Sanjeev Kotnala: In a country full of rituals, we underplay impact of rituals in brand-building

19 Aug,2015

By Sanjeev Kotnala


August 15, freedom songs are blaring from loudspeakers at every street. People take that extra effort to be dressed in traditional attire. They spend time and carefully select the combination of saffron, white and greens that makes Independence Day a lot more powerful experience. The raised head with palms raised next to eyebrows in a proud salute. We watch the tiranga unfurl.  Standing at attention while the national anthem plays. The President’s address to the nation on August 14 and the Prime Minister’s s from the Red Fort. The patriotic feelings swell to new record high. The truth – these are one of the most powerful rituals of our life.


These are the irrational impact multipliers. They help make the product experience more interesting and involving. The experience lasts that extra moment. They make you part of a select group and meaning of tribe gets enhanced.


We live in a country of multitude of rituals. Our life revolves around rituals of many passions. Religion, Cricket and Movies to stated the most clichéd ones. These are a series of not-so-well understood, stated or even seemingly irrational actions that precede, follow or run parallel to consumption process.


Rituals emerge from existing behaviour or are short-tweaked into one. The brands pick and choose the one they wish to exploit or imbibe. Then they create these simple-to-act and tough-to-forget rituals. These are based on observations and strategic intent in a way mirroring the brand ethos. They normally would promote some socially relevant or acceptable behaviour. They are consistent and iconic in their symbolism. They live through many years. They are like a viral binding all audiences / consumers in an unsaid bond. Rituals build a lasting relationship, preference, and a tribal groupism, strengthen association and build in a long lasting loyalty that would enhance the life-time-value of a consumer.


In India, brands have been doing great when it comes to identifying and placing the existing social rituals in their communication. Mera Bharat Mahaan, Hero Honda and Tata Tea are few examples of it. You have images of team huddle at the start of a match, performer paying respect to the stage, folded hand near a roadside temple, the Sindoor, kaala tikka and even the breaking of a coconut.


Yet, when it comes to brand rituals, we have very few examples. Prime among them have been like Kitkat (foil open, cut and break), Hero Honda (fill it, shut it, forget it) Oreo (twist, lick, dunk), Corona (lime in bottle neck), HUL advertising (problem statement- product introduction- solution heightened- branding), Ujjala (Chaar boondo wala), Lirl (waterfall bath), Sprite (Dar kay aagey Jeet), the Rajdhani Thali (bell of satisfaction), Tata tea (the vote ink)… in fact one of the biggest rituals that we live without realising is the act of giving cards giving pushed by Hallmark and Archie’s cards.


We are a country of rituals. There is one for every stage of life, for success and for failures, for respect and for revenge, for marriages, for Holi and for Diwali and for naming ceremonies. For some unsaid reasons, Indian brands have stayed away from attempting to create rituals. Some of the brand that have definitely missed out on this are – Old Monk, Britannia biscuits, Thums up and Amul Butter.


We are in an era where consumer holds the power. He or she is the one who dictates, creates and owns a brand. I do not think that should be reason enough to stop marketers in their attempt to create brand rituals. The advantages are too many.


If you plan to do so then ensure that they are not forced or a fad, are simple and are discovered or tweaked or transposed not created, repeated and reinforced at every opportunity and have that viral ability of easy to share, duplicate and act.


Remember our brain is neurologically wired to prefer the way of least resistance and favour well established behaviour. The repeated enact of the ritual is what helps building emotional unity leading to strong association and loyalty.


Sanjeev Kotnala is Founder and Head Catalyst at Intradia. A Brand, Marketing and Management Advisor. He conducts specialised workshops in the area of IDEATION (Harvest and Liberate) and Innovation (InNoWait). His focus energy in enhancing client’s internal team’s potential and capabilities. In process decreasing their dependence  on external resources. To contact email  or tweet at s_kotnala visit

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