Brand Rituals & Crafting Signature Moments

Category: Strategy & Insights
29 Apr 2024
Read time: 4 MIN
From Le Labo’s mixing rituals and a clever Carhartt label to hospitality experiences that hark back to tradition, we unpack some of our favourite cases of brand rituals and moments that actually mean something – more so than the tedious race to conversion.
Written By
MOF Team
MOF Team

Today, if you shattered a vase, you’d likely throw it away. Especially if it was so sundry you’d forgotten where it came from – perhaps an ugly but well-intentioned gift or one of those things you accidentally inherit. Regardless, one of those items that in all likelihood, if smashed, would end up in the bin.

Perhaps not in Japan. There, many engage with the tradition of kintsugi – the art of mending what’s broken (ceramics more often than not) with golden lacquer to seal up the cracks. It’s a ritual representative of finding beauty in imperfection, closely associated with the Japanese philosophy known as wabi-sabi. A tradition going back centuries, it is even said some collectors were so enamoured with the ritual itself they deliberately smashed valuable pieces of pottery so they could be repaired with the golden seams of kintsugi.

Humankind is a race built on ritual; on ceremony, religion, tribalism. For millennia it has been how we've placed importance on the moments that matter, whether over banquets, feasts, festivals or rites of passage.

Yet as humanity has aged, progress accelerated and the world commercialised, our rituals have become less religious or traditionally spiritual in favour of those which hone in on or orbit around consumer culture. Perhaps these more physical rituals that have emerged in the last century seem highly materialistic when compared to their ancient counterparts, but for many they're no less sacred. A Corona without a slice of lime is blasphemy; anyone who bites both fingers of a KitKat instead of breaking the two up should likely be sectioned and perfectly poured Guinness just tastes better, with those who disrespect or carry out the ritual incorrectly facing the wrath of more than just the Irish. 

Over time, though, in the interest of efficiency, we have prioritised the frictionless. Dominant schools of thought taught us that speed equalled increased conversion. Brands were encouraged to spread themselves across every channel; to eliminate elements of the experience, casting them as obstacles for consumers to overcome rather than moments of value. We were told that in order to sell more, we must sell faster.

Global digitalisation has led to markets fraught with anxiety, unsure how to proceed in seemingly endless new arenas, with many failing to see the brand opportunity in experience because they were blinded by conversion metrics. Of course with the world the way it is, conversion and profit have become natural inclinations –  the driving forces for development. As a result, we've lost all sense of ritual, once a core human truth in which we found meaning.

AI Is The Enemy of Ritual

Open access, quicker than ever easy to use, AI has become a mindless activity in our day-to-day. Although functionally brilliant for most people, there is no spiritual pull or emotional draw to artificial intelligence. The AI-powered systems, experiments or products that do seemingly possess meaning or an element of feeling are firstly, a novelty, and secondly, generating directly from human emotion and sentiment. In nearly every case, AI strips away the human element. The soul.

And yet the only conversations brands and boardrooms wish to have at the moment are those solely focused on this technology. Why? Because the latest technology is generally equated to the best innovation, and in the ‘sell fast to sell more’ mentality, bronze the world over have optimised all emotion and meaning out of their experiences. To quote MOF Strat Director James Lees:

When you remove every ounce of friction in favour of conversion, you optimise things to death.
James Lees, Strategy Director

Timeless brands must retain the friction. They must not be led into temptation by the tech gospels, at least not to the extent where the brand becomes the sacrificial lamb. The allure of the best brands – the je ne sais quoi; the holy grail of both strategists and marketers everywhere – lies in the stories we tell. The stories we tell ourselves, and the stories we tell about ourselves. From a brand perspective: the stories imbued with heritage or spirit, woven through the experience in both major and minor moments.

In this era of dopamine commerce – where hype follows headlines with little gratification, zero value and mass remorse on investment (both financial and in terms of time or effort) – people are becoming disillusioned. In other words, it’s the empty calorie effect on an unprecedented scale. Story and ritual are the rare occasions we find meaning without remorse. Because meaning creates value.


The Best Examples of Brand Ritual in Retail & Hospitality

Le Labo

Crafting value in anticipation, Le Labo have built the ritual of creation into their store experience. Fragrances are made to order, measured, mixed and bottled right before your eyes by trained lab technicians (or ‘souls’ as Le Labo calls them). Why? Their manifesto explains:

“We believe that there are too many bottles of perfume and not enough soulful fragrances. We believe the soul of a fragrance comes from the intention with which it is created and the attention with which it is prepared. We believe fine perfumery must create a shock - the shock of the new, combined with the shock of the intimately familiar… We believe in the soulful power of thoughtful hands: hand-picked roses, hand-poured candles, hand-formulated perfumes and handshake agreements. We believe in slow perfume. We believe New York made us this way, with a dose of Wabi-Sabi and a few lines from Thoreau.”

It’s niche perfumery backed by an unwavering ideology. Taking the ritual a step further, Le Labo recommends customers hold off two weeks before wearing their Fresh Formulation to allow the mix to macerate. A branded embodiment of the old proverb ‘good things come to those who wait.’ At hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars a bottle, and no signs of slowed growth, it’s undeniably a proverb to note.


Sometimes, it’s as simple as a label. American apparel company Carhartt experimented with a jacket tag that encourages resale by listing three lines for each owner to write their name, becoming part of the piece’s story.

In a time where the value-action gap seems like a chasm – especially with regards to sustainable living – this seemingly tiny Brand Interaction adds a far more personal sentiment (and driver) behind making the more eco-friendly choice.



In a wholesomely juvenile attempt to battle to loneliness epidemic, The Lavaux – a Swiss wine and fondue bar in NYC’s West Village – hosts weekly Secret Message Parties where patrons pass anonymous notes to one another, reminiscent of a classroom custom.

Borne from the belief that New Yorkers are more starved for deeper human connection than any other city-slicker, The Lavaux’s GM Chris Stemmer was inspired by a similar concept while travelling his native Switzerland. It’s such a pull that, as of April 2024, reservations need to be made months in advance.


In 2022, our brand team began working with a new hospitality offering opening on the island of Tinos in Greece. It’s one of the Cyclades that, until very recently, had gone relatively unnoticed by most of the world. With no airport – requiring visitors to travel from Mykonos or Athens by ferry – Tinos has managed to avoid the over-tourism and over-development that has taken over other Greek isles. The result is an island that feels trapped in time.

The strategy behind the hotel – which we named Odera (an ode to the wind) – was underpinned by the brand promise: Rediscover the beauty of a world still made by hand. A promise our CX worked to bring to life on site through signature moments. The culmination of our ideation was The Marble Manuscript: an ode to the tradition that has sculpted our island over generations.

On arrival, guests will be invited to view the manuscript itself – an elongated marble slab, sheltered in Odera’s gardens, etched with the names and symbols of previous guests. Throughout their stay, guests are invited to explore the island’s marble carving history, with personalised and intimate tours around Tinos. Guests hop from village to village, learning the ways of ancient marble masters. Having reserved a time with the concierge, guests are given a traditional hammer and chisel and guided through leaving their own immortal mark on the manuscript.

Without meaning, ritual is merely routine. To find or carve out these signature moments – to add lustre to the experience – ask yourself:

  • Beyond your product, what are you truly offering? 
  • What emotion do you want to evoke, what senses do you wish to stimulate?
  • Where are the gaps or low points in your experience? Which interactions are being neglected?
  • What existing rituals align themselves with your brand spirit and story?
  • Which of your consumers’ existing behaviours can you leverage and transform into ritual?

Imagine the most accurate embodiment of your brand in a single moment. Then endeavour to craft it.

Matter Of Form is a design consultancy specialising in brand strategy, CX and digital innovation for timeless brands. Get in touch with one of our consultants via to design what’s next.

MOF Team

Published by MOF Team

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