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  • Lyle Burns

Influential Brand Elements: Rituals

This post is a part of our 10 Elements of an Influential Brand series where we cover the essentials to building a powerful brand. Follow this series to learn how to attract an audience, keep them engaged, and turn them into loyal fans.


The use of rituals in creating a brand may not be intuitive. It’s not something we consciously think about when considering brands.

Rituals are performed daily or on special occasions. It’s an act or set of acts repeated in a set, precise manner. They can provide structure, familiarity, nostalgia, a feeling of importance, or a sense of belonging. They fit into people’s lives in a way that feels natural and add an extra bit of enjoyment.

An obvious example is the Oreo. Everyone knows the “proper” way to eat an Oreo. Twist, lick, dunk.

Religious studies scholar, Catherine Bell, mentions “The emphasis may be on the careful choreography of actions…or the rhythm of repetition in which the orchestrated activity is the most recent in an exact series that unites past and future.” How many people connect Oreos to childhood memories? Parents bond with their kids teaching them the “proper” method to eat Oreos, giving the cookie an emotional value along with a fun action to propel it to the top of cookie sales. In addition, think of how people look at someone who doesn’t eat an Oreo using the lick, twist, and dunk method, or at least the lick and twist? People look at them like an outsider, who doesn’t know the code. Following a the ritual can put you in the know or exclusive club.

A ritual may give fans a fun way to identify with each other and drive a sense of community. That feeling of belonging is what resonates, whether it makes them feel like they have inside knowledge, such as knowing about the Stella Artois nine step pour ritual, or makes sure they don’t stand out for the wrong reasons, like drinking a Corona without the lime.

For the brand, a ritual is a means of differentiation. As people associate actions with a brand and its product it allows the brand to stand out among its competitors. Studies have shown that completing a ritual before eating may make people feel like the food taste better.

Furthermore, rituals can deal with time.

Take the NFL for instance. The NFL has captured Sundays and Monday nights. NFL fans block out their Sunday afternoon and night to watch football and after work on Monday is again dedicated to the ritual of watching Monday Night Football.

Hallmark has made it a ritual to get a card on celebratory events and holidays.

Artists can also create time-focused rituals, by dropping a song on the same day and time each week, or tweeting your favorite lyrics or songs at the same time everyday, then leading a fan discussion for a set time on it, or even associating one song with a specific event or time.

For example, when an artist named Brian Brown released his first EP 7:22, everyday at 7:22 he and his fans would post the EP or a song off the EP. As fans posted the songs at 7:22 each day, he’d retweet and engage with them and soon it became habit for his fans. The EP buzzed and I would see the posts on my timeline for a solid two years all thanks to this ritual.

So, what does a ritual need?

Most importantly, it needs to be consistent, so it can be repeated.

It should feel natural and relevant to the brand, because if it doesn’t, it won’t stick. To do this try to implement a ritual based on actions already being done with your music or brand rather than inventing something brand new. Let people know when and where they should be performing this ritual.

Make it simple enough that people can observe, participate, and share the ritual, but not so simple that it is mundane.

Lastly, try to add a bit of fun to it.

Decide whether a ritual is right for you. It may not be. It’s just a possible element to add on your way to building an influential brand. It could be right for you and deepen the feeling of community within your fan base. It may be a factor to differentiate yourself, by potentially adding a physical component to the psychological component of a brand. Or it could serve as a fun release or icebreaker to gets fans out of their shell, so that they feel free enough to have fun and enjoy the experience you are trying to give them.

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