Learning to be tribal: facilitating the formation of consumer tribes

Christina Goulding, Avi Shankar, Robin Canniford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

145 Citations (SciVal)


Purpose: Studies of marketplace cultures emphasize the benefits of communal consumption and explain the ways that brand managers can leverage subcultures and brand communities. The ephemeral and often non-commercial nature of consumer tribes means that they are more difficult to manage. This paper, aims to suggest that a necessary pre-requisite for understanding how to engage with consumer tribes is to identify how consumers become members of tribes.
Design/methodology/approach: Data are drawn from a five-year ethnographic study of the archetypical club culture tribe that utilized a variety of data collection methods including participant observation and in-depth interviewing.

Findings: The paper identifies "learning to be tribal" as a communal practice that occurs through three interconnected processes of engagement, imagination and alignment.

Originality/value: This paper makes three contributions: it clearly distinguishes between the three main forms of communal consumption found in the marketing literature; it identifies how consumer tribes are formed; and it questions received wisdom and shows how tribal theory can guide managers to offer products and services as learning resources that facilitate tribal practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)813-832
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Issue number5/6
Publication statusPublished - May 2013


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