Staff Writer: Carolyn Johnson
There are certain times in the year when consumers put in an immense amount of time, money and commitment to certain occasions, some of which are even considered sacred. Such times of the year include holidays like Christmas, Easter, St. Patrick’s Day, and Valentine’s Day. Other occasions worthy of celebration include graduation, weddings, proms, bar mitzvahs, and even Super Bowl parties.
Some brands specialize in products for holidays and celebrations, such as bridal stores or Halloween costume shops. Los Angeles marketing firms often put in a big ad push during particular occasions such as the Super Bowl and Christmas, when the top advertising agencies in Los Angeles will dress up their brand for the “holiday spirit.” The Los Angeles Times advertising rates may sometimes go up during the holidays as a result of much demand for adspace. Thus, it is worth the time to study how ritualistic consumerism intersects with advertising.
One way in which consumer rituals and advertising intersect comes in the form of a concept called “ritual transference.” Ritual transference occurs when the products specific to one holiday become relevant and used for other holidays. The perfect example for this is Christmas lights. Christmas lights, in their first incarnation, were a product used during Christmastime, yet through ritual transference came Easter lights, Halloween lights, and Thanksgiving lights.
Advertising can also become a part of the consumer ritual over a long period of time; sometimes, they even have such a cultural influence that they come to define parts of the ritual. For example, from the 1930s through the 1940s, DeBeers ads put out relentless campaigns to an mid-upperclass demographic that relayed the message that diamonds were an absolute must for any and every wedding ritual. Thus, diamond rings became an important player in American weddings – and weddings all over the world – for a long time to come.
Advertising scholars should consider further studying consumer rituals as they pertain to advertising. There is so much rich archival material to mine from research; through ads spanning from the early parts of the twentieth century to the present day, a scholar can study how symbols of the consumer ritual have been explored during certain periods of time. It would also be to a scholar’s advantage to learn how to tie in consumer rituals with that of purchasing specific products, perhaps by using an advertisement to even CREATE a ritual for consumers to participate in. Marketers who pay attention to specific types of ritual can create key selling strategies for their client’s brand.
Some advertising campaigns are so influential that they change the rules of a standard ritual for the consumer. Butterball turkeys would not fly out of the shelves during that time of year if Thanksgiving were no longer celebrated, for instance.
Marketers understand the potency of ritual advertising. Some brands, as a matter of fact, would likely not be able to make much business without it. No matter how the media landscape changes over time, ritual consumerism will likely never change, which is why it should be studied more intensively by marketers.