I read with great interest this past Sunday, October 3, 2010, The New York Times article, “Buy My Stuff – and Theirs, Too” by Joshua Brustein, that we in the Jewish community need to consider. The gist of the article is how J. Crew, one of the most successful online and in-store space clothing retailers, has determined that “friending” other purveyors’ goods makes great business sense for them and their customers. This is befriending – no, it’s actually community-building – taken to the max. J. Crew determined that surrounding its products with those of other fashion-related businesses, would create a more potent marketing picture for its consumers to consider and ultimately purchase that if they simply went the traditional route of merchandising their own goods.
If J. Crew has determined that offering its customers a fashion statement built on their clothing as well as related items from other retailers (think J. Crew sweater, slacks, scarf with someone else’s umbrella, hat, sports gear, healthy transportation and flavored vitamin water), you can see the potential opportunity J. Crew is leveraging to connect with consumers in a much more holistic way.
If you are a JCC, a federation, a synagogue, think about how you position yourselves to be a friendly source to those you wish to engage. In this new world of social media, where word of mouth and relationships trump any outright marketing ploy, take a lesson from J. Crew and start linking your efforts to relevant community partners … a federation appeal linked to the needs of the local synagogue education program, or the home for the elderly, or how the interests of the local JCC align with those of young families who choose to purchase “green products”, participate in organic food coops, give to the needy at their local food bank …
Successful marketing today is more and more about building both a full picture of the consumer’s life as they envision it and creating a network of authentic advocates who, without prompting or artifice, will tweet or “friend” you and offer their friends a trusted reason to buy into it. What peers say to each other about the total life experience and any given commodity that supports it, be it day school education or synagogue membership, trumps any paid advertisement or direct mail pitch. If you want to be valued for your service or product to the Jewish community, you have to ask yourself, “What are you are doing to build and nurture that community and its belief in you and your product?”
Marketing is quickly moving from traditional advertising and promotion to the more personal and trusted world of the social media world where friends honestly recommend a lifestyle and the product or service that feeds it. It is a world where individual endorsement says as much about the endorser and their commitment to a specific community as it does about the product or service they recommend.
If you want to be viewed as a contributor to that community, you have to be part of its maintenance. As Sarah Hofstetter, senior vice president for emerging media and brand strategy at 360i, a digital advertising agency said in The New York Times article, “This is a conversation, not a one-night stand. If you are in this community, make sure you are contributing to the maintenance of that community.”
For those of us in the Jewish community, the J. Crew story should suggest it is time for greater collaboration; for looking at all our “product” offerings from the more holistic perspective of how our consumers experience Jewish life. It is not about “my organization versus yours”. Rather, it is about community … where we each fit and how we all fit together to create a more powerful Jewish experience for every consumer of Jewish life … a little synagogue, a little JCC, a little social activism, a little education … put them all together for a full Jewish experience and each of us may find more buyers than if we had sold our wares separately.
Gail Hyman is a marketing and communications professional who currently focuses her practice, Gail Hyman Consulting, on assisting Jewish nonprofit organizations increase their ranks of supporters and better leverage their communications in the Web 2.0 environment. Gail is a regular contributor to eJewish Philanthropy.