Friday, May 14, 2010


So we were sitting around with Jerry one day -- me and the other Marketing and Communications folk -- spitballing ideas of how to stimulate young Jews continent-wide to consider federations as their home. We weren't really coming up with anything when suddenly one of the guys sneezed -- "ISH" was the sound we heard. Gesundheit, I yelled. "That's it," a couple of the pros with whom I work yelled out. "That's what?" the rest of us cried. "ISH, don't you get it? It's all about being Jewish and relating to the feds." "Huh?" some of us asked. But, believe it or not, from a sneeze came one of the great marketing ideas of all time.

I know, some of you cynics out there, and all of you over 35 don't get it but, really, like our famous Heroes campaign, we have sent this "ish-thing" up the flagpole and everyone under 35 saluted. In our press release on May 6 (The Jewish Federations of North America Launches "what's Your #Ish?") we said, in relevant part, "...Readers are invited to [post their ideas of what being Jewish means to them...and to tag their #ish with the hash-tag symbol." Don't know what that sentence means?? That's ok because neither do we -- that's our gift.

Yeah, it could mean British or Finnish, Scottish or Spanish, but it doesn't; it would be foolish to think so. This is about being #ish; what's so hard to kapish? It's not necessary to embellish even if you think the whole idea hellish. It's just the ishist -- try that as the anagram it's meant to be. And, if worst comes to worst, remember -- the ISH website is where you will find innovative bathroom design.

But, if you would go to our #ish website, you can watch the great ads we've done with some major stars -- the Sklar brothers and Joey something (both very funny) -- that speak to the ishiness of being Jewish and federation-connected. Some people will think us foolish, others will wish we would take our ish and bury the "idea" such as it, is.

But, that's not all -- "[F]or every #ish response, JFNA will credit 25 cents (yes, that's $.25) to a $50,000 #ish fund for charity. The fund will cover the core thematic needs supported by the ...Annual Campaign." This will give the lie to those out there who say that JFNA fails to meaningfully support the Annual Campaign. Continuing our work begun with the famous UJC "pizza and a Pepsi" campaign, we are there for the federations, our owners in meaningful ways. Those quarters will add up quickly, so give us your #ish before we run out.


This all brings to mind a brilliant cartoon in the May 10 New Yorker. Two guys are standing in front of a movie theater:"I can't decide if that was bad in a good way, good in a good way, good in a bad way, or bad in a bad way." Except, I can...

So, friends, start asking yourselves and your friends the obvious question aloud: "what's your #ish" and watch strangers staring at you quizzically. Your only #ish once you know.



Anonymous said...

Richard-I almost always agree with your viewpoint, but I have to say you disappointed me today. The #ish campaign is cute and catchy, as are the videos but tell me how in the world the #ish campaign is going to help my generation (yes, I am 30) turn into the next generation of philanthropists? I think this cleaver idea is a cute way to bring some new people in, but then what....why are we so scared to share what our mission as an organization is? Just like the hero's campaign, this campaign will bring in new email addresses and names, but will fail to make the transition to donors, leaders and supporters of our Federation System. Then where will we be in 20 years?

Naftali said...

The marketing process of exposing ones brand into the culture and consciousness of the desired constituency is not easily measured by empirical metrics, like dollars gained from email addresses collected. That is a challenge all marketers deal with. The Hero and Ish campaigns have started to insert JFNA as a distinctive voice in the crowded house of mainstream social media. If new people don't know you exist, they surely aren't going to inspired by your value laden messages of organizational purpose.

While each of these campaigns may lack 1:1 ROI justification, compared to what was done by UJC in years past, I believe this pattern of initiatives is a laudable achievement to be respected and appreciated.

Anonymous said...

ROI - return on Investment - while its nice to borrow the tortured business speak of the foundation world how about the old fashioned question: How does this program make a Jewish difference? While separated by a generation I'm with the first anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Do you think any of these market savy people know American slang? Were they born somewhere else or what? Ish has nothing to do with Jewish. Thsi scould only have been doen by someone who speaks English as a second language.

You do not need to be a maven in Urban Slang to know what ISH is:

1. Word meaning kind of, sort of, or a little bit. Can be tacked on to an existing word or used by itself. Placed after an adjective meaning "kinda," less severity of, not as much, or not as important.
a. Come over at 12-ish. (give or take an hour)
b. That color is blue-ish
c. Person a: Do you think these jeans make me look fat?
Person b: ... ish.
Person a: *punches Person b in the face
d. this song is too rap-ish for my tastes..."
2. An explanation for an event, etc. that describes it as going "okay," or "so-so."
a. "So how was the party?" W: "Eh.... It was ish."
3. Describing if a person is average looking"
a. “Okay would you go out with her?" : "Naw. She's too Ish"
4. Slang used in place of the word "shit. Derived from the process of editing the vocals of rap-songs by reversing the curse words so the song could be played on radio or television.
a. Awww Ish!" : "Hahaha way to watch the language around your lady-friend."
b. "That's the dope ish"

These guys are are laughing stock of Madison Avenue.

RWEX said...

Thanks to all of you. FYI, take a look at The Fundermentalist's analysis of #ish in his weekly newsletter. Jacob Berkman, a/k/a The Fundermentalist, cites a sidebar in which noted that "'ish' is also urban slang for shit," proceeds to cite some of the ishisms on the JFNA ish website that support that conclusion and then strangely concludes that "[T]his just makes the whole thing even cooler."

OK then.

Naftali said...

Marketing campaigns in both the profit and non profit worlds commonly engage in low barrier engagement activities to generate initial touch points with potential constituents. Expectations of immediate and direct Jewish impact might be right for Jewish programming initiatives, but would likely weigh down a marketing campaign designed to engage new people with JFNA messaging.

Regarding the perceived value and quality of the ISH campaign itself as a social media engagement initiative, to each his own. All I can say is that I went to Ramah Israel seminar and college with the Sklar brothers and doubt very much they would put their name on something that would be a laughing stock on Madison Avenue, but hey, my digital marketing agency is in New Jersey so I don't know what's being laughed at on Madison Ave.

Anonymous said...

hey in this day and age all JFNA programs need to have "sole"!

Anonymous said...

I never gave because of a marketing campaign. I gave because someone called me and insisted on having lunch.

Naftali said...

So federations should only raise funds from someone they have phone numbers for and their potential $36 dollar first time gift is worth a $50 lunch by a professional or volunteer fundraisers with all the time in the world?

Oh,I know...federations should do away with marketing campaigns to engage new people they have never met, and instead, call strangers in the phone book with Jewish sounding names and invite them to lunch to extol the virtues of federated giving?

Anonymous said...

The utter sadness of Naftali's comment is that obviously a generation of caring Jews like him are no longer exposed to the earlier culture of Federation fundraising down to the little detail of something called lay (volunteer) solicitation and a first time ask that had 3 or 4 zeros at the end of it.

Nachman the Neanderthal

Anonymous said...

I also agree with the first anonymous and appreciate the heart and pride that Naftali has in his "baby". The truth is that heros and ish both may engage new people, but why are neither one of them clearly branded "Federation"? Do you think anyone makes the connection between the heros campaign and JFNA??

Naftali said...

I'm sorry, I really have no interest in keeping this going. But, once again, the last anonymous post means well but just doesn't understand what it means to run a sophisticated, multi-layered relationship marketing program in today's digital world. Good social media creates momentum that carries on without you.

Here is a quote from Rabbi Yonah Bookstein's blog (Yonah, as you will remember was the top vote getter in the Heroes campaign and is hugely known and respected in the younger demographic).

Jewish Federations of North America, aka JFNA, aka The Fed (remember the one’s who created the Jewish Community Hero’s Contest?) have a new campaign they launched called “What’s Your #ISH?”

JFNA is the umbrella org for all the Federations of North America and in that capacity feel responsible for every Jew. Everywhere. Really. I mean I have met these people, and they are serious about loving Jews all over this planet. Check out the video and pass it along to a friend.

Yonah is helping brand JFNA to his constituency BECAUSE of these programs!

I am not here to defend my "baby", rather I am maintaining that my talented friends in the JFNA marketing department should be recognized, not criticized, for doing their part to keep the titanic from sinking. If they weren't experimenting with social media campaigns like Heroes and ISH, then they should be criticized!

RWEX said...


Thanks for your interest in the Blog...and for your spirited defense of not only "ish but Heroes. Of course, you answered none of the questions raised arising out of your spirited defense, you merely became more and more shrill.

I am certain that with your expertise in the mainstream social media you know that one is not forced to read a Blog or is the aBlogger required to print Comments from any one. You should change channels now.

Anonymous said...

$300,00? hello?