Dec 13, 2012

“What Tribe Are You?”: Culture and Marketing


As many of you know, I am very interested in – and sometimes frustrated and frightened by – the intersection of culture, tourism, and sustainability.  This morning, I was tempted by a subject line in my inbox that invited me to enter to win a trip to Papua New Guinea… and then a bit shocked to open the email and find in bold letters “WHAT TRIBE ARE YOU?”  I went to the website to see more and to find out who was behind this type of marketing.

The contest, hosted by Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotions Authority, encourages entrants to “discover your tribe” by answering questions regarding your preferences of things like “Would you rather make art or be art?” and “Would you prefer a facial tattoo or a facial piercing?”  While the site does seem to attempt to share some cultural information about the different tribes in Papua New Guinea, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a better way.  I also had to wonder:

  • Were any true tribal people of Papua New Guinea consulted or involved in creating this marketing initiative and contest?
  • Who are the beneficiaries of it?  Will tribes benefit from this marketing?

I would love to hear your thoughts on the “What Tribe Are You?” contest and your ideas for alternative approaches.  Please share them below in the comments.  If you are unable to post in the comments section, you can email your thoughts to me at, and I will post them for you.  Perhaps we can compile our questions, comments, and suggestions to pass along to the Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotions Authority.  


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