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  • Suman Shrivastav

Brand Rituals Unplugged

Updated: Nov 12, 2021

Marketers love rituals around their brands. Corona beer is always drunk from the bottle with a wedge of lime stuck in the neck. Everyone breaks a Kitkat by sliding a finger down the ridge. And tequila has it’s own unique ceremony for drinking it.

Once we see a new and shiny technique that works, we all want to replicate it for our brands. So Pepsi tries to teach you to hold their cans in a certain (elegant? clumsy?) way. And now Oreo wants you to eat it with a “Twist, lick and dunk”. See the film below.

The film is likable. But do we expect a lot of people to start eating Oreos in this way? Do we seriously expect children to shake their hips after they have their Horlicks (see film below)? Should we keep inventing newer (and more bizarre) brand rituals?

My sense is that brand rituals need to be discovered not invented. The best ones are based on a cultural truth. Someone discovers a few consumers performing the ritual and makes it popular. It’s pretty optimistic to invent a ritual from scratch and expect it to catch on.

The Oreo ritual probably comes from a cultural insight in the USA. Perhaps kids there do dunk their “cookies” in milk. That was the insight of the famous “Got milk” campaign too. But in India children don’t do that. Grown ups dunk salty biscuits into their tea in India, but do kids dunk sweet biscuits?

Similarly the famous “Whatsup?” campaign from Budweiser was based on a cultural discovery. The agency actually discovered that people greeted each other that way. They then made the phrase famous.

I am sure you can think of many brands which are trying to tie their brands to a ritual. I’d love to hear which of them you think are tied to a cultural truth and which are just force fits. The other question I have is whether rituals only work for food and drink brands. Are there any other brands that have brand rituals?

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