Six Customer Tribes – Using Tribes to Build Customer Wellbeing

There are six large, distinctive customer tribes in New Zealand. Though they buy many of the same things, each of them has a completely different focus. Their underlying values vary greatly. When you overlook that, your marketing efforts can flounder or even fail. So it’s very useful to understand what matters to each of them and how to integrate them into your marketing practice.

The 6 Customer Tribes Report [and Slide Deck] reveals just how simple it is to do that. We want to make it easy for marketers and communicators to use this uniquely New Zealand system to understand the values and perspectives of the people who live here. New Zealanders’ values deeply affect their life expectations and their buying decisions.

Think of these tribes as sub-cultures. They exist within any age group, ethnic group, or gender. Most of us belong to more than one of them. You find them in different places [online and offline], you need to speak to them in different ways, and they will focus on quite different aspects of your product or service.

How Different Are These Tribes?

How widely do they differ? Think of three technology brands: let’s take Wikipedia, Netflix, and Instagram. They’re used by many, but they’re the darlings of three quite different customer tribes. The Grey Lynn Tribe of Social Aesthetes loves Wikipedia, the North Shore Tribe of Ambitious Materialists favours Netflix and though we all love Instagram [don’t we?], the avant-garde Cuba Street Tribe loves it more.

Or take packaging. Though there are members of each tribe who are concerned about excess packaging, the tribes themselves have different views. [Of the three above, two will be concerned about broader environmental impacts, one will focus mostly on the mess it makes or the time it takes to open.

The other three customer tribes are the provincial conservative Balclutha Tribe, the working-class Papatoetoe Tribe and the tribe of misfits and dreamers, the Raglan Tribe.

These, along with two others [Otara and Remuera tribes[1]] made up the original 8 Tribes: the hidden classes of New Zealand[2], first presented in a book published in 2007 [you can buy the e-book of it here].

Now ten years on, we find the same tribes in a very different world [e.g. post global financial crisis, stronger social media, housing affordability issues.] The current report is based on data from our 2017 Lay of the Land study. It distils the essence of each of the six customer tribes. Each tribal profile describes the tribe’s shared values, the kind of customer expectations they hold, where to find them and how to identify them.

We also summarise the similarities and differences between tribes and the implications for marketing and communications. The core of this approach is the opportunity to build empathy – the most important part of customer wellbeing.

Using the 6 Customer Tribes In Your Business

How can you use the 6 CustomerTribes Report to improve customer focus and generate stronger relationships? Here’s what I would do:

  1. Start Simply. Use the report and slide deck to help your staff learn their own tribe affiliations and compare them to what you know of customers.
  2. Create Your Own Sources.  Appoint staff with the strongest tribal empathy as advocates and spokespeople for each important customer tribe.
  3. Integrate Empathy & Wellbeing into Practice. Get into the habit of considering tribal angles across the entire marketing arena. The aim is to make a tribe member feel ‘at home’ and understood.

These steps are outlined in more detail in the report. There is a free online questionnaire on the 8 Tribes website [] where staff can take a quick test and find their own tribes.




[1] Neither of these tribes have been in past ‘customer tribes’ analyses, because they blend into the larger tribes. However, they do have distinctive points of view in other spheres such as money and food culture.

[2] 8 Tribes: the hidden classes of New Zealand, by Jill Caldwell & Christopher Brown, 2007.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *