Rituals And Purchase Decisions: There’s No Wrong Way To Eat A Reese’s

Rituals have the power to forge unbreakable bonds between consumers and brands.

Rituals And Purchase Decisions: There’s No Wrong Way To Eat A Reese’s

Rituals have the power to forge unbreakable bonds between consumers and brands—in even the most unlikely product categories.

In the ’90s, The Hersey Company taught us that “there’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s.” The campaign showcased how different people—from race car drivers to kids—could consume the same product in different ways. But what does an advertisement like this do?

Often, chocolate is viewed as an impulse buy. Stores place it near their cash registers in a last-ditch attempt to make a sale. But the brilliance of this ad campaign was that it did more than just make audiences hungry. Instead, it showed how people have ritualized the way they interact with Reese’s—and it encouraged consumers to envision how they would eat this chocolaty treat themselves.

Just like that, viewers had created their own personal relationship with the brand.

The Business of Creating Rituals

When Richard Sears sent out a printed mailer advertising watches and jewelry in 1888, he forever changed the way consumers, well, consume. The mailers allowed people across the country to purchase goods they couldn’t find at the local general store. And when the Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog was born in 1894, it became an integral part of people’s lives. Receiving the catalog was an event.

Today, print catalogs have largely given way to the rise of e-commerce. But daily routines and traditions still heavily inform consumers’ preferences, even if they aren’t leafing through the glossy pages of a magazine or visiting a physical storefront.

In fact, one recent University of Minnesota Twin Cities and Harvard University study found that ritualized gestures can not only increase product consumption, but they can also make consumers happier. No wonder snapping Kit Kats in two has endured; that process is a crucial part of the experience and is even infused in its brand equity.

Still, there are some important things to keep in mind in order to achieve the most success in using rituals to strengthen your brand. Here are a few:

1. Appeal To Emotions

When creating an authentic brand ritual, you have to tap into that genuine place, so avoid gimmicks, keep it simple, and focus on inherent behaviors that will complement the product naturally.

When I first thought about ritualization in my own business, I thought of the giddy excitement people experience when they receive a package in the mail, open it up, and discover what’s inside. Jewelry had, much like chocolate, been relegated to the land of impulse buys and gift giving. I wanted to ritualize the process of discovering joy in jewelry through a monthly package that women could eagerly await.

It’s important to leverage the physical experience. With chocolate, it may come with unwrapping a candy bar the same way each time or eating around the edges of a Reese’s before biting into its peanut butter deliciousness. Whatever your ritual, the physical experience is as much a part of the pleasure as the taste itself.

2. Build On Rituals That Already Exist

When you’re looking for a brand ritual, start by looking at the path to purchase, the reasons for buying, and the process of experimentation. While not always possible, building on rituals that already exist is much more powerful than making one up.

Sephora did this when it took the ritual of testing out makeup into the digital realm. Consumers can now simply download the company’s app and virtually try on lipsticks rather than visit a physical location. The technology overlays the color on users’ lips, essentially turning the app into a mirror. When consumers find a color that suits their taste, they can quickly add it to their cart and check out through the app.

3. Make Sure Its Shareable

We’ve all seen the power of viral marketing. A ritual that spreads through online word of mouth is so much more effective.

Coca-Cola was incredibly successful with this tactic in 2013, when it created a new brand ritual that aligned with its “Share Happiness” campaign. Resembling a regular 12-ounce can, consumers could actually twist the product and separate it into two individual cans. People have been sharing Cokes for years in some fashion, but this new product made the process novel again. The new ritual went viral, spreading through the likes of YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

Creating a brand-specific ritual could be your most powerful form of marketing—there’s no doubt about that. And when you know how to leverage the power of ritualization, you’ll be able to take your brand to the next level.