Posted by: Jeff Rubin, Associate Vice President for Communications on 2/6/2007 5:13:00 PM
Many Hillel professionals have approached me about improving Hillel’s “brand” on their campus and in their community. That’s a really tall order – and I could use the help of Hillel stakeholders around the world.
The term “brand” means different things to different people. Many professionals use it to mean nothing more than their Hillel’s stationery, print material and signage. That’s a relatively easy fix. It is far more difficult to repair a bad brand when that means fixing a bad reputation.
The Torah has an interesting lesson to teach on the concept of “brand.” When God commissions Moses to lead the Israelites from Egypt, Moses asks: “But if they ask me what is (Your) name (shem), what am I to tell them?” God responds by saying, “I will be what I will be.” One commentator explains that “I will be what I will be” means that God will respond with the quality that befits the situation: God will be merciful or severe depending upon the need. In this case, the word “shem” should not be understood merely as “name” but in the more comprehensive sense of “reputation.”
A brand is more than a name, a logo, or stationery. A brand is the sum total of the consumer's experience. Without seeing a logo, a consumer knows that “Target” means one thing and “Saks Fifth Avenue” another.
It is not just the images in their advertisements, but the interaction with the staff. It's not just the quality of the product, but how the product is presented. And it's not just a one-time event, but the total of the consumers' experience: A good brand can withstand one bad consumer experience, a bad brand can't. If your Hillel is considered unwelcoming and it gives a student a frosty reception, he or she may not come back. If you have a warm Hillel, the student may give you the benefit of the doubt. (I recommend the excellent PBS Frontline documentary “The Persuaders” for an explanation of how several companies created a total brand experience for their clients and consumers.)
Hillel’s Strategic Planning Process did volumes to help us identify the assets and liabilities of Hillel’s brand. For example, we know that students widely respect Hillel but they do not consider Hillel to be “welcoming.” Hillel has already begun to take steps to change our brand to reflect these findings. Our new vision, mission and values have given us standards to guide us. The Campus Entrepreneurs Initiative not only identifies a new cadre of student leaders, but is forging positive, welcoming relationships one student at a time. Hillel’s Human Resources Department helps professionals to project a more student-friendly persona. Our Communications Department has created new materials that avoid cold, corporate-ness and put caring professionals in the foreground. New campus-based student programs are being developed that will change the way Hillel operates and is perceived.
Much more needs to be done locally and internationally to improve Hillel’s brand and to help us achieve our big hairy audacious goal: To double the number of Jewish students involved in Jewish life and who have meaningful Jewish experiences.
I invite Hillel professionals to send me an e-mail with their thoughts about Hillel’s brand and to volunteer to help with our makeover.
RE: Hillel’s “Brand”
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