Why We’re Dropping The Word ‘Tribe’

  • 6 months ago

We believe in the power of community to bring about real change. You don’t have to look far to see evidence of the power of dedicated and passionate groups, from the School Strikes For Climate to the Black Lives Matter movements, communities all over the world are mobilising to take on the ‘norm’ and bring about real change. 

It’s now time for governments, brands, and consumers to take notice of these passionate, connected voices, to reinforce their messages and to stand up for people and the planet. 

As has been the case for many, we have been spurred over the last few months to educate ourselves and understand how we as an agency can take more responsibility, and use our position and privilege for all the right reasons. Whilst we acknowledge that we don’t always get it right, we are committed to improving ourselves, and holding our hands up when we get it wrong.

During this process, we became aware of the hurt and unintended connotations of the word ‘tribe’. Now ‘tribe’ has been used for years as a marketing buzzword and as a powerful way to describe a brand’s loyal community, who are all dedicated to standing up for something they believe in. 

Urban dictionary describes ‘tribe’ as “A group of friends that becomes your family” and it’s in this vein that brands have used this word for years. The explosion of this word in the marketing world was mainly thanks to Seth Godin’s book ‘Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us’.

Yet, just because something has been the norm, it doesn’t mean its right. 

We’ve been reflecting on the usage of this word and we believe it’s hugely problematic. 

The last few months have seen a collective realignment and a realisation of the harm that has been done to historically oppressed groups. ‘Tribe’ stems from outdated colonial connotations which depict lesser-developed societies, or ‘tribes’ as more savage and animalistic. Of course, this isn’t the use that was implied when we have used it in the past, however, we are drawing a line in the sand and dropping the phrase from our vocabulary.

Tribe” reflects widespread but outdated 19th-century social theory… it promotes a myth of primitive African timelessness.” – Teaching Tolerance. 

We will no longer be using the phrase in our own marketing, and have worked with our clients to remove it from theirs too. Standing by our mission, purpose, and values are central to who we are at Enviral and with this in mind, we will no longer be using the phrase in any context. 

To some, this may feel trivial. To some ‘tribe’ may just be another word. But for many, this word is so much more than that. Words have the ability to change history, to influence behaviors and even to alter the past, which is why we’re committed to reflecting on the words we use as an agency and using our platform to help evoke real positive change.

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