Tradition underscores brand authenticity: We live in a homogenized world, where competing goods are produced in the same factories and competing services are carried out by the same people. As a result, we are offered overwhelming sameness. Perhaps the Kaiser Chiefs said it best with their song “Everything is average nowadays.”
Transforming otherwise identical offerings into an experience, ritual can add a unique benefit by offering non-feature differentiation. Ritual can be a brand signal, unlocking new value for both the brand and consumers alike. It acts as a differentiator in a world of sameness, but for a set of actions to become a “brand ritual” consumers must relate those actions to the brand.
How Rituals Work
Human beings are creatures of habit. We function through activity patterns: brush teeth, shower, shave, drink coffee, wake up… These routines help people move from one emotional state to another but are not necessarily attached to specific meaning. A ritual is a specific sequence of actions that holds symbolic value. The action itself conveys meaning.
Ritual vs Brand Ritual
It’s the difference between the campfire tradition of making S’mores and the bar-side ritual of a lime in a bottle of Corona. Consumers are not going to own a ritual unless the ritual itself makes sense. Placing a lime in the neck of a Corona bottle has become the only way to drink a Corona. To have it any other way not only alters the taste, it alters the experience. You probably saw the image above, and recognized it as Corona even though the label was hidden.
Rituals can span from the casual to the formal and are woven into our religious, cultural and social lives. Brand rituals may coincide with specific occasions or be built into the product or service itself. They may be performed by a single individual, a third party or by a group. Regardless of who performs the ritual or when it takes place, brand rituals exemplify the cultural connection between brand and consumer.
Due to the symbolic nature of rituals, the actions create affinity towards the brand and provide consumers with a reason to revisit the brand experience. Performing these orthodox acts underscores authenticity. Like the name or logo, ritual becomes inherently memorable and fundamental to brand loyalty over time, creating connections between the brand and the ritual act by creating neural pathways that reinforce relevance.
Benefits of Brand Ritual
By translating actions into brand-specific meaning, rituals can help build lifelong bonds between brands and consumers. They provide people with a sense of satisfaction, strengthening social bonds by imparting something personal that brings us closer to the brand, our friends and ourselves.
The most successful rituals introduce new people to the brand as a right of passage. This knowledge is passed on firsthand. Each consumer educates the next in a viral pattern. The very act of performing the ritual gives the consumer ownership. That person learns the ritual, teaches another, who teaches another and so on. This makes simple, easy rituals more effective. The simpler the ritual, the more likely it will spread. When the act is simple, fun and easy to pass on it can reach pandemic. Complicated rituals die quickly or become simplified by the people who perform them.
Look for rituals in the way that your consumers experience your brand and formalize them. If a small group of consumers have built a ritual around your brand, then it may have merit to become a movement.