Home Branding How To Position Your Brand As A Ritual

How To Position Your Brand As A Ritual

by Emmanuel Probst

By definition, consumption is ritualistic and all rituals have heroes. Consumers become actors that play the role of the hero to satisfy their ego through consumption. When identifying with a brand and consuming its product, we hope it will transform us into a better, heroic person.

Ultimately, marketers’ goals must be to establish a ritual that accompanies the consumption of their product. A group of researchers from Harvard University brought to light the value of rituals in consumption by creating a simple ritual of unwrapping chocolate. The study shows that people who unwrapped the chocolate believed it tasted better and were willing to pay more than those who had just been handed a piece of unwrapped chocolate.

A ritual is a sequence of behavior repeated over time. “Ritual behavior is dramatically scripted and acted out and is performed with formality, seriousness, and inner intensity,” noted scholar Denis Rook.

Rituals are in contrast with a habit, which is simpler and is performed mindlessly. Rituals contrast with routines, which are patterns of behavior formed with little thought. Routines often become rituals once they are infused with a deeper meaning. Rituals are repeated over time and performed with seriousness, intensity, and formality. Brands and products help us operationalize the ritual—a key part of assemblage.

Brands can shape and reinforce rituals by helping people create and perform rituals. Eventually, the ritual becomes collective and accepted as rational behavior, then becomes unheroic. For example, it is unlikely our guests will notice if we serve a wedge of lime with a bottle of Corona because this ritual is now commonly known.

A ritual can be broken down into four main components.

The script: details the steps of what, when, why, and how to perform the ritual.
The artifacts: the objects, products, services, and brands used to perform the ritual. Some objects can take on an elevated meaning such as a cast-iron pan given to us as a family heirloom.
The performance of the ritual: acted, written, or spoken.
The audience: a ritual can be performed for oneself, a loved one, or a larger audience.

How To Position Your Brand And Product As A Ritual

Rituals help create positive, meaningful associations with a brand. To foster brand rituals:

Show and tell the behavior: Showcase the sequence of the ritual and the full process so that customers can reenact it.
Ferrero Rocher almost always shows its product as a gift someone brings to a loved one or dinner party. Characters then grab one of the precious chocolates wrapped in golden foil, either from its box or from a large pile of Ferrero Rocher set up as an elegant pyramid. Finally, the characters unwrap the chocolate and bring it to their mouth with an expression of delight.
Position your product as the artifact: A talisman people need to perform the ritual successfully.
Oreos are marketed as the only cookies you can use to “twist, lick, and dunk.” Of course, people were already performing this ritual before the ads. Oreo’s marketers just picked up on this consumer behavior and made it part of the brand’s strategy.
Anchor the triggers: Tell your customers in what situations they must perform the ritual.
Stage the ritual in a context that aligns with your brand identity and purpose.
Visiting Starbucks is a ritual, both on an individual and social level. The way our drink is customized and prepared makes us feel important and in control; we dictate the outcome and witness the process. Starbucks is also a place where we host collective rituals, such as meeting friends, colleagues, and business acquaintances. Starbucks is a “third place” that is neither the home nor the office, where we gather, study, read, listen to music, and even drink coffee.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider By: Dr. Emmanuel Probst, excerpted from his book Assemblage: Creating Transformative Brands

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