tribe and where they like to hang out, you need to research your audience. Check out where they spend their time, what they spend their time on, what they need, and what they desire. From this, you can identify the people who are likely to be most interested in your story. People ignore stories that don’t interest them, so don’t waste your time and resources talking to an audience who won’t stay around your bonfire. 

Make sure your story and passion is genuine. Customers can sense a fake story a mile off. Around a bonfire, you’re held much more accountable. An influencer, Elle Darby, recently got into hot water with the media and her followers for trying to swap a hotel stay for a review and social media posts.

How to tell great stories

Without good stories, your tribe isn’t going to stick around. To make your stories interesting:

Empathy: This involves telling a story that interests people and that lets them imagine that they are a part of it. Think of what interests your target audience, not what you want to sell or tell them. Sweat with Kayla does this well. The BBG community makes everyone a part of the Kayla fitness journey. 

Personalisation: People don’t just connect to good stories. If it relates to them in some way, they will remember and retell your story. Make your customers the heroes of the stories you tell them, and your products will sell themselves. One Drinks highlights a good example of this in action. For every drink bought, customers are providing water for people in need. 

Memorability: What is remarkable about your story? How can you make people remember your brand? It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. Simply getting people involved online can make them remember your message. Doritos ran the highly successful ‘Crash the Superbowl’ campaign that allowed consumers to create their own Superbowl ads. It’s helped to grow Doritos from a $1.54 billion brand in 2006 to $2.2 billion a decade later. 

Light your bonfire

Bonfire marketing isn’t about pushing products. It is about creating a community of people that are informed, enlightened and entertained by your brand and their fellow community members. As Seth Godin once said, “Leadership is the art of giving people a platform for spreading ideas that work.”

Anything could happen around your bonfire. The next big thing could be created within your community. Importantly, your brand will benefit by association.

To keep your bonfire going, make sure you always show up. Give people a place to share their ideas. Communicate with a consistent voice and share your passions and beliefs. This way, your bonfire will light up your brand for a lifetime. 

Arnt Eriksen