How Rosh Hashana Can Be an Opportunity for Brands To Connect

Religious Holidays Present a Chance for Tasteful Marketing

By Published on .

Sam Tescher
Sam Tescher
September 8, was Erev Rosh Hashana, the day before the Jewish New Year 5771. My inbox, newsfeed and subscribed tweets quickly filled with new-year greetings from friends and Jewish organizations. I felt proud when posted a video message by the President wishing all who celebrate Rosh Hashana a sweet year full of health and prosperity. Rosh Hashana unites all streams of the Jewish community and is significant to many Americans, as it has become a point of reference in our nation's cultural calendar and a part of popular culture. For brands, there is an opportunity for tasteful recognition of the holiday through focusing on its relevancy to their consumers.

Sept. 29, 2008, the day the Dow dropped 777 points, I was on the subway heading to Brooklyn for the Rosh Hashana holiday and reading The Wall Street Journal's description of how the Bush stimulus package was fading and consumer spending was declining. A small ad on the page still managed to successfully entice me to splurge for a $195 Tiffany & Co. silver bread knife with a challah design on its handle. Just when I gave up on any acknowledgment of this important holiday season from my beloved brands, here was posh Tiffany & Co. winking at me from the top of page 3 in the WSJ. It wasn't just a New Year greeting; they were actually offering me a special product I could use on this occasion.

The following weekend, I was pleasantly surprised to see the silver knife decking a friend's Shabbat table. He then shared, "I bet Tiffany's didn't know about the centuries-old tradition of buying a new knife for Rosh Hashana" pointing to the source in a medieval book of Jewish Minhagim (customs). His studying of the ad and finding meaning beyond the obvious intent, typical of a yeshiva graduate wired to analyze Talmudic texts, confirmed a successful emotional connection with the brand. Tiffany's took advantage of the opportunity to connect with their customers based on a significant holiday by promising and delivering on the emotional aspirations and expectations of those who celebrate Rosh Hashana.

Each community has special customs for the High Holy Days based on their traditions. Of the most widely observed is the dipping a sweet red apple in honey to symbolize the start of a sweet new year. Since Erev Rosh Hashana 5769, when I first saw the Tiffany's ad, it's become my annual minhag (custom) to buy the broadsheets and marvel at the half a dozen or so department stores who recognize Rosh Hashana. Tiffany & Co. is still the only brand to expand beyond the widely portrayed Leshana Tova greeting and include an offering specially selected for the holiday; this year it was a William Yeoward Buzzy honey jar in crystal with wood spoon. The headline reads "For A Sweet New Year". Tiffany's is celebrating Rosh Hashana, not just greeting those who celebrate.

To all with big plans for 5771, may your brand be reinvigorated in creativity, and enjoy renewed innovation and rapid multicultural growth in the New Year.

Sam Tescher is founder of the Tescher Advertising Agency, New York. He advocates for diversifying Madison Avenue and is a co-founder of iCared (Inclusion Council to Advance Reinforce Encourage Diversity) at TBWA/Chiat/Day.
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