What Is Ritual Marketing?

Ritual marketing is a new technique, based on a dimension of human behavior that is as old as humanity itself.

It begins with market research, conducted by professional analysts with specialized knowledge of the ritual process. Unlike most other research methodologies, however, ritual marketing helps its clients to integrate insights from the field into their everyday work in specific, practical ways. Ritual, after all, is nothing if it is not actionable.

Why Ritual?

Ritual marketing is the perfect complement to technologically-based marketing techniques. As quantitative market research processes become increasingly automated, analysis becomes more exacting, but the distance between marketers and consumers increases as well.

Marketers have begun to respond to this distance by re-humanizing their work with narrative methods that use the enduring storytelling structures found in ancient mythologies. However, while stories tell consumers about the deeper meaning in their marketplace decisions, even the most inspiring communication of these ideas isn’t enough.

Marketing is a field of action. If research can’t build models of consumer behavior, it isn’t of much use.

Ritual bridges the gap between consumer motivation and consumer behavior. Ritual is a form of behavior that enables people to break through barriers such as denial and attachment to the status quo. Ritual incorporates the symbolic storytelling power of mythology, but it doesn’t just talk. Ritual changes what people do by taking them through concrete, achievable steps.

What’s more, because ritual action in the marketplace brings abstract motivation into concrete form, it’s measurable. Ritual marketing provides a unique way to translate the powerful human insights of qualitative market research into a form that Big Data can work with.

How Do Rituals Fit Into The Marketplace? 

It is commonly presumed that the widespread practice of ritual disappeared generations ago. However, a new generation of cultural researchers are discovering that ritual remains as a prevalent as it ever has been. In fact, once we know what to look for, we can see that our commercial culture is the most ritually active ever seen. What has become uncommon is the open recognition of ritual where it exists.

Without ritual, our complex society would grind to a halt. No organization can function, and no individual can adapt to the changing circumstances of life, without rituals to manage the risks of transition.

In our commercial culture, marketers and consumers alike have been forced to rely upon improvised rituals. However, the marketplace has now become too complex for ritualization of consumer behavior to continue on the basis of mere gut instinct.

The time has come for the development of a model of conscious ritual design that is authentic to commercial culture. Combining generations of insight about the ritual process from anthropologists with decades of fieldwork studies of consumer motivation and behavior, ritual marketing offers a comprehensive system that is both manageable and meaningful.

Where other approaches either rely upon abstract motivations or accept the limitations of static consumer segments, ritual analysis bridges the gap between motivation and behavior. Bringing intention and action together, ritual marketing provides a concrete, culturally informed path for changing consumer behavior in a manner that is beneficial to consumers and marketers alike.


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