[caption id="attachment_1890" align="aligncenter" width="516"] Image source: Thebluevinecollective.org[/caption]
Yesterday. we took a look at the rather surprising way that men and women wear custom sports clothes to events. I touched on a couple of possible explanations for the unexpected behavior, but there's one that I'd really like to focus on today: ingroups and outgroups.
I can explain ingroups and outgroups very succinctly: it all boils down to "us" versus "them." It could be men vs women, Red Sox fans vs Yankees fans, old vs young, cat lovers vs dog lovers, butter side up vs butter side down, or what have you. For an example of just how powerful ingroup psychology can be, take a look at Jane Elliot's brown eye-blue eye experiment.
Clearly, Elliot is trying to make people understand the oppressive, damaging effects of racism. I think most people would agree that racism is terrible, but not all ingroup-outgroup dynamics are bad. In fact, a lot of good can come from this behavior. Ingroups are necessary for sports and other good-natured rivalries, and this mentality can ensure that you and your friends flourish in the face of adversity.
Now, here's the important thing to notice about Elliot's experiment. How did she divide up the people in the class? Did she discriminate against people who had the letter A in their name? Did she discriminate against people who knew two languages? No -- she intentionally selected physical features so that everyone could immediately identify whether a person belonged in the ingroup or outgroup.
[caption id="attachment_1893" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Image source: Wvu.edu[/caption]
Our physical appearance has a powerful impact on how we perceive people. Skin color was the fundamental factor that led to slavery and racism throughout the United States. Similarly, our physical appearance (including what we're wearing) shape first impressions and ingroup-outgroup identities. A sports fan might immediately feel good will towards a stranger wearing the jersey of his favorite sports team, and a Christian might also feel camaraderie towards a stranger who's wearing a cross.
You can tap into this psychological drive as a businessman, especially if your customers feel an intense rivalry with members of their outgroup. Sports fans are the most obvious example, but you've also got Apple fans vs PC fans and of course Team Edward vs Team Jacob.
[caption id="attachment_1889" align="alignnone" width="1600"] Image source: Christyrobbins.blogspot.com[/caption]
People who feel a powerful connection to an in group crave some way to visually declare their allegiance. It's why concerts are filled with people wearing band shirts, sports stadiums are often a sea of just one or two colors, and political rallies include thousands of people wearing shirts with the same slogan.
Don't miss out on the power of ingroup-outgroup rivalry. If your customers feel connected to your brand, you can transform that into a powerful marketing opportunity that plays into ingroup-outgroup psychology.