Ritual and Drinking

A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value. We tend to think of this in terms of formalized contexts such as religious rites, rites of passage, legislative sessions, etc.  But they hold true for things like drinking, as well. A ritual may be performed on specific occasions, or at the discretion of individuals or communities. It may be performed by a single individual, by a group, or by the entire community.  Rituals signal the change from one state of being to another, giving license, defining the state of things to come in a given context and shaping our worldview for a time.  The codify who we are.

Ritual and tradition are important to drinking because traditions established by social groups provide a unique experience. A cocktail may be grandfather’s drink. Anchor Steam is the beer of San Francisco. A dinner party isn’t a “real” dinner party until the first glass of wine is raised and a toast given.  Marketing tends to focus on surface-level understandings of how and why people drink.  POP, sports, etc. all factor into the equation, but it’s uncommon to look for deeper meanings because it frankly means more work.  But this is where the real advantage lies.  Finding a way into a ritual makes your brand significantly more relevant.  It makes it part of a long-term commitment. It establishes specific memories around a brand. And that translates into a long-term strategy rather than a series of short-term tactics.


Published by gavinjohnston67

Take an ex-chef who’s now a full-fledge anthropologist and set him free to conduct qualitative research, ethnography, brand positioning, strategy and sociolinguistics studies and you have Gavin. He is committed to understand design and business problems by looking at them through an anthropological lens. He believes deeply in turning research findings into actionable results that provide solid business strategies and design ideas. It's not an insight until you do something with it. With over 18 years of experience in strategy, research, and communications, he has done research worldwide for a diverse set of clients within retail, legal, banking, automotive, telecommunications, health care and consumer products industries.

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