Luigi Servadio Foto: Linda Karlsson
Luigi Servadio

Marketers are increasingly adopting rituals as a powerful technique to spur product engagement and enhance customer value creation. From a customer perspective, rituals and value creation may entail broader purposes and meanings that go beyond the company’s intentions.

Service research has extensively studied everyday value creation as emerging in the interaction between companies and customers. Increasingly, service scholars are nuancing understanding toward a more focussed perspective of value creation, which primarily is dominated by customers.

By expanding on this bourgeoning literature, the present thesis provides an alternative view suggesting that customer value creation in certain instances can be better understood through the lens of rituals. Rituals are customer-centric processes of value creation orchestrated by customers within their realm, with little or no control from companies.

Sacred moments in customers' lives

Rituals are sacred moments in customers’ lives separated from the everyday, in which value creation appears to be not only a mundane action, but broadly these actions are loaded with extraordinary experiences. Rituals are cocreated by broader customer ecosystems, including not only customers and their contexts, but also other subjects and contexts, collectively determining value.

The purpose of this thesis is to provide a framework to explore the relationship between rituals and value creation from a customer’s point of view by taking a customer-dominant stance on service as a starting point and leveraging insights from a theoretical ritual construct to provide a fuller understanding of how customers create and determine value.

Data from Sweden and Italy

The field of wine is chosen as a fertile empirical context in which to research rituals due to its rich ritualistic connotations. The research adopts ethnography as method of investigation and exploits reflexivity as a strategic asset to elicit and interpret data.

Data was collected during a period of 2 years in two sites (Sweden and Italy) to moderate research biases and to broaden the empirical setting. Various techniques, including participant observation and interviews, were chosen in order to obtain detailed descriptions of how families and friends ritualized their value creation through drinking wine.

A framework for customer rituals

The thesis provides a customer rituals framework, its main contribution. In adopting this framework, the study illustrates in two ethnographic episodes how wines (i.e. distribution mechanism of service provision) become embedded in customers’ lives through rituals. Particularly, value creation in rituals emerges as an ongoing, multilayered process (script-based) exerted by customers meant to feed their needing for rituals.

Furthermore, ritualizing customers gather in communitas, that is an extended, temporary customer ecosystem, wherein value is intersubjectively and dynamically determined by multiple subjects and contexts. Service providers may benefit from this study by using the framework to better facilitate customer value creation in rituals and to gain interesting insights on product and service innovation.

Read the dissertation in full text here: “Customer Rituals: Ethnographic explorations of wine rituals with families and friends”