TM0301_Market Focus, Judaica (1,517 words)
Targeting this close-knit niche can be hard, but also rewarding
By Brendan Maher
As far as market share goes, Christmas is the clear winner over Hanukkah. Its popularity as a major marketing event isn't even matched by the Super Bowl (yet). At least one person tried to change that:
"So, if it feels like you're the only kid on the block without a Christmas tree, here's a list of people that are Jewish just like you and me."
Saturday Night Live's Adam Sandler may have been joking when he went on to list famous Jews from David Lee Roth to Mr. Spock in "The Hanukkah Song," but he does touch on a major theme of what it means to be Jewish: the comfort taken in the kinship with all other Jews.
It could be a product of the fact that Judaism is as much a race as it is a religion, or perhaps it is the struggles they have endured together during the centuries.
In any event, it translates to a 7.5-million-member diaspora in the United States that is spiritually connected and cares deeply for its members both nationally and internationally.
"It's a shared experience," says Caroline Sheffey, director of communications for the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry (NACOEJ). "There are certain historical experiences that are unique to the Jewish community."
With a high average level of education and a high median income, this is a group of people who have money not only to spend on themselves, but on others. As a group, Jews are moved by social crises such as the tragic living conditions of the Beta Israel in Ethiopia. And, they are willing to respond.
"In general, they are a great group for fund-raisers," says Lori Collins, manager of business development for Focus USA.
"It doesn't have to be a Jewish appeal," says David Rubin, vice president of R•C Direct, a Milwaukee-based list company that manages more than 300 Jewish donor and consumer lists.
In terms of general fund raising, Jewish fund-raising lists respond well. Gifts average $25 to $28. "That's above the national average," notes Rubin.
As Jill Cohen, president of R•C Direct, points out, "Jewish lists work for many mailers—UNICEF, Southern Poverty Law Center—they don't just give to Jewish causes." Indeed, hospitals, health-related charities and environmental issues all find good response in Jewish donors.
They say that timing is everything, and the general mailing times for Jewish fund-raisers, as well as merchants of specifically Judaic things, are going to circulate around holidays.
Normally the big time is August, just before the High Holy Days, and then during the holiday season in September, says Rubin.
Chana Rubin mails her annual kosher gift catalog, The Kosher Connection, during the high holiday season with smaller card mailings in November for Hanukkah and in February for Purim and Passover. But, for charities, other elements will factor in.
Like many other cause-related charities, Jewish fund-raisers are quick to cash in on the news. During the 2000 holiday season, The Wall Street Journal noted that while other charities were slumping, fund-raisers for Jewish causes were fairing fine due to events in the Middle East.
"Unfortunately," says Cohen, "when things like this happen, people do more mailings, but it does bring up a tick in people's awareness of the events."
Many Jewish fund-raising mailings are designed to inform, or at least remind, prospects of the hardships Jews are facing all over the world. This is a major consideration going into creative, says Sheffey.
"It's best when you are addressing issues that are of relevance—things that are of interest historically, presently or both. In Jewish direct mail, there is a high responsiveness because Jews want to take care of each other. It's a historical mandate," she says.
In terms of the package, sensitivity to specific issues of interest is crucial. "How to use certain turns of phrase and how to say certain things so that they can feel a kinship to the writer and the issue that you are writing to," Sheffey says, is mandatory to really resonate with the Jewish experience.
Cohen says that while personalization may pull a better response, it's not always worth the cost. She suggests not using it for acquisition mailings. She does, however, say her clients have seen better response with longer letters: three to four pages or more.
The letters rely on the education of the readers and their knowledge of events, and they instill outrage about national and international crises. Messages to this group must be smart and informative, and must drive home the call to action.
In addition to asking for a financial contribution, control efforts from NACOEJ and the Simon Wiesenthal Center contain pre-written postcards to be signed by the reader and sent to world leaders. Readers are given a chance to voice their concerns to prominent world leaders and hopefully swamp them with the message. This involvement device, says Sheffey, fulfills a different kind of need.
But, should people respond because you sent the right message at the right time? Of course not. You have to reach the right people, and that might be the hardest part.
One of the problems for mailers and owners, is that traditional Jewish lists are pretty small, explains Rubin of R•C Direct. "Thirty-thousand is considered big in this market. Sometimes the biggest problem is to find enough good names in the area [you] are looking to test," he says.
Other lists (e.g., Jewish vegetarians) are narrow. They'll work well for marketers who have a specific niche to target.
Cohen takes a direct approach when looking for good fund-raiser lists. "I look for, number one, that the people are actually Jewish and, second, that they've given to a Jewish cause or Jewish publication or purchased Jewish things. Then I get to the more general things like recency." But, she says, with such small lists, recency isn't always available.
Thanks to modern technology, however, other larger lists can be overlaid with ethnic and religious data. TJ Lindsay, director of ethnic research at Ethnic Technologies, works to determine ethnicity and religion based on onomastic variables of the first and last name, plus geographic information.
"Chances are," says Lindsay, "that if a particular Kaufmann is living in Boro Park Brooklyn, he's Jewish. If that same name was found in Wisconsin, there's a better chance that he's a Lutheran. It's a predictive system."
Through this kind of technology, ethnic data can be overlaid on huge subscription and donor files to find Jews. It's not a perfect system, however.
For starters, religious and ethnic information cannot be identified using Census data. "The Census Bureau can't ask for that kind of information," says Collins of Focus USA.
What's more, Jews are dispersed throughout the world, and as such they can be of many different ethnicities. While a process that looks at both first name, last name and geographic variables like that at Ethnic Technologies will be more accurate than simply assigning ethnicity by surname, there's still room for error.
Barbara Sims, a broker at Fairfax, VA-based Carol Enters List Co., says these kinds of lists are "about 70 percent as effective. Of course, a donor list that's overlaid is going to be better than a subscription list."
Sims explains that many overlay lists end up being quite expensive, "but it's a finite market," she says. "Once you've hit a large portion of that population through existing lists, there has to be new venues to try."
Another problem facing mailers is the extraordinarily high duplication rate due to the small population.
"The merge rate is where you get killed," says Sims. "It can be as high as 50 percent."
When you're losing half of your names on merge/purge, it can get pretty expensive.
"We look for net name deals where we can, exchanges where we can, but the dupe rates are very high. It's the Achilles' heel of the Jewish mailer," Sims explains.
High dupe rates have made exchanges popular. Many lists are offered on an exchange-basis only. "Exchanges do seem to be a lot more popular," says Cohen, "because it's far less expensive."
However, the high rate of exchange poses a problem for non-Jewish fund-raisers and merchants looking to tap this market. Without a Jewish overlay on their donor lists, they have little to offer in exchange.
As such, Cohen will at times suggest that her mailers rent subscription lists. "They get a lower response rate, but a higher average gift," she says.
Hamakor Judaica Catalog: 233,000 active accounts. Price: $105/M. Call: R•C Direct, (800) 624-9050.
Movin' and Spendin' Jewish New Movers: 246,000 one-month new movers. Price: $75/M. Call: Adrea Rubin Management, (646) 487-3783.
Giving Americans by Religion: 351,000 donors selected by religion. Price: $68/M. Call: Focus USA, (201) 489-2525.
Maccabi USA/Sports for Israel: 15,000 members/donors. Price: $75/M. Call: AZ Fund Raising, (203) 629-8088, ext. 100.
92nd St Y: 4,900 ticket buyers for Jewish lectures and education in Manhattan. Price: $90/M. Call: MSGi Direct, (215) 968-5020.
The Jewish Source: 1 million buyers and subscribers ethnicated. Price: $95/M. Contact: List Services Corp., (203) 791-4469.