One of the most basic benefits of ritual marketing is the transcendence of commoditization. Selling a product as a commodity is a simple to accomplish, because it accepts the product as a literal, physical object. For the same reason, selling a product as a commodity is a trap, unable to move beyond the concrete benefits that a product provides.
Given the way that they both begin with the samepreface, many people conflate the concepts of commerce and commoditization. These words have different roots, however, and refer to different processes of cultural economics. Whereas the sale of commodities fits the expected mode, true commerce is more flexible, working at the boundaries where different expectations meet.
Escape from commoditization begins with the simple recognition that when people shop, they often seek to purchase something more than the literal attributes of the products available to them. The first step away from commoditization toward ritual marketing is taken marketers acknowledge that the products they sell have meaning.
This small shift is taken by Caffe Vita, which defines its brand as “where the coffee matters”.
Coffee beans are a commodity – or are regarded as such most of the time. Caffe Vita, however, gives itself the task of “creating an environment where the customer can see, touch, and taste the coffee they purchase”. It develops “mutually fruitful” relationships with coffee growers “meticulously”, rather than engaging in the massive blending of coffee beans that bigger coffee sellers do. Caffe Vita builds stories around the acquisition and preparation of its coffees, so that its customers can build stories around their consumption of it.
The creation of these stories isn’t enough to transform the sale of a product into a ritual experience, but it is a necessary step in the lengthy project of building a ritual marketing strategy. In the case of Caffe Vita, even though its stories are told about the coffees it procures, it’s the story of the brand, and not the coffee itself, that builds the sense of meaning that customers attribute to their experience. The mere communication of the idea that there is meaning infused into their coffee signals Caffe Vita customers that their moment of drinking coffee will have meaning. It is around such moments that ritual experiences are constructed.