In the article “An Actionable Definition of Brands. Benefits. Examples. Approach” I define brands as “the sum of all the associations consumers have with a particular product or service”. In the article “What Is A Brand Positioning? Definition, Benefits, Framework, And Examples” I define brand positioning as” the set of associations you want your consumers to assign to your brand in the next 3 to 5 years.”
Our own research and analysis of over 1200 case studies of successful brand building shows that 26 potential sources of brand associations can systematically be explored when trying to position a brand.
One of them is Consumer Rituals, which we are exploring here.
Our lives are filled with rituals and each one represents an opportunity to position a brand and give it a more meaningful role in the lives of its consumers.
What are rituals?
Rituals are a succession of steps (behaviors, words, actions, or objects) performed according to a set sequence.
Rituals versus habits
Unlike habits, the value of rituals is that they induce an emotional transformation and a change in mood and mental state. As such, rituals provide a strong opportunity to position a brand by associating it with the transformation from one mental or emotional state to another, highly desirable, state;
Examples of rituals
For example, taking someone from being stressed or lonely to feeling relaxed, connected, and safe. These rituals can be big and occasion-based (weddings, anniversaries, graduations) or small and everyday like our morning routine (allowing us to move from relaxed to ready to face the day), coming together around a meal with family or friends (from feeling alone to feeling connected) or getting ready for a night out (from feeling adequate to feeling our most confident self).
Rituals and brands
These rituals are not brand specific even though consumers might already use their preferred brands to perform those rituals (favorite brand of snacks while binge-watching Netflix to relax, favorite coffee in the morning, or favorite perfume or liquor brand when getting ready for a night out). That said, a brand can increase its relevance and appeal by associating itself meaningfully with one of these relevant consumer rituals.
Examples of brands
In Japan, for example, school entry exams are highly competitive. To increase the student’s chances of getting accepted, many families go to shrines and temples asking the various gods for help in passing the exams, and many children are given good luck charms for a little extra boost.
One brand that benefits from these rituals is the candy bar Kit Kat. In fact, Kit Kat is Kitto Katto in Japanese, which roughly translates into “You’re bound to win” or even, “Never fail”. As a result, one in three Japanese students are said to purchase Kit Kats before an entrance examination and one in five reportedly bring Kit Kats to where they take the test!
Nestle has even developed special packaging for this occasion. Thanks to its name and the brand team’s savviness, Kit Kat has become an essential part of the Japanese preparation rituals for taking entry exams.
- Alone or in a group, list all the rituals (small and large) your consumers perform in your category specifically (think about how they interact with the product, where and when and how they use, why they use, etc.) or more broadly.
- From this list, identify those rituals that would be the most relevant for your brand or your category at large.
- Write down the emotional transformation you believe your consumers are going through when performing the rituals you’ve selected, i.e. from emotional state pre-ritual to emotional state post-ritual.
- List all the ways the rituals you’ve identified and the emotional transformation consumers go through during those rituals translate into a positioning idea or opportunity.
- Select and discuss the most interesting territories.
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