When Your Brand Becomes A Ritual - And Vice Versa

Many of our clients are updating their brands. Whether through a full rebranding, a simple brand refresh/rejuvenation or the expansion/narrowing of their target audiences, their brand,identities and extensions are top of mind.

Along the way, we spend a lot of time focusing on the valuable “moms market”—a highly-coveted demographic to which I belong—so I’ve been thinking about successful brands and their roles in my life.

Here’s what I’ve concluded in the process: The brands that I am loyal to have become more than just proper names on my shopping list; they’ve become integral parts of my daily ritual. Not only do I prefer them over others, I exercise that preference everyday, by including them in my routine.

To show you what I mean, here’s a look at my day, by the brands I’ve chosen to include:

  • Starbucks
  • HP Hood 
  • Pepperidge Farms
  • Chobani
  • Boars Head
  • Dawn
  • L’Oreal
  • Dove
  • Shell
  • CNN
  • Pandora
  • Ameriprise
  • Tide
  • Pastene
  • Perdue
  • Cakebread
  • Bigelow



These brands are my rituals. If my day didn’t start with Starbucks, the rest of the day would be off kilter. My kids are as picky about their lunch brands as I am about my cleaning products. They are developing their own rituals, which have evolved from the products in our home. Not only have these brands captured me, but in all likelihood they are making great inroads into the next generation of shoppers/fans/loyalists.

I follow these brands in the media, social and otherwise. I am interested in their stories. I am interested in quality products and companies that demonstrate their quality in manufacturing as well as social responsibility. I love, for example, what Dove is doing for women and their body image issue, especially as the mom of teenage girls. I love that HP Hood gives generously to United Way and America Second Harvest. I love that Starbucks is concerned about the ethical treatment of those who grow their coffee and enable them to make millions (or is it billions?) of dollars--and that they turn around and reinvest in those communities from where the coffee beans are grown. And the list goes on.

The fact that I can tell you even those short stories off the top of my head is a testament to how well these brands have done just that: tell me their stories. Their brands are more than a mark or a symbol; more than a parent company. They have earned a place in my daily routine not only because I like their products, but because I like who they are and what they stand for. 

This dynamic works both ways. Brands get kicked off the list, even banned, too. A perfect example is the recent Abercrombie & Fitch brouhaha. For those of you who may have missed the social beat-down of the CEO, here’s the short version: Abercrombie’s CEO wants his brand to be worn only by the beautiful and the popular. It wants to be exclusive and has gone so far as to shun those who don’t fit the image it wants for its brand. To ensure this, it won’t make clothes in larger sizes for women and will burn all the leftover garments rather than donate them to the homeless. (For a more substantial recap, check out this video: Abercrombie & Fitch Gets a Brand Readjustment #FitchTheHomeless).

The comments and the actions of the CEO have been reviewed by all of the potential consumers in our household, including the skinny and young ones. We have collectively kicked them off our approved rituals list. This is part of my effort to teach my children early to vote with their dollars responsibly and the power that they can wield if they work together. 

Here’s a quick rundown of the dos and don’ts that will help your brand get recognized by moms and included in their rituals.

  • Do: Offer quality products. 

  • Don’t: Tell me they are quality if they are not. Moms are very smart, so are our kids.

  • Do: Act responsibly as part of the community you want to attract.

  • Don’t: pretend to be socially aware and then behave inconsistently. 

  • Do: tell me your story. Helping is the new selling, Help me have a better day in every way that touches my family. When there is a clear benefit to the story of the brand, it is more likely to stand the test of time in our household.

  • Don’t: just try to sell me with a list of features. That is no help.

And, remember, if you make it onto moms’ daily agendas, there’s a good chance their kids are going to adopt you, too. In other words, the stakes are high here.

And, yes, I anticipate that the good brands will remain part of my ritual and my children’s rituals for many years. At least until their stories change or another brand tells me a better one. So when talking about re-“insert word here”-ing their brand, I recommend reviewing the story – how well it is told, how often it is told, to whom it is told. It could be the beginning of moving from just being a brand to being a ritual.

1 comment about "When Your Brand Becomes A Ritual - And Vice Versa".
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  1. Stephen Baldwin from Didit, May 29, 2013 at 5:06 p.m.

    Dear Kimberly, you make an excellent point about the preference of Moms for companies and brands that behave responsibly. Moms are necessarily "future-oriented" in a way that other consumers may not be. They care about the impact that corporations are having in this world, and they will freely elect to punish (or reward) companies that are not good actors.

    I was one of 2 million people who participated in the March Against Monsanto this past weekend. It's fascinating that the major media (and even publications that purport to cover branding) have said barely a whisper about the world's largest single protest -- against a single brand -- but that's another story.

    All of the Moms I spoke to at the rallies had strong feelings about GMO foods and not surprisingly, they were not enthused. Obviously, this was not a scientific selection. But my business partner also reached out to several influential Mommy Bloggers yesterday who were not part of the march, and the opinion wasn't very different, especially in regard to GMO labeling (Moms seem to be "pro-label" - I couldn't find one who said that a label wasn't a useful warning device.

    Moms don't, of course, buy products directly from Monsanto, but GMO products are in the vast majority of foods that Moms buy. I believe that if Moms knew which brands of cookies, cereals, cupcakes, etc. contained GMOs, they would change their purchasing decisions accordingly -- if, that is, they actually have a choice in the matter.

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