After a nine-month study of 5,000 people in 26 countries, the agency narrowed our daily rituals into five stages, each of which represents an emotional state that influences behavior.
The study can make life seem depressingly like "Groundhog Day," but there is also comfort to be had in that regular morning cup of coffee or the routine pampering session in preparation for a special occasion.
Brands, meet life
By identifying the rituals we perform as we move through the day, the idea is to work out how to fit brands into those rituals and create products, packaging and communication to make it happen.
For example, women in Colombia, Brazil and Japan are most likely to apply makeup in the car, and 49% of Chinese eat on the way to work (against a global average of 17%). Such statistics suggest product innovations and marketing strategies that could prove useful.
"The idea here is to look at rituals as an important behavior in consumers' lives, to understand what they are, how they work and how to work our clients' brands into them," said Andrew Robertson, BBDO Worldwide president-CEO. "We usually look at behavior through the lens of a brand or a category. This is an extra lens to look through."
However set in stone our routines may be, there are always opportunities for clever marketers to infiltrate rituals and seek out moments when they may be disrupted. One Dutch interviewee had used Gillette razors all his life. On holiday at a Club Med, he was given free Wilkinson razors for a fortnight.
Each morning we go through a transformation from feeling "neutral and cocooned" to becoming "prepared ... to face the day." It involves an average seven steps taken in less than an hour, and specific brands are important.
The rituals of showering, shaving, eating breakfast, fixing hair or putting on makeup happen on autopilot, in the same sequence. Eighty-nine percent of us rely on the same brands, so any disturbance to the normal routine can affect a person's mood. More Americans check their e-mail than talk to their partners before they leave the house.
Americans are also among the cleanest people in the world: 90% brush their teeth, compared with a global average of 82%, and 86% take a bath or shower, compared with an average of 74% (although Mexicans are the cleanest, at 92%).
This ritual can involve anything from grabbing a drive-thru burger to a formal dinner party planned weeks in advance. Ideally, though, feasting is about being connected to your community. Brands can take on a great emotional significance around food and sociability, such as the group of Germans who talk about a particular rosé wine they always drink on vacation with their friends.
American are most likely to meet in a restaurant (27%), while the Spanish and French eat the highest percentage of meals at home (42%). Italians, French and Spanish do not eat at work or in the car, but the car has become a dining venue for Saudis (12%), Chinese (10%) and Americans (10%).
The act of transforming our normal everyday image into our most confident self is all about preening, indulging and grooming. It should be a pleasurable ritual, but it can be stressful because of all the choices to be made. This is the time when brands can make people feel special and boost their confidence, when people treat themselves with luxury products and forget diets.
Most people wait for the weekend to have sex, with 31% opting for Saturday, 10% on Friday and 9% on Sunday. Only 1% of people have sex on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. The hottest time of day is after 10 p.m., when 33% of people prefer to get intimate.
The reverse of preparing for battle, this ritual is all about unwinding at the end of the day, relaxing and gaining release from stress. It can start when you walk through the front door after a day at the office or when you pour a glass of wine after you've put the kids to bed, but there is a period of about four hours when most people wash the day away.
TV is a crucial part of the evening ritual for 66% of people around the world, while 39% of people go online. Brazilians are busiest, with an average of eight activities including bathing, eating and praying. Americans, however, are bad at creating "me time," with only 27% saying they find it.
The final ritual of the day occupies the shortest amount of time but is taken particularly seriously by husbands and fathers as they move from a state of relaxation to making sure that they are feeling safe and secure for the night. This would be a great time to sell insurance, because you'd find people preoccupied by security and safety as they switch into self-preservation mode. It's the time when people leave a packed bag by the front door, check on kids and pets, take medication or put on wrinkle creams.
Chinese women include more grooming in their bedtime rituals than other nationalities, taking the opportunity to style hair (15%) and put on makeup (11%). No American women put makeup on for bed and only 1% style hair, while 35% take off makeup at bedtime. On average, 43% of people have a nighttime routine -- 92% in China and 29% in Japan.