Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, I was, thanks to my trusty red cape, Superman. The blue pajamas provided un-told powers: authority over adult figures, none of whom could impose sugar sanctions on October 31st. Suddenly the ruling class was without rules—but how could this be?
Years later I would learn the ‘S’ emblazoned on my chest was not the source of suspension, instead the pause was prompted by what psychologists refer to as a Ritual of Reversal. A recess of the regular routine, Rituals of Reversal allow us to violate otherwise solid social codes; typically tame types transpose the order of expected actions, flaunt otherwise unacceptable behavior or swap the standard roles of parent-child, boss-worker, male-female.
Thus, each October countless children “threaten” creatures thrice their age and size for candy, men receive makeovers and fishnet stockings, and pranks become par for the Halloween course.
Rituals of Reversal reaffirm our regular behavior by allowing us to exercise our demons during a period of uninhibited bliss. Seasons and events centered on serving a break from the standard (think beyond Halloween, and into Mardi Gras, April Fool’s Day, or Carnival), garner specialized attention from marketers as a rare moment of receptivity when consumers are at their most liberated, lively selves.
However, focusing on a single event or pre-defined time misses a much larger and longer lasting opportunity—creating those moments for your consumers throughout the year. What if your product could provide a personal Ritual of Reversal on any given day or night? What if your product became inherently intertwined with the bliss that’s borne from shaking the shackles of standard?
Now that’s a trick which could yield many treats.