A High-Tech Brand Called Judaism

A High-Tech Brand Called Judaism

By Dan Israel / dan@reptilestorytelling.com

Dan Israel for Atlanta Jewish Times
Dan Israel and family

I have spent the past several years working at the intersection of marketing and technology for brands across a wide range of industries. In plain English, this generally means getting someone to like and buy your brand through a combination of witty marketing and an ability to communicate with her on an Internet-enabled device such as a mobile phone or tablet.

As I survey the Jewish community, both in terms of what I experience and what friends share with me, I have surmised that Jewish organizations encounter the same challenges as those of major brands across a range of industries. In essence, what can we do to get consumers to care about us, and how should we mash up marketing with technology to make it so?

Like so many brands, our Jewish institutions got used to controlling the message and dictating the processes for engagement. It came from years of tradition and repetition, with few alternatives and little pushback. But if you think about yourself or any youth out of diapers, power lies in the hands of the consumer. No matter how hard brands try to control what consumers do or say, we consumers now possess the power to do as we please with any brand, without a brand’s “written consent” or perhaps even awareness.

Suffice it to say, for brands of any flavor, be it consumer or religious, the No. 1 challenge is how to remain (or become) relevant to consumers in an always-on, always-connected world where a distraction is only a swipe away. Before longing for Purim so we can drown our sorrows, let’s take a look at how some brands overcome this situational analysis.

The brands that truly connect with consumers follow two simple rules. The first rule of engagement: Develop a relationship with me. Don’t just treat me like a piggybank.

I have seen one too many brands treat every interaction as an opportunity to shake down a consumer. An email about a new product offering, a text message about a discount, all of it drives home the same thing — come to me to buy something. But Sephora has realized that to truly integrate yourself into someone’s lifestyle, you have to provide utilitarian capabilities not just in the store, but also outside the store.

In Sephora’s tablet app, someone can learn how to apply blush by watching a video on half the screen while the other half uses the front-facing camera to show you following the lesson. No sale, just something relevant to the consumer outside a store visit.

The second rule of engagement: Let me play a role in the creation of your brand. Maybe one of the best examples is a monolithic icon protected by a secret formula no one can tamper with: Coca-Cola. For the past three years, Coca-Cola has rolled out something called the Freestyle machine, a new generation of fountain dispenser.

It doesn’t just let you pour a Coke; it lets you concoct any type of drink you like from the 100-plus flavors in the machine. You can store your mix selection in an app that can be used at a different Freestyle machine later or shared with others. In essence, the quintessential, unalterable beverage known for over 100 years has found a way to let consumers co-create with the company.

The thread through these two rules is the involvement of the people being targeting as consumers. Effective brands seek to make their consumers active participants, not passive bystanders. Why can’t we do the same thing in the Jewish community?

Why can’t we flip the synagogue and make it easy to deliver Shabbat to the home every week?

Forget coming to synagogue. Create a Shabbat in your own home, and we will help you. Ship a Shabbat kit every week with all the trappings: the candles, the wine and the challah. Use one-hour delivery from Amazon so people can make the decision as late as Friday afternoon.

Even more compelling: Provide more freemium options for Jewish Atlantans. Let nonmembers of a synagogue pre-pay for Shabbat on Demand with a Starbucks-like loyalty program. Better yet, let existing members have a choice — pay annual dues or go for a prepaid option, each with different benefits.

Let people from different synagogues collaborate on the creation of a service of their own making. Don’t force them to attend the synagogue service to make this happen; let them do it via a Skype session. And even let people outside a synagogue join in.

Provide forums for Jewish Atlantans to compare and contrast their experiences with synagogues, rabbis and Jewish organizations across the city.

Brands have come to understand how ratings and reviews drive consumer satisfaction and increase authenticity. Shouldn’t we experiment with reviews ourselves?

What we must come to understand is that competition for Judaism is coming not from other quarters of the Jewish community, but from nontraditional competitors as diverse as Lifetime Fitness and yoga studios.

My purpose in laying out these two rules of engagement is to start a conversation. Let us collaborate on ways to make our Jewish institutions more relevant to the 120,000 Jewish Atlantans who are only one swipe away from joining us.

Like all members of the tribe, Dan Israel needs to be heard. As a native Atlantan and a Jewish Republican, he’s practically traif in most neighborhoods. Besides talking smack about politics, Dan spends his time at Reptile Storytelling smartening up brands with digital capabilities and insights.

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