Passover: The Marketing Miracle

Nu & Improved

By Lenore Skenazy

Published March 30, 2011, issue of April 08, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share

If you were wondering (which, perhaps, you weren’t) how to create the most memorable ad campaign ever — one that will get stuck in your brain, like the Taco Bell chihuahua; or Coke’s “I’d Like To Teach the World To Sing” song, or even the E*TRADE baby, except for an extra couple of THOUSAND years — there is one marketing marvel that you should study hard: Passover.

You bet your sweet matzo ball! As a holiday, it’s my favorite. As a religious festival, it reminds us of our very foundation as Jews. But as a how-to for would-be Mad Men, it is the Ten Commandments. (How appropriate!)

Commandment 1:

Find a catchy theme song.

While “Chad Gadya” isn’t at the top of anyone’s hit parade, there’s clearly one great tune inextricably linked to the holiday: “Dayenu.” This song is so simple, you learn the chorus just by learning its name. But just in case you somehow didn’t catch it, the word is repeated for 15 verses, 12 TIMES A VERSE. It’s a song you can sing to your oldest relatives, who have forgotten almost everything else, and they will chorus in, gleefully. THAT is the sign of a great jingle.

Commandment 2:

Don’t miss a single demographic!

You can aim for one part of the population and get one part of the market (Budweiser/Young Men, Viagra/Those Young Men 35 Years Later). But if you’ve got something for everyone (Hershey’s, iPhones), it just doesn’t pay to leave anyone behind. At Passover, we don’t. What says the wise son, dumb son, mean son — everyone’s got a say. Likewise, everyone who’s able to read the Haggadah aloud is expected to join in. It’s like the hora, only sitting down.

Commandment 3:

Bring home the message.

Don’t say, “This is what God did for my ancestors….” Who cares about ancestors? Do we drink lime rickeys anymore? Run to the store for castor oil? No, all this was important to the folks before us. But on Passover, it’s, “This is what God did for ME.” Not you, not them — me. That is the phrase every marketer is dying to make consumers believe: This is for me! This is not my father’s festival of freedom. It’s mine!

Commandment 4:

Get ’em while they’re young.

By roping the youngest child into reciting the Four Questions, Passover guarantees kiddie involvement — and new kiddies, year after year! Those sing-song questions become part of the kids’ earliest memories, like nursery rhymes or lullabies, except more important, because they had to perform them in front of the ultimate audience: the family! It’s like a practice bar mitzvah. Huge!

Commandment 5:

Games! Coupons!

We might not have any scratch-off games or sweepstakes, but we do have their prototype —the afikomen. We hide the matzo and, just like one of those games at McDonald’s, everyone tries to win. Redeem the crunchy coupon for cash prizes!

Commandment 6:

Keep ’em hungry for more.

How do you get people to pay attention for five full hours on Super Bowl Sunday? Chips and dip! You give them just enough snacks to keep them happy, but not quite enough to fill them up before the chili. Well, on Passover we’ve got chips and dip, too. Even before the big game — er, brisket — we’ve got salt water; parsley; haroset; maror, or bitter herbs, and a whole lot of chips. Well, matzo. Look, we got into this game long before anyone ever heard of Doritos. Naturally there have been some product improvements along the way.

Commandment 7:

Repetition, repetition, repetition.

Remember how you learned the Oscar Mayer wiener song? It wasn’t by hearing it just once. And twoallbeefpattiesspecialsaucelettucecheese… — that took awhile to internalize, too. Advertisers run their ads over and over, because that’s how we learn. (That’s how we learn in school, too.) So every year, we, too, repeat the same story! Can you remember anything else about Rabbi Gamliel except that he and his buddies spent the holiday talking about “all the days of your life,” which, one of them suddenly realized, meant all the days AND nights? Now, each year you hear the rabbi’s name, it bores a little deeper into your soul, as does the whole gestalt.

Commandment 8:

Honor thy father and mother.

Yes, yes, I know I’m stealing from another list, but the point is, if you can get a whole family together — mom, dad, kids, grandparents — it becomes a big deal. So the older generation will always make a Seder, because that way the kids will always come. Well, often come. Except when it’s semester-abroad time. Or they got married and moved to Moscow. Or they’ve gone vegan. Or they’ve decided they hate — well, anyway, point is, if you can get buy-in from all the generations, you’ve got a hit!

Commandment 9:

Add wine!

In fact— make it mandatory. Who’s gonna say no to a holiday like that?

Commandment 10:

Come up with a great brand name.

Okay, so we’ve got singing, drinking, eating, meeting, playing, praying, hiding, seeking, repetition, multigenerational involvement and a great story. What’s missing marketing-wise?

It needs a name! Short. Easy to spell. And the name should MEAN something or reflect a key point, like how God didn’t slay the firstborn sons of the Jews who put lamb’s blood on their doors. I like to think that if anyone had asked ME way back when, I’d have come up with a killer name: Lamb-a-rama!

But “Passover” is pretty catchy, too. And it seems to be working.

Lenore Skenazy is a public speaker and the author of “Free-Range Kids” (Wiley, 2010).


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.