Kill personas and cultivate tribes

Kill personas and cultivate tribes

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We’ve released our B2B tribes whitepaper – an in-depth look at our strategy team’s incredible new model of audience segmentation, the 'Tribes Framework', and how you can apply it to amplify your B2B marketing on social media. 

Customer personas have served a purpose in marketing for years. But they’re fundamentally flawed. Imagine describing your ideal customer persona as 65+, wealthy, self-employed and frequent visitors to or residents in London. Mark Ward, BBC News Tech Correspondent pointed out that this could equally apply to King Charles III or Ozzy Osbourne. 

Personas have been great for marketing. Fifty-six per cent of companies generate higher quality leads by using them and creating characters that fit your customer is a fun, creative, visual way of targeting your marketing. But, as with Ward’s example above, personas focus on personality and not behaviour. Two very different people can be part of the same movement or share a passion for a brand. We’re looking at the wrong elements. Rather than focusing on the individual, the tree by Poppins’ strategy team has started to target client work through communities – or tribes. 

Our focus for this whitepaper has been the B2B market – a difficult sector to crack when it comes to marketing. We held an independent survey which proved the extent of the persona problem:

B2B marketing is the perfect testing ground for the tribes model, a framework developed by our strategy team, based on the above survey.

Humans are social animals. They hang out in like-minded communities. This has never been better reflected than on social media. The tribes model uses, among other data, the social accounts followed by a brand’s community, allowing us to index groups, interests and hobbies and select areas of note for content creation. For example, if an ITSM software's followers indexed highly against a fantasy sports subculture, a partnership between that brand and a sports-affiliated brand might be on the cards.

“Personas are singular. They represent one customer and their individual actions. Tribes, however, represent places, ideas and interests around which many people connect. This idea of a shared community not only gives us more valuable behavioural insights, but a far clearer focal point for targeting and messaging. 
"Understanding the conversation within these communities means brands have a much better chance of joining them."
Tom Rabin, Head of Strategy at the tree by Poppins


From the model, we create tribes which is the collective noun for personas’ singular. We’ve even managed to break out some commonly occurring tribes in the B2B space: Sonic Commuters, who learn by listening and can be targeted through podcasts; Extra-Curricular Idealists, who believe in upskilling their life outside of working hours; and Lunchtime Competitors, who can be effectively targeted through affiliations with amateur sports clubs.

We’ve put the tribes model into practice with B2B clients like water technology business Pentair and international mining giant Anglo American, finding core audience interests and online preferences to target them effectively by channel, content and post time.

The tribes model has already helped many B2B brands. It’s working for our clients, but we’re keen to revolutionise it through AI and more advanced data collection. If you think the tribes model could help your business, send an email to

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