Consumer tribes: membership, consumption and building loyalty

Cleo Mitchell (Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand)
Brian C. Imrie (Department of Marketing, Taylor's Business School, Taylor's University, Selangor, Malaysia)

Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics

ISSN: 1355-5855

Publication date: 11 January 2011



The purpose of this paper is to extend the emergent consumer tribe literature to facilitate a more complete understanding of the antecedents and roles implicit within consumer tribal membership. Principally a conceptual paper, this study focuses upon how a more complete understanding of consumer roles can be leveraged to create sustainable loyalty.


This study comprised an examination of the tribe's social behaviour, membership roles and influence on individual consumption. The research was approached interpretively with a case study design investigating a tribe of vinyl record collectors in a New Zealand context.


Key findings include the confirmation of Kozinets' antecedents of tribal membership and the four roles of tribal members previously conceptualised by Cova and Cova. The tribe was found to have a core set of values that moderated any individual differences. A hierarchy, managed through the distribution of “cultural capital”, was found to exist amongst the group. In an extension of Cova's modelling a fifth role of “Chief” was identified, whereby the Chief was found to act as an opinion leader and organiser amongst the group.

Research limitations/implications

Owing to constraints of both time and research funding, only one tribe was examined in this case study, hence the results are very specific to the group studied. Future research should apply the managerial implications from this study to other case contexts to test and expand understanding of consumer tribe dynamics and the creation of consumer loyalty.


This paper creates a link between extant consumer behaviour, loyalty and consumer culture theory. The presented results have implications for the marketing manager through advancement towards creation of a model of tools a firm can use to connect with and build sustainable loyalty with consumer tribes.



Mitchell, C. and Imrie, B. (2011), "Consumer tribes: membership, consumption and building loyalty", Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics, Vol. 23 No. 1, pp. 39-56.

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