We all engage in rituals. As we bathe and dress, eat and work, we develop small, regular patterns that, over time, become habits that define our lives.
Products and services are, of course, part of these rituals. You may have a certain suite of hair and makeup products that you use each day. You may arrange each Tuesday around the arrival of someone that cleans your home. You may always buy the same pizza on Friday poker nights or use some of your favorite salad dressing on “meatless Wednesday.” We may not think of these routines as rituals, but it's in these small ways that products and services become intrinsically intertwined with the daily motions of our lives.
Companies have tried hundreds of ways to create these rituals. If you remove one side of a chocolate sandwich cookie and eat the creamy center before you munch on the delicious, crunchy exterior, advertising may have taught you how. Beauty brands create rituals by encouraging us to use moisturizer at night or recommending the best way to apply foundation. From bronzer to beard oil, concealer to cologne, these companies have developed practices that turn their products into daily routines.
What ritual can you create for your brand? Will doing things in a new way help your customers? Can your products find a way into our daily habits? Will creating a new habit differentiate you from your competitors?
Fred’s Financial Planning
Freddy was more than familiar with the habits that lead to financial security. Over many years of working with clients, he found that those who made financial planning a small but regular part of their routines were far more likely to retire comfortably, recover from accidents or other setbacks, and provide their children with a good quality of life.
For this reason, Freddy thought of himself as a kind of personal trainer — one that focused on financial rather than physical health. In the same way that exercise must be done regularly for it to be effective, he knew that attention to financial details must become a repeatable event. He also knew that, for many of his clients, long discussions about saving would usually fall on deaf ears. Too often, conversations about money initiated fights among family members. If only, somehow, he could make it more enjoyable…. But how could he encourage habits? Could he make financial planning fun? Freddy made the attempt — he decided to build his brand by creating "games" that his clients could incorporate into their regular routines.
Cash for Chores
Lots of kids get paid for their chores, so why can't this practice be extended to the whole family? The game was simple: a family would sit down at the beginning of the week and put together a list of chores for each person to complete. Freddy created some self-sealing envelopes with his name and logo on one side and a place to list chores on the other. A set amount of cash was placed in each one, and all the filled envelopes were hung in a conspicuous place in the house — a bulletin board or the refrigerator. As each person completed their chores, they would check them off. A separate envelope held an additional bonus that was given to the person who finished their chores first.
To further their financial goals, Freddy also created a chore list for adults that included some of the more common (and difficult) tasks— putting together a will, budgeting, creating medical power of attorney documents, and so on. Freddy himself would pay clients a small bonus each time they completed one of these tasks.
This set of games helped create a “work hard, get a reward” mindset for both parents and children. Even though the payouts were small, sometimes the act of earning an extra $50 or $100 was enough to get parents to complete tasks that they had put off for far too long. Freddy benefited by branding himself through the process, establishing himself as a coach who could help clients achieve their goals rather than a nagging consultant always admonishing them to do the right thing. Of course, his business benefited as customers began paying more attention to the financial planning services he offered.
I Want A Tip Jar!
We all have needs, but we all have wants as well — items that we don’t have to have, but that we really, really desire. (Due largely to the efforts of creative marketers, of course.) Freddy decided to take advantage of these feelings by creating family “tip jars.” He purchased several hundred ceramic piggy banks and had his logo and URL screen printed on one side. Each member of the family was given a bank and their names written on the other side, along with the item the collected money would be used for — an Xbox or leather jacket, for example.
Through family discussion, each member of the family was allotted a small amount of money for doing something positive. Unlike a “swear jar” where money is deposited as a punishment for doing something negative, these “tip jars” were a way to reward good or useful acts. Timmy might be given a dime each time he says something nice to his sister or for each day his room passes inspection. Mom might earn a dollar each time she calls her own mother or five dollars for each week she avoids getting another speeding ticket.
Each tip-worthy deed was recorded on a whiteboard next to the tip jars, and a running tally kept of the amounts in each. When the banks were full, they were smashed and the contents handed over. Freddy benefited from the positive associations he made in the minds of his clients as he helped them practice saving. Although there was no direct financial benefit to his company, he was able to firmly establish his brand in the minds of his clients and demonstrate that he is more interested in a family’s financial well-being than on making a quick commission.
The Game of "Living In Our Means"
Some of the most difficult conversations revolve around the topic of money. Failure to earn a good salary creates feelings of shame and regret; lack of money can be a source of anger and envy. Parents may be reluctant to talk about money with their children even though those conversations can be highly educational. To encourage family planning and communication, Freddy created a weekly "financial roundtable" game for his clients.
Taking cues from some of the board games of his childhood — Life and Monopoly — Freddy produced (branded!) cards in several colors, one set for clothing and appearance, another for housing and utilities, food, entertainment — all of the typical categories of daily expenses. On each card he listed dozens of ways for typical families to save money, everything from turning off faucets and lights to making meals at home.
Each week someone takes the role of “family CFO.” The CFO is in charge of picking a card and tasking every member of the family with finding ways to save money in that area. For example, if “food” is the topic for the week, each person has to describe a way he or she will save money on meals and snacks. Mom might promise to forgo her daily latte habit and save $20. Dad might pledge to take lunch to work on at least two days and save $30. At the end of the week, each person reveals how well they met their goal. A winner is chosen to receive a small cash prize.
The meetings serve to teach children about how to use and manage money, and as a way to keep communication channels open between parents. It also puts every member of the family on an equal footing so everyone feels valued.
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No game was appropriate for every family, and Freddy customized things a bit for different clients. But the approach was always the same — give clients something to do for themselves that is at least mildly entertaining and makes everyone feel included in the financial planning puzzle. These regular rituals had the benefit of keeping Freddy and his company present in the minds of his clients, while demonstrating his concern with their well-being.