Understanding cultural rituals and symbols

People do not buy and use services simply for functional reasons, or even just for emotional reasons. There is more to people than that. Much of human behaviour comes about because people want to make their daily lives meaningful. So, they look for products and services that give them the sense of meaning they are looking for. 

They do this through rituals and symbolism:

  • Rituals. People use rituals to create meaning. Large scale public rituals like Christmas create and express shared values about 'who we are as a family'. Small-scale rituals can do the same such as a practice known as 'heirloom transfer' in which people give special possessions to family members. Greeting and farewell rituals are essential for good customer service because they make the experience meaningful.

  • Symbols. Researchers and marketers usually differentiate between a product's (or brand's) rational features and its emotional benefits. For us, the distinction should really be between rational features, emotions and symbolic benefits. Emotions are things like joy and fear. For example, some people feel safer when they are in a large 4-wheel drive than in a smaller sedan style car. That sense of safety is an emotional benefit. When a product or brand is used partly or wholly to communicate something about that person, then the product or brand is working as a symbol.

We use qualitative research to explore how people use rituals and symbols. We probably know more about this than any other agency on Australia.  We have looked at:

  • Calendar rituals like Christmas,

  • Status symbols,

  • Food and drink and grooming rituals, and

  • Greeting rituals.

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