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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

(Updated 4/14) Branding Lessons from the Lubavitcher Rebbe (may he rest in peace)

It occurred to me that not everybody knows who the Lubavitcher Rebbe is, so I'm updating this post with a bit more information.

First, here is a picture of the Rebbe. Even if you aren't Jewish you may have seen this picture somewhere in a major city.


Here is the Wikipedia entry on Chabad Chassidus (Hasidism), the philosophy of Judaism underpinning the Rebbe's work.


I am not an expert on Chabad by any means, but I can describe briefly my understanding of this philosophy, how I came to learn about it, and why it matters to communicators.


What it is

First - Chabad Chassidim practice Orthodox Judaism. They keep the law.


What's unique about Chassidim

Generally speaking, Chassidim (as versus non-Chassidim) incorporate aspects of Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah) into their spiritual practices. Kabbalah, until the advent of this phase of Jewish spirituality, was considered a bit dangerous in that it could easily be distorted and used the wrong way.


The traditional emphasis among religious Jews is to simply do what you're supposed to do (the mitzvot, or positive observances), and develop the moral qualities that support leading a good life.


My personal background is Satmar Chassidus. Like most Chassidic communities, Satmar Chassidim keep to themselves to avoid negative spiritual influences from outside.


Chabad Chassidim


This group differs a lot from traditional Chassidism. "Chabadniks" go anywhere and everywhere to "liberate the sparks" of holiness that are trapped inside people who are currently acting in a negative way.


This, to them, is the essence of spirituality. They don't see evil as irredeemable, but rather as good trapped inside of evil.


The Rebbe
The most recent leader of Chabad Chassidus, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (may he rest in peace), believed strongly in using every and any avenue to reach the most people possible. He was avid about technology and communication, using every medium to spread the word.


My experience with Chabad

A lot of stories here, but my most vivid recollection is that I once lined up among thousands of people in Brooklyn, NY, many years ago to meet the Rebbe in person. It was his custom to give you a dollar (interestingly they never asked for money, but rather gave you money).
The Rebbe looked straight at me. At the time I was a young person and I was going through a tough time.


He said three words in Hebrew: "Besever Panim Yafos."

Which basically means to receive everyone with joy - to smile, goshdarn it.


So below are the 10 practices I alluded to yesterday. Together they have built Chabad into THE LARGEST JEWISH ORGANIZATION IN THE WORLD.


I am not going to say they are like a "10 Commandments of Communication" because that would just be cutesy.


1. Get out there. Don't wait for your customer to find you.

2. Never, ever allow yourself to think negative. Just act positively and constructively.


3. Welcome everybody with genuine warmth.


4. Embrace a unique look that is meaningful to you.


5. Feelings are unstable and inconsistent. Focus on behavior - the mother of brand consistency. Behavior creates reality by changing your thinking and others' perceptions of you.


6. Communicating clearly is good practice - not "dumbing it down."


7. People respond to physical brand symbols - e.g. the "Mitzvah Tank."


8. Get people of all ages involved in an experience related to the brand - lighting Sabbath candles for example.


9. Be everywhere.


10. Invest heavily in your brand ambassadors.


To learn more: www.chabad.org.