“When the boy was born…he was inspected.
If he’d been small or puny or sickly or misshapen…he’d been discarded.
From the time he could stand…he was baptized in the fire of combat.
Taught never to retreat…never to surrender.
At age 7…the boy was taken from his mother.
Starved, forced to steal and if necessary…kill.
Constantly tested…tossed into the wild.
Left to pit his wits and will…against nature’s fury.
It was his initiation…his time in the wild.
For he would return to his people a Spartan…or not at all.”
What sounds like a grueling childhood were just the preliminary stages of a merciless vetting process designed to weed out the best from the very best. The elite cadre of soldiers tasked to defend their people against all odds was only 300 men strong. A group that every single boy fiercely wanted to belong to.
We all want to belong somewhere
Not just the Spartan boys want to belong, but all of is. After survival and security it’s our strongest psychological drive. It spans throughout history, society and culture. Some of the strongest brands worldwide are based on our human need to be part of something. To see if you can work it into your own marketing, you need to consider these three points:
- We are social animals
- Types of groups to belong
- How to apply it to your own business
If we want it or not, we are a social species.
1. We are social animals
At the dawn of man, we were faced with an environment that let us survive in 1 case and killed us in the other 99. Our ancestors quickly figured that their chances of survival skyrocketed when forming groups. They slept in groups, hunted, ate and protected each other in groups.
A lot has changed for us since the early days–we became the apex predator–we still cling to groups. We hang out with our childhood friends, join fraternities and sororities during college, marry the love of our lives and create our own families, become part of business organizations and attend community or religious events. Generally speaking, there’s 3 types of groups.
2. The types of groups to belong (or not)
Apirational: These are the groups we’d like to belong to, i.e. role models, trend setters and leaders. These are basically groups with better versions of ourselves. Often, our goals and next steps in life are connected to belonging to one of these groups. This could be Olympic athletes or, celebrities, fashion icons or business leaders.
Associative: We share the ideals and values of these groups. And–unlike the aspirational ones–we are already there. It might be a matter of declaring it, like John F. Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner”. Or it is a formality like a membership, say the local gym, golf or book clubs. But this can also be our co-workers, neighbors or congregation.
Dissociative: The opposite of aspirational, we don’t want belong to a dissociative group. In fact, we want to stay as far away as possible from them. But the definitions of dissociative groups are purely subjectives. What’s aspirational for one person might be dissociative for the next: Republicans vs. Democrats, for example, backpackers vs celebrex generic. tourists, or hippies vs. yuppies.
So how can you use these groups for your own marketing?
3. How to apply the principle of belonging to your own business
First you need to determine if your product lends itself to the principle of belonging. Not all do, for example your preferred brand of baked beans offers little room for connections with others. There are several branches we connect through:
- social class
If your product fits in any, you can start crafting your marketing message. But in addition to the usual features and benefits, spend as much time and space on positioning your product or service as a way of belonging. A way to either become (aspirational), stay (associative) or distance (dissociative) your prospect from a particular group. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, you can use all three to really hone in on a narrow target:
You could target casual baseball players (associative) who’d want to meet their favorite players from the Yankees (aspirational) before a game where they leave the Red Sox (dissociative) in the dust. This makes for an emotionally compelling offer, just through the power of belonging.
The power of belonging is in all of us
No matter if you’re a sports fan, live in a particular neighborhood or vote for a specific party. You want to belong and you base part of your purchase decisions on that psychological drive. And so do you prospects. If you find out which groups she wants to be part of (aspirational and associative) and which not (dissociative), you can supercharge your sales message with that knowledge. The same way the Spartans supercharged their elite unite with years of hard and dedicated training.