Yesterday we celebrated Cinco de Mayo here at ROI, with burritos and Coronas. While our Creative Director pointed out that his Mexican ancestors wouldn’t know what the hell Cinco de Mayo is about, Ben (from our advertising team) proceeded with another time-honored non-tradition of Mexico…putting a lime into his Corona. And I said, “That is really cool that you just did that.”
Why? Because I appreciate the subtle power of marketing.
Ceremonializing a Product
Ben put a lime into a beer, which outside of a Corona, would seem like a crazy move. But he didn’t just pop it in there. He also used his thumb like a cork, tipped the bottle over to let the lime rise up, then tipped it back upright. We’ve all seen this done many times at bars, barbeques, and Cinco de Mayo fiestas.
I asked him why he was doing that and he had a rationale (makes it taste better?), but we realized that neither of us quite knew the origins of the habit. And it turns out there’s a lot of fuzzy mythology around why limes make sense for Corona uniquely, in the world of beer.
What Ben was doing is known as a brand ceremony. A brand ceremony is a specific consumption experience unique to a brand, and often times it is seemingly irrelevant or unnecessary to the product. The lime-in-Corona ceremony is the best kind of brand ceremony, because Ben (and most of us) act it out repeatedly and consistently, without a brand representative needing to be present to reinforce it. This is a holy grail for branding, which is why I love to see it.
Why it Matters
Studies show that ceremonies actually improve the perceived experience of the product. The same product will be viewed as more favorable if it’s paired with a ceremony, versus if it lacks a ceremony. The ceremony doesn’t have to make perfect sense. In the study, for example, participants who knocked on a table and took a deep breath before eating a carrot, enjoyed the carrot more.
And here’s the real kicker. The same study shows that people will also pay more for a product if it has a ceremony attached.
Chances are, these other brand ceremonies will be familiar to you…
Separating your Oreo, licking the cream, then sandwiching it again, before dunking it into milk.
How do you eat your Reeses? While there’s no “wrong way”, quirky is definitely the right way.
Making S’mores with Hershey’s chocolate, when camping.
The Lyft fist bump.*
How to Create a Strong Brand Ceremony
Not all dreamed up brand ceremonies will work, and sometimes it’s easier to just adopt and broadcast an existing ceremony of the current audience. The ones that do work, follow these four rules.
It has to fit the target audience.
The ceremony should blend in with existing behaviors and routines of the a brand’s audience. If it feels awkward or forced, people won’t do it.
*The fist bump is no longer a thing, and I think it’s because they didn’t quite nail it. It seems more like they tried to force a ceremony that didn’t necessarily feel natural to people.
Keep it simple and systematic.
It has to be easy to remember and perform, unless you’re planning on having a brand representative carry it out for the customer every time.
Make it unique.
For example, I would have known Ben was drinking a Corona, without even seeing the bottle, just because I knew he was putting a lime in his beer.
It has to fit the brand.
Whatever the ceremony is, it should support brand characteristics and be relevant to the consumption of that brand.
Need some advice on getting traction for your brand? Get in touch. We’d love to help.