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Ritual marketing is built upon a combination of classic anthropological theory (based on ethnographic observations of traditional cultures around the world) and decades of in-depth qualitative research of consumer culture in the United States. It begins with the familiar three-stage model developed by Arnold Van Gennep and Victor Turner:

Separation / Liminality / Reintegration

This three-stage process offers ample theoretical room for academic researchers. For applied research, however, it lacks detailed resolution. Liminality is not a uniform experience. There are many different aspects of ritual participants’ movement through the threshold, and practitioners need to be able to track the development of these aspects in detail.

For this reason, the ritual marketing model extends the three-stage model into the following map of the elements of ritual:

elements of ritual

This map shows the liminal experience as a circle, inspired by the metaphor of Johan Huizinga’s magic circle of play. Entry to the circle is motivated by the challenge to the pre-ritual identity, but begins with the act of separation. Within the threshold, disorientation, taboo and disobedience, symbolic shuffling, guidance, trial and reward, and reorientation may take place, though in many consumer rituals, some of these elements will be underdeveloped or even absent. Finally, the post-ritual identity is achieved through the stage of reintroduction and integration.