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Brand Tribes: How to Start

Starting and growing a brand tribe can seem daunting. It’s a slow process that requires time, clarity of mission and clear, consistent communication. But building a passionate, engaged audience is worth the effort.

In part one, I discussed tribes and how they help brands thrive long term. In this article, we’ll explore some tips for getting started.

Understand Customer Motivations

If you want to start a movement, you need to rally others to your cause. So, it’s important to understand what motivates people.

Before someone will join you, they’ll ask themselves questions like, “Do I believe in the values of this organization?” and, “What does sharing this information say about me?”

This is why it’s critical to be crystal-clear about your core purpose, mission and values—and to understand the aims and values of your customers. You’ll need to align those to build and grow a healthy tribe.

Start Small

This one seems obvious, because everyone starts from zero. The important thing to realize is you don’t need to focus on growth.

In the beginning, your primary focus should be on finding the people that Kevin Kelly would call your “true fans.” These are the diehards—the true believers who are the most passionate about your mission.

You should start with your most fervent fans, because these are the people who will support and advocate for you. Build your tribe around people who are on fire for your mission—and they will attract others like them.

Ignore Everyone Else

Once you find your true fans, focus on connecting with and supporting them and forget about everyone else for now. Seriously.

Powerful movements don’t grow by focusing on growth. They grow by ensuring that their purpose and message are crystal-clear and resonating with their most passionate followers. When these are in alignment, growth comes naturally.

You don’t need a majority to grow. Seth Godin says, “All you need to do is motivate people who choose to follow you. The rest of the population is free to disagree with you or move on.”

Be Clear. Be Courageous

When you’re building a movement, the importance of keeping your message simple and compelling can’t be overstated.

This isn’t the time to be timid. Be bold. Don’t water down your message to reach people who are lukewarm. You won’t get them anyway. To paraphrase Seth Godin, middle-of-the-roaders don’t bother joining tribes. Focus on your truest fans. Everyone else will follow.

Be courageous. Tribes don’t get built by overly-cautious brands. People respond to leadership and action.

To build a tribe, make sure your mission and message are clear. Then start small and follow Pope Francis’ advice: “Make a ruckus!”


Was this helpful? What challenges are you facing in defining and articulating your message? Let me know in the comments or email me at


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