Create the Ritual We Brag About

If a hotel can become famous for leading ducks across their lobby at 11:00 then certainly your business can become more well-known for some simple ritual that customers like to photograph and tell others about and reporters love to cover.

In fact it’s surprising that so few businesses and other organizations see the power of memory-making rituals that we keep talking about the few that do. And instead of creating a new ritual a sister hotel simply imitated the duck walk. You can do better.

1. Think quirky

As all actors know, a cute kid or animal almost always steals the show.  For example the annual ritual that raised $120,000 this year in a town of just 2,404 is the weiner dog race.  That’s right. Long, cute dogs. People and their pets came from all over the country for the chance to compete.

2. Create community around your ritual

The race is a great example of what the beneficiary of the race, the Lions Club calls a “core belief – community is what we make it.” It has been an annual tradition around which dog owners (and their families and friends) meet to compare notes and catch-up. Hint: the more fervent the community the more valuable your participation can be for your organization.

3. Offer the unexpected

Instead of “just” offering a loaner car like the one you are getting serviced a British Volvo dealership also offers bikes as loaners. The dealership enjoys two benefits  – deepening the loyalty of its eco-minded customers and attracting worldwide media coverage.

4. Reduce your cost of providing that ritual by partnering

Volvo’s ritual was then topped by Fiat in Spain. By partnering with electric bicycle maker Trek it could make the same offer yet without the cost of buying and maintaining the bikes. Trek benefits by getting a warmed-up introduction to possible customers.

The bonus benefits are that many of the people who saw the cyclists heard also saw the message on the bike and many of the cyclists told their friends about their experience.

5. Give a souvenir sample whenever people have to wait – or even pause

For a client years ago I set up an experiment in which those waiting in a movie theater line were greeted by smiling, good-looking college students and offered a free ice cream bon bon on a silver tray. One each. The students simply walked down the line, saying, “Like a tasty bon bon while you’re waiting? If you like it there are more inside.”

The results of that study were so positive the theater chain intermittently continued the practice. (Intermittent rewards create more happiness, perhaps because of the hedonic treadmill effect yet we crave the certainty of constancy – “the ducks will walk across at 11″). When bon bons are offered movie theatre snacks go up an average of 26 percent.

For the owner of seven upscale restaurants in London we did a similar experiment with wine.  Per customer sales went up as average of 23 percent.

Then we suggested that the restauranteur approach his wine distributers to offer them the opportunity to provide their wine, at cost.  Several agreed so he could rotate the kinds of wine he gave waiting guests.

For this sampling ritual, the wait staff, while offering the tray with the glasses of wine, showed the bottle and said the vinter’s name.   That was so successful that wine makers now vie for the opportunity to give their wine for such samplings. They also began offering samplings to delighted diners during their meal.

That way more customers get free wine and often wind up ordering more wine.

The participating vintners get their wines introduced in a relaxed, convivial atmosphere.

Cost-saving Hint: Make your ritual so popular that you can attract partners that want to participate in it.  That way you can offer your customers that ritual more often yet at a lower cost to you.

Conclusion

Most any consumer-serving place can create a small, simple-to-execute ritual that:

• Gives an unexpected experience to customers, one they can brag about – and others can see them enjoying.

• Increases sales.

• Attracts media coverage.

• Demonstrates the value of partners participating so the cost of offering that ritual go down.

See more ways to profitably partner and then create your own, unique, customer-attracting ritual – with the right partners.

2 Responses to “Create the Ritual We Brag About”

  1. kare anderson Says:

    Thanks, Jaime, the “free” ice cream as a sampling spurred sales and I gather that the “greeted by smiling, good-looking college students and offered a free ice cream bon bon on a silver tray” translated into another image for you.

  2. Kris Schaeffer Says:

    Ritual is part of the human fiber. We create ritual where none exists . . . Happy birthday, first date, lucky socks.
    Ritual will be one of the most enduring parts of the brand where people will be disappointed when it doesn’t happen and they will be agents to make it occur. You can’t say that about most advertising.

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