Our Jewish Synagogue is a Brand and Why You Should Care

I cringe when people talk about branding these days.

Too often, what they are talking about is the name of their product or a refreshed website and graphics.

While that’s part of being a brand, it is insufficient by itself.

As Founder and President Emeritus of Insights in Marketing, a research-based consulting firm based in Northbrook, I volunteered to lead a task force to brand my temple, Temple Jeremiah in Northfield.

Why would a Jewish Temple want to be branded?  If it sounds absurd to you, you should have been a fly on the wall in the meeting with leadership and clergy when it was first suggested!

While our name – Temple Jeremiah – clearly separated us from other reform Jewish temples on Chicago’s North Shore, it did not define us or promise a relevant experience to potential and current members. It was not enough to sustain us in the future.

So, we had to brand the temple, and if you’d like to know exactly how we did that, and why you should care, read on.

What is Branding Really?

What many marketers don’t realize is that while changing one’s name or look of a website and graphics may help separate one’s product or service from another, it does not typically have much meaning for your consumer, nor does it add much intrinsic value to the brand.

Maybe you feel you have built a brand because you have a blog and have been actively sending out messages trying to connect with consumers using the myriad of resources available to marketers these days. 

While you may know whether or not they are clicking on your messages, are they hearing you? 

Do you know if they care about your messaging? 

Do they care about your brand?

Again, this is part of being a brand, but it too is insufficient.

Often these tactics are about companies telling their audiences what they do, such as their services or offerings with little time spent sharing what the brand can do for their consumers.  There is little real or intrinsic benefit reward for consumers’ time.

What does define a brand is the total of what consumers think, feel and experience with your entity.  It is the reason why consumers want to choose you over competitive options.

It begins with what you stand for; you should try to tap into the higher-order emotional needs of your consumer as a person

If people can personally relate, are motivated by what you stand for, and you consistently deliver on this promise, it is like forming a partnership. 

Consumers will trust you, choose you and pay for your brand because they are receiving relevant benefits. In turn, you will be rewarded with loyalty, word-of-mouth, sales and growing brand equity.

To be clear, it is not about connecting with consumers; it is about consumers wanting to connect with you.  And when consumers want to connect, it imbues your brand with emotional value.

Real World Branding – How to do it right

Apparel company Bombas may be thought of as simply a sock company.  It is true, selling socks (and other apparel) is their product, but their brand is about helping others. 

Their website states, “We exist to help support the homeless community and to bring awareness to an under-publicized problem in the United States.  The more clothing items we sell, the more we donate.”

So far, Bombas has given away 38 million pairs of socks. Further, they have been profitable year after year since inception, according to a 2019 CNBC report.

They did this while facing strong, established competitors that focus primarily on the product. 

Bombas tells their consumers, “as we grow, our giving and community efforts grow right alongside us.”  Their growth and brand is strong because they tapped into consumers on an emotional level, and now people want to connect with them. 

They carry this through in all their consumer facings.  They have built and nurtured a relationship, a partnership, and they consistently deliver on their promise.

See how they did that?

Now, let’s consider branding at Temple Jeremiah.

We put together a task force that created a new look, feel and – most importantly – an experience at our temple.

This was captured by our logo and tagline that now imbues our culture as clergy, staff, leadership and members work hard to bring our brand story and brand voice to our members every day. 

We say, “When people feel personally connected to their temple community, they experience the joy of belonging.” 

We are tapping into a strong, emotional need, and now people want to connect.

So, if you’re looking to brand your company, ask yourself what are you going to stand for?

If you have an existing business, or if you are a new venture, or if you are thinking about your place of worship, or if you are an individual looking for a new position, you must be an authentic brand.  You must stand for something relevant and motivating. 

You must touch an emotional chord with your target audience, and then live that truth and bring it to life every day so consumers can trust in that experience and feel good about why they choose you.

If you consistently deliver on your promise, you will grow your business, build brand value and be differentiated.

Here is a summary guideline of the key steps you need to undertake:

  • Identify a specific, primary target; it is even better if you have an attitudinal target.
    • Bombas targets people who care and want to give back; they did not choose a demographic target.
    • Temple Jeremiah focuses on people who want to belong to, and be part of, a Jewish temple community.
  • Discover your prospects’ higher-order emotional needs.
    • Bombas recognized a human value that went beyond the need for a quality sock.
    • Temple Jeremiah recognized being part of a temple is more than its religious services, it is about the feeling one wants to have when being part of a temple.
  • Identify a way for your target audience to think about your brand, which:
    • Is true
    • Is relevant and motivating
    • Suggests higher-order emotional benefits for them as a person
    • Is distinctive; ownable (if possible.)
    • Is sustainable
  • Build a total experience – Your brand’s essence should be part of all you do.
  • Deliver that experience consistently and over time – All consumer facings should reflect and honor what you stand for.

Branding is not just a name, a blog, a Facebook account or a new website (I’m cringing.)

It is about standing for and delivering a meaningful experience over and over and over again; an experience your customers can count on over and over again.

Now, please ask yourself:

  • Do your consumers want to connect with your brand?
  • Does your brand reflect the sum total of what consumers think, feel and experience?

Branding is not easy, but our temple did it.

Who knows … when your entity is successfully branded, it might even feel like a religious experience!

Good luck.

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