The importance of building your tribe

by Shareef Ayyad. Average Reading Time: about 2 minutes.

A lot of people ask us where we got the name Tribus (pronounced try-bus) from, and we explain that it refers to the three ethnic divisions of Ancient Rome, and is the Latin root of the word tribe. They normally follow up by asking what a tribe has to do with what we do – our answer is always: everything.


A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. Humans have belonged to tribes for millions of years, not just culturally or geographically, but also through shared interest. A tribe must have shared interests and a way to communicate. Three types of communication occur: between the leader and the tribe, between tribe members, and between tribe members and outsiders.

Tribe members

At Tribus, we work to facilitate the first type – leader–tribe communication – in order to encourage the other two types. If your business communicates effectively enough, then a sub-set of your customer base will passionately identify with your products, your services, your culture, your beliefs, your goals, and your values. You become the leader, and they become a tribe member.


What sets a tribe apart from a community is that sense of passion. Tribe members act like advocates, or ambassadors, of your brand. They become an extension of your marketing by connecting with each other, and with outsiders, to discuss, share, praise and analyse the values and ideals that you lead with. This word-of-mouth marketing is every brand’s Holy Grail, because ordinary people can spread information about brands faster than marketers. Apple is the perfect example of a company that has a tribal following.

Word-of-mouth in action

One of our clients is a small indie coffee shop. They have built a loyal tribe around their brand because the owner has nurtured a culture that resonates with many local coffee lovers. Every staff member is a coffee enthusiast. They have their own blend of coffee, from the best hand-picked beans. They play great music. They occasionally give out free cake to loyal customers. They even sell wine. Everything they do positions them as the opposite of the mainstream coffee chains. They are a leader in coffee lifestyle, and some of their customers drive miles to have a drink on the weekend. One afternoon, our creative director overheard a customer on the phone saying “I’m in your favourite coffee shop, I thought I’d check it out.” – that kind of advertising can’t be bought.