The Seahawks: A Tribal Marketing Icon

How to increase the reach of tribal marketing with augmented reality

Tribal marketing connects brands with communities of like-minded people and provides them with goods and services that align with their shared values. When done correctly, tribal marketing allows you to create meaningful connections between your brand and its niche group of customers.

However, there is a big problem with tribal marketing – tribal experiences face serious limitations with space and time. As a result, consumers can’t interact with the brand as much as they’d like. This holds the tribe back, and with it, your tribal marketing strategies.

In this article, Abby Bradbury, Joseph Pack, Francesca SchorerSpencer Stewart, and Joachim Scholz explain how augmented reality overcomes the barriers of tribal marketing and boosts the engagement of your campaign.

Here’s a quick synopsis: AR gives tribe members the power to create and share individualized and decentralized tribal expressions (IDTEs) in a unique and personalized way. Below, we give you a closer look on how AR can break the barriers of tribal marketing, how AR can enable IDTEs, and how to support your tribal marketing campaign with AR.

Tribal Events: The Jeep Jamboree

The Jeep brand knows the benefits of tribal experiences. Through the Jeep Jamboree, a series of off-roading events, the brand provides drivers an opportunity to live out their shared values.

Even though tribal marketing gives customers exciting and memorable experiences, Jeep’s marketing strategy could more effectively resonate with its tribe.

The Jeep brand knows the benefits of tribal marketing

Specifically, Jeep drivers don’t get to interact with the brand as often as they’d like. The tribal events are only during a few weekends each year, and not every Jeep driver can go every year. Because of these constraints, relationships among tribe members are limited as well.

So how can you prevent this limitation? By utilizing AR, your brand can facilitate tribal experiences that go beyond the barriers of space and time.

Augmented Reality Breaks Barriers of Tribal Marketing

Augmented reality can overcome space and time to bring tribal rituals directly to the tribe’s members, even when he or she cannot make it to the tribal event. The key is to not replace in-person events in the real world, but to supplement them with AR experiences. This keeps tribal energy high and maintains brand-consumer relationships.

Thus, marketers no longer face the limitations of large tribal events. Now, brands can engage consumers in individualized and decentralized tribal expressions.

Effective AR campaigns align with tribes by functioning as an extension of the tribal gathering. This extension helps build ​consumer engagement​ and creates unique experiences between tribe members. As Jacob Lauing points out in his article on customer engagement, “it is this shifting of control over to the consumers that boosts levels of customer engagement.”

AR gives your tribe members a unique way to build relationships with each other — no matter the time or place.

The Seattle Seahawks are one of many brands that have embraced AR and can help you understand the full potential of tribal marketing.

Seahawks Create a New Kind of Football Fan

Tribal marketing connects brands with communities of like-minded people and provides them with goods and services that align with their shared values.

The Seattle Seahawks have built a tribe of fans around their prized football team. This Seattle team considers its tribe of fans to be the “12th” player on the field. The team’s community of fans celebrate this shared value by wearing “12th man” jerseys at every game.

Additionally, Seahawks fans congregate at home games as a tribal meeting point. At the beginning of each game they raise the “12th man” flag, which rallies fans to support the team.


Despite the strength of the existing relationship between the Seattle brand and its tribe, AR has taken it one step further.

With less than ten home games a year and tickets costing hundreds of dollars, it’s difficult for fans to experience rituals in person. The Seahawks tackled this by using AR to put the power of the flag in consumers’ hands, creating a unique experience that connected the tribe of fans. By creating a unique experience, you too can enable individualized and decentralized tribal expressions.

Seahawks Use AR to Enable Tribal Expressions

The Seahawks recent AR campaign allows fans to participate in tribal rituals anywhere. By downloading the Seahawks app, fans can use their phone camera to raise the game day flag on any flat surface. As the flag is raised, the crowd roars to bring the stadium community to any individual fan.


Using the geo-layer AR paradigm, which overlays AR content onto the user’s surroundings, the Seahawks’ are able to foster participation in tribal rituals. Users can “raise the flag” on their own device, rather than only witnessing the event at the football stadium. This paradigm gives control over the experience to the user.

Facilitation of a ritual outside the place and time gives tribe members a decentralized way to celebrate what they love.

The Seahawks used AR to create ​personalized interactions for existing tribe members while also expanding the tribe. By giving tribe members the ability to “raise the flag” in their unique location, it created one-of-a-kind, individualized experiences. Creating a sharable experience allowed fans to get their friends involved.

What are some best practices to support tribal marketing with AR?

1) Model a Central Tribal Ritual

To pick the right content for AR, model a central tribal ritual for your AR campaign.

The Seahawks did this just right. By modeling their content off of the central tribe’s ritual of raising the “12th man” flag, the tribal experience was extended and complemented by AR. Fans didn’t have to learn something new, but were empowered to perform their in-stadium rituals even when they weren’t able to attend the tribal event.

This allowed the Seahawks brand to utilize ITDEs effectively, ultimately keeping tribal energy high.

It’s important to note that simply creating an AR element for your marketing efforts isn’t enough – you have to truly understand how AR works to have an effective campaign.

2) Utilize the Power of Live Tribal Experiences

For AR campaigns to be successful, you have to consider the potential for IDTEs.

But, there’s a catch. AR allows tribe members to engage in tribal practices wherever and whenever. They can even engage in tribal activities when they aren’t surrounded by other members. However, AR also takes something essential out of the ritual – the communal aspect.

These individualized, decentralized tribal enactments are simply not the same as those done in the center of action with other tribe members. However, given the time and space barriers of tribal marketing, they are much needed substitutes. Marketers, then, have an imperative task:

Marketers must do all in their power to make the IDTE substitute as great as the real thing.

To ensure that your campaign fosters engaging IDTEs, you can use artifacts to create a shareable, live tribal experience.

Artifacts are the elements that exist even after an AR experience has ended. By using artifacts to create a sharable campaign, you can reach a greater audience and tap into the ​mild narcissism​ of average consumers. A campaign’s reach is also increased if bystanders can engage with the campaign.

Live sharing can recreate the communal experience of a tribal event

A great way to do this is through Facebook (and other social media) live streaming. The development of live streaming allows users to create a sense of urgency with streams that are live, instead of pre-recorded. This gives consumers the ability to experience something “in the moment” as opposed to watching on their own time. More importantly, live sharing helps maintain tribal excitement.

Thus, only by creating ​and sharing can an AR campaign reach its full potential.

Thinking Forward: Reach Your Tribal Marketing Goals

AR extends and complements tribal events by engaging consumers and allowing them to share individualized and decentralized tribal expressions.

Tribal marketing is a powerful tool, but one that faces problematic space and time barriers. Thus, tribes can’t interact with the brand or other tribe members as much as they’d like.

AR can solve this dilemma: By facilitating rituals outside of a centralized space and time, you give consumers opportunities to engage and share individualized tribal expressions. AR allows tribe members to interact with each other even if they don’t make it to the larger gatherings.

Remember, for your AR campaign to be successful, you must give your tribe opportunities to share and interact with one another.

To keep up to date with emerging marketing techniques, subscribe to for upcoming articles on the latest and greatest AR campaigns.

This post was written by Addy Bradbury, Joseph Pack, Francesca Schorer, Spencer Stewart, and Dr. Joachim Scholz. The authors thank Sonya Bengali for her help in editing this article. Please follow the authors on Twitter for more information on this topic.

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