Powering Your Brand With Rituals

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What does twisting an Oreo, licking it and then dunking it in milk have in common with Disneyland’s staff always in smiles and looking ever-so happy? These are brand rituals that create a connection between consumer and product. Brand rituals can lead to wards the highest levels of brand and customer loyalty. You’ve probably many examples of brand rituals in the business to consumer (B2C) space but what business-to-business (B2B) space?

Powering Your Brand With Rituals What does twisting an Oreo, licking it and then dunking it in milk have in common with Disneyland’s staff always in smiles and looking ever-so happy? These are brand rituals that create a connection between consumer and product. Brand rituals can lead to wards the highest levels of brand and customer loyalty. You’ve probably many examples of brand rituals in the business to consumer (B2C) space but what business-to-business (B2B) space? Joseph Michelli in his book ‘Leading the Starbucks Way: 5 Principles for Connecting with Your Customers, Your Products and Your People’ pointed out that brand rituals among B2B corporations are not practiced as much as it should be. Using Starbucks as a B2B example – this company has rituals for celebrations, for training and communication. Each of these rituals created a sense of togetherness and enable partners to share a certain set of historic traditions.

For example, the coffee tasting ritual – starting from the new trainer to one-to-one meetings with the store manager and national meetings involving all store managers, the coffee tasting ritual is an ‘internal brand experience’. This brought the consumers, its people and its brand and its team together. Brand rituals can lead towards the highest levels of brand and customer loyalty and are no doubt a sure-fire way to create top-tier brand loyalty between consumer and brand.

But before brand loyalty can be forged between brand and consumer, it must first be practiced among the people that work with and for the brand, the businesses as well as the employees.

What are Brand Rituals?

Brand rituals are defined as a set of consistent behavior or action that is commonly associated with a particular brand. Brand rituals enable brands of a service or product to form long lasting relationships with their clientele. Brand rituals also form an experience with using a brand, enabling customers to stay loyal and so much as so as becoming accidental brand ambassadors when it comes to recommending their favorite product or service to the people in their social network.

Creating Long Term Brand Loyalty

At the heart of any business, is the desire to have constant brand loyalty. And brand rituals are the way forward for you to create that brand loyalty.

When creating brand loyalty – start with the employee first. Employees are the first point of contact between consumer and product and if the employees do not convey these brand rituals, then who will?

Rituals for employees not only create a sense of belonging to the company, it also makes your company special. Brand Rituals enables employees to not only see the brand, but hear it and feel it.

Johnny Rocket’s Restaurant, a burger restaurant chain in US has a cheer team that sings and dances to entertain diners. Disney awards service pins for the cast members (employees) related to how long they have been working in Disney. When you see Hard Rock Café employees, they are always dressed with some element of Rock & Roll in their outfit.

The Importance of Creating Brand Rituals among Employees

Dame Anita Roddick, the forward-thinking founder of The Body Shop redefined the industry of personal care & hygiene products and became a new breed of brands. She perfectly summed up this notion by saying ‘Most of them simply ignored the division between product and retail; they were products and they were retail. The BRAND wasn’t in the shop; it was the shop. And the brand was also the staff of the shop.

It Creates Shared Identity
In the Harvard Business Review, it points out that sports coaches use rituals to create social bonds between teammates. For example, in Muay Thai boxing training camps, new trainees or any boxer meeting his/her trainer needs to perform the Wai Kru which is respect given to a teacher. It is believed that a special bond is created between the student and the teacher, which is parallel to kinship.

It Brings The Company’s External Parties Together
A popular corporate ritual called the ‘Open Door Day’ has been employed by several companies today. This Open Door Day brings together the different companies in the industry, stakeholders as well as potential partners and enables each to explore more about these companies and network. This ritual creates goodwill from people outside the firm that can directly impact the company’s performance as well as the performance of the people inside the company.

It Creates a Sense of Belonging
Before any game, the New Zealand rugby team, the All Blacks perform the legendary war dance – Haka. This instills team pride and a sense of belonging to their heritage as well as to the team. These kinds of rituals also reinforce the desired behaviors. Having weekly meetings reinforces attendance, punctuality, the need to stick to deadlines and be result oriented especially if you are to present what you’ve done for the past week to all team members.

Examples of Employee Brand Rituals

Starbucks – New baristas go through a coffee tasting session of the store manager’s favorite coffee beverage. This in turn displays the manager’s passion for coffee, thus instilling it in the new recruit.

AirAsia – Employees are called ‘AllStars’ as they see each level of employee as stars, from baggage handlers to senior management. Each level of employee has direct access to senior staff & management.

MindValley – MindValley created the concept of 45/5. A typical workweek is 45 hours long, and employees are allowed to spend 5 hours per week to study a new skill. They even have a society called S.P.L.A.S.H (Society for Platonic Love, Appreciation, Smiles & Happiness) tasked to organize weekly cultural events and parties.

Zappos – Zappos built their empire based on excellent customer service. All new employees of Zappos spend their first 4 weeks at the call center.

Examples of Business-to-Business Brand Rituals

Canadian Pacific Hotels – Invite customers to join their Frequent Guest club; going the extra mile to even ask customers if they prefer hypo-allergic pillows.

Nissan – Potential buyers, car dealers and parts manufacturers are invited to drop in for a ‘guest drive’. According to Japanese culture, a customer is an honored guest. So it’s a guest drive and not a test drive.

Harley Davidson – They created a Harley Owner’s Group that provides all kinds of events and activities for riders to get together. Members also enjoy emergency road services, tailored insurance programs and hotel discounts.

National Trust UK – Offers free/discounted access to over 50 heritage sites in the UK. Also connects with other national trusts around the world through the International National Trust Organization in providing access and cross-experience to its members, delegates and partners.

Whatever your brand rituals may be, it becomes a platform where you can build your brand upon, it becomes a formula for evolution and innovation and it is also the core that radiates the vibrant energy that people are drawn upon. Thus resulting in a business that transcends for years to come and one that continues to thrive.

Four Tips to Creating Brand Rituals

1. Keep it simple
Firstly, brand ritual should be simple. Simple behaviors that complement your product or service will encourage real consumer needs and desires. Simple things like having coffee at Starbucks, Googling for information and shopping at Walmart are all simple examples of brand rituals.

2. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
With a new product or brand; it isn’t always easy to ritualize a behavior without looking or sounding the same as a brand that has been in the business for centuries. However, it is a lot easier to ritualize some behaviors that consumers are familiar with rather than to reinvent the wheel and introduce something extremely new.

3. Keep it Consistent
A deeper sense of loyalty and bonding is created when branding rituals are consistent. Rituals need to be repetitive and reinforcing. It is highly imperative that marketing messages are communicated consistently to ensure that the same behavior is carried out each time. This will eventually be ingrained into the minds and hearts of consumers.

4. Easily Share
Brand rituals are passed on from brand devotees by word-of-mouth, by observations or by actions. Therefore, brand rituals need to be easily shared and emulated. When a ritual is passed on, the new consumer must be able to easily copy this behavior.