Just back from a Shradhh ceremony ( Funeral). It was the first annual Shradhh of my maternal uncle and a good time to visit home for a weekend.
As I was sitting in the white pandal and looking at my uncle's portrait garlanded with white lotus buds, I started wondering about the ritual I was attending. On one hand, it did seem strange. A person is dead and gone, yet we continue to hold ceremonies, have kirtans, followed by a feast for a few hundred guests.
There are so many rituals I have grown up with. But the ones I remember the most are the ceremonies- the annual Satyanarayana Puja with the "ghol" prasad, the Annaprasanna ( first food offered to babies) ceremony, the elaborate three days weddings with all the accompanied rituals, the Jamai Shosthi ( son- in- laws invited for a feast) in Bengal, Saraswati and Lakshmi puja at home, Vishwakarma puja where Daddy would get us sweet packets and sometimes a tiffin carrier of khichdi and mixed sabzi, the much awaited Durga Puja, the Bihus in Assam, even the first passage into womanhood is celebrated with rituals... the list is endless.
Must admit. There is something about the rituals in our lives. While there is both logic and magic in the origination as well as the process, I tried to think of a few good reasons why I had flown all the way for 1000 miles to attend this.
1.Rituals connect. It is a time where friends and family meet. A time when a meal is shared together, people catch up on old times and new, kids play in the front yard with cousins they haven't met for years. Try organising a family party to get all of this and see how many would attend.
2. Rituals create a bond. With the occasion- in this case my uncle who passed away. For that day, he was in our minds, we spoke about his life, shared favourite stories with my aunt and cousins and ended the day on a very happy note.
3. Rituals are about interactions. The processes itself are so meticulously followed that they make people interact. Everyone was working yesterday- my aunts and I were serving prasad together, some cousins were ushering guests in, few others were organising the kirtan , lamps were lit , flowers were strewn, tea and sweets served by the sisters-in-law .The harmony with which this happens with noone pulling the strings of control is amazing. No rehearsal, no dry runs.
Just realised how relevant rituals are in the life of a brand as well. Whether it is the Corona beer and the lemon wedge. Or the Harley Club (HOG) where every action is a ritual and garners a camaraderie and a bond that few can break. Or the James Bond induced ritual for Martini- Shaken Not Stirred.And even having the morning coffee at Starbucks on the way to work.
Most marketers shy away from rituals. The oft used reason- it takes years to build a ritual. Righto- it does take years. But then, why do we all like to think that our brands will last only as long as we are in the business. Brands will always outlive us, our careers and even our lifetimes. Which brings us to the second most oft used reason. Who will see this through for years? Obviously the brand custodians, whoever they are. The ritual baton can be handed down from one to the other person, from one to the next generation.
And once the ritual is firmly associated with the brand, it is part of the brand gene. Needs no marketing spends and media plans.Because it is consumers who control rituals.
These were some of the thoughts that crossed my mind as I looked around me at the pandal full of guests, who had gathered together from across the map to share their grief together on my uncle's demise a year ago.