Keys to Understanding & Building a Brand Ritual

Hummingbird CreativeBranding & Creative

Oreos - Hummingbird Creative Group - Brand Ritual

What Is A Brand Ritual?

A brand ritual is the shared experience of how consumers enjoy your brand. To qualify as a brand ritual, and not just a habit or a routine, it must include a regular set of actions consumers participate in that adds value to the brand experience. Most brands get stuck on what the product does or what the brand represents. A brand ritual puts the focus solely on the consumer and how they naturally engage with your brand. When trying to nail down your brand ritual, make sure you aren’t just finding a consumer habit or routine. You need to look at your consumer behavior and ask the following two questions:

  • How do people usually consume my brand?

    In order to find your brand ritual think, “How do you take your coffee?” not, “What do you do with coffee?” Find out how your consumers, take your brand. If there is something loved by the majority, much like marshmallows in hot cocoa, then you might have found your brand ritual.

  • Does this behavior add value?

    If the habitual action, adds value, then it is a brand ritual. Much like when people add cream or sugar to coffee, they do so in order to make it tastier. Find out what people are doing to make your brand tastier.

A brand ritual is about making a brand better. So if you find something that people do to add value to your brand, encourage the behavior in your other consumers! People will repeat the behavior not out of habit, but because the way they choose to enjoy a brand, makes it better.

For example, how do consumers enjoy an Oreo? At first, you’ll probably say that people enjoy Oreos by eating them. But the how of eating an oreo is the ceremonious pulling apart of each cookie half, licking the icing, and dunking each side into milk. By deconstructing the Oreo, consumers get to enjoy each piece more, and by sinking the cocoa cookie into cold milk, consumers are increasing the enjoyment of the Oreo brand. From a marketing perspective, combining the Oreo brand with milk isn’t just about eating an Oreo anymore. It is about creating a shared consumer experience. Everybody can relate to the special ritual of how you should consume an Oreo and it has led to higher levels of brand loyalty for, “Milk’s favorite cookie.”

So brand rituals are more meaningful to the consumers as well as brands. Because it is based on adding value through consumer insight, you are basically listening to what people want and then encouraging others to try the same thing. If you don’t have one already, here are 4 tips for building a ritual for your brand.

Keep it Simple

If you want people to adopt a behavior, you need to make it easy for them. Your brand ritual needs to be relevant to your product or service and should build on a behavior that already exists among consumers. For this step, think about consumers and how they interact with your product already instead of forcing a new behavior or action. It’s all about taking a simple act and turning it into branded results.

For example, Facebook added birthday notifications. Because Facebook is a platform used for interacting with friends, this is not out of the ordinary or a forced marketing ploy. Friends have been the designated birthday well-wishers sense the first birthday cake candles were blown out. Just like friends have been forgetting birthdays for just as long. Facebook added a birthdays notification in order to ensure you always remember each other. Now, it is a Facebook brand ritual for people to post birthday wishes on the walls of friends.

Find Out A Way to Add Value

If your ritual isn’t fun or enjoyable, you’re probably doing it wrong. In other words, people should want to do it! This goes back to the question of, ‘does this add value?’ Something as simple as adding a wedge of lime into a Corona makes it more flavorful. Adding value is the most important part of a brand ritual, so here are a few questions to consider when looking at the value of certain consumer behavior:

  • Does this create a sense of community?

    People are drawn in by the idea of feeling like they are a part of something bigger than themselves. Rituals are associated with secret communities or exclusive groups. If you find an action that can generate a feeling of community, it is adding value to your brand.

  • Does this enhance the overall brand experience?

    There are a number of ways to enhance a brand experience. As we already mentioned, people add cream and sugar to coffee to improve the taste. But the action of signing to confirm a UPS delivery doesn’t do anything special for the consumer. It is merely the routine that makes things easier for processing orders on the business end. Take a look at how people experience your brand from start to finish and determine if there are any easy adjustments that can be made. If your brand is a recipe, think of that one extra ingredient, you could add that would make all of the other flavors come together.

  • Is this unique from other brand offerings?

    Make sure whatever ritual you are encouraging it is unique from competing brands. Otherwise, you are just helping your product or service category. Consider the pieces of your brand that are different from the competition and how that could lead to an altered brand experience. Birthday cake is different from other cake because it includes candles on top. The birthday boy or girl gets to blow out the candles before the cake is shared with everyone else and it makes it more special. Find something that makes your brand unique from other brands and your brand ritual will secure happier and devoted consumers.

  • Is there a strong emotional response to this action?

    You want consumers to associate your brand with positive feelings. So implementing an action that encourages these feeling is a smart technique. This is also a good way to separate a routine from a ritual. If the action results in feelings of excitement, satisfaction, or comfort, then you have found a promising consumer behavior that can be transformed into a ritual.

In essence, if you have a product, think of how people enjoy it and what would make it better. One value adding ritual follows the end of a football game. You get to see the manic happiness on the winners faces followed by one brand ritual. Showering the coach in Gatorade! Gatorade did it first, so now when a team wins, it encourages a ritual dumping on their fearless leader. It is not only a memorable marker for the win, but a celebration! Teams abide by the ritual Gatorade dump, which encourages a sense of community among the winners. There are always two or more players who earn the right to carry over the cooler and dump it on the coach, and the coach always leaves the stadium soaking wet with slightly discolored clothing. Gatorade claims a special space in sporting events now, because it is associated with victory. Gatorade created a sense of community, exclusivity, and played on the strong emotional response of winning to encourage a winning brand strategy.

Make it Shareable

A brand ritual must be accessible. This means that the action should be performed in public, be highly replicable, and feel important to a certain community. You want people to see this ritual and for the right people to build a community around it. This is the bread and butter of brand building. If you can make a behavior go viral, you’ll attract new and loyal customers to your brand, long-term. Create a sense of community around your brand by finding the perfect complimentary ritual and then weaving the idea into your ad campaigns. Encouraging the behavior through consistent ad copy will capitalize on an already powerful branding tool.

Yuppiechef.com, caught onto a trend of pets sitting in their packaging thanks to someone posting it to social media. The marketing crew decided to run with the trend and posted #petsinourpackaging on Instagram, along with a landslide of reposts from people’s pets. Consumers loved posting more pictures of their pets in Yuppiechef boxes, so much so, that yuppiechef.com now has a page dedicated to canines and felines sitting in boxes. People were tickled by how their pets would approve of their shopping experience by snuggling into the packaging and enjoyed seeing that other pets enjoyed the boxes as well. By encouraging the pets in packaging initiative, Yuppiechef cultivated a community around their product, not to mention, the action was highly shareable which led to skyrocketing brand awareness in addition to further loyalty.

Implement it!

Once you determine the perfect brand ritual, let your consumers know about it. All of your marketing efforts should reflect the behavior you want consumers to copy. If you followed the steps above, this should be the easiest part of building a brand ritual. Here is how your marketing copy should introduce your brand ritual:


● Set the Scene
Explain clearly and concisely, where and when this brand ritual is typically enjoyed. This is important for introducing a new concept.


● Perform the ritual


● Demonstrate how someone should interact with your product by performing the ritual in your marketing efforts. Seeing the process will make it easier for consumers to re-enact the ritual.


● Highlight the Product


● While the ritual is the key to the campaign, the star of the show is the brand. Make sure that you don’t lose sight of your brand logo and how it is connected to the ritual so that consumers will remember you. Take a moment to talk about general benefits or features of your product and then…


● Brand rituals evoke a strong response from consumers. That is how you determine if it is successful or not. Consumers are chasing a feeling far more often than they are chasing down brands. Whether the emotion is elation, relief, or satisfaction, let people know what it feels like to participate in your brand ritual.


● Display Emotional Response


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At Hummingbird Creative Group, we build business value through better branding. Contact us to find out how we can build your business’s value:
919 854 9100   |   info@hummingbird-creative.com