By Bob London
Let me start by saying that, when the overall economic picture is, in the words of the experts, “cloudy,” money-saving ideas that might otherwise be thought of as cheesy, “beneath us” or “off the table,” should definitely be given serious consideration. OK, if these ideas are not actually going to be considered then at least my wife and I should be able to discuss them like adults. Or if not actually discuss, then I should be able to make suggestions without being ridiculed. Or at least write about them as a form of public commiseration without being accused of “embarrassing the family.”
I hear lots of complaints, many of them from myself, about the cost of Bar Mitzvahs (right now I’m sure one of my Jewish readers is muttering to him/herself that the correct plural is “B’nai Mitzvot”)–the ritual that celebrates a Jewish boy’s coming of age in his 13th year. For a Jewish girl it is called a Bat Mitzvah.
In a phenomenon not unike that which occurs among Starbucks addicts customers: everyone seems to complain about the cost and, in some cases, the bitter taste of Bar Mitzvahs–and, for that matter, weddings. I’ve lost track of the number of people who’ve grumbled something about wishing they could just have the darn thing in Israel, which would somehow give the event more meaning.
But everyone keeps going overboard as though there is some invisible force pressuring them. Well I think we all know that the invisible force is peer pressure. In fact, I recently learned that the Hebrew words “Bar Mitzvah” translate into “keeping up with the Goldsteins.”
So while everyone’s bemoaning the expense side of the equation, I’m doing something about it. And I’ve been doing a little innovative thinking on the revenue side as well. And I don’t mean the things people already do like having a cash bar or using our son’s gift money to pay for the catering. I’m talking about what I believe will one day be legitimate, socially-acceptable ways to offset the escalating costs of the Bar Mitzvah party.
And, like any visionary pioneer worth his Kosher salt, I’m not afraid to be the first to try them.
Get a Corporate Sponsor: Any high quality audience is going to be attractive to companies looking, in the self-important parlance of marketers, to “extend their brand,” “move the needle,” or “grow mind share.” So which companies would be interested in getting their name in front of about 150 upper-middle class professionals and kids? How about Geico, the ubiquitous insurer who has an unlimited budget and appears to be willing to slap its name on just about anything. Perhaps they’d be interested in the Yarmulke Sponsorship, which would put a cute, embroidered gekko on the mens’ skullcaps. OK, I’ll throw in the Tallit (prayer shawls) too. There are also multiple paid product placement opportunities: think Maneschewitz wine.
Monetize the Invitations: Along the same lines, I’ve noticed how much wasted space there is on Bar Mitzvah and wedding invitations. I’ll bet the caterer would give me a discount in exchange for a small, tasteful ad or “credit” on the reply card. Something like, “Mr./Ms. _____________ would love to attend and partake of the delicious salmon from Schleider’s Fine Catering in Rockville, MD!”
Webcast: It’s been decades since the business world discovered the convenience and cost-effectiveness of conference calls and web-based meetings to replace big off-site meetings. This is the perfect solution for those guests in your “outer circle”–the ones on the bubble who come up in every spousal fight conversation about who to in/exclude. ME: “We never see them.” HER: “But they invited us to their daughter’s.” ME: “But we didn’t even know their daughter.” HER: “That’s how it works.” ME: “Hrrumph.” The perfect compromise is to invite (by email of course) these members of our extended social/familial sphere to a delightful, high definition webcast of our son’s big day. To take some of the sting out of what they may consider to be a slight, all attendees will be registered for a drawing to win a $50 discount coupon for–and I have to commend myself for this stroke of integrated, cross-promotional genius–Geico.
Schedule for Major Holiday Weekend: I can sense you men nodding and smiling on this one as you’ve undoubtedly joked about this. The elegance of this strategy is that you never have to admit you used it. ME: “You know, we were so excited and busy we didn’t even realize the Bar Mitzvah was on July 4th!” GUEST: “Wow, you must be so disappointed with the turnout.” ME: (feigning sorrow): “Yes. But we’re so glad you could make it!”
Typo in “Save the Date” Card: Practice and repeat to dismayed guests: “What? Did the card say July 15th? That darn printer never sent us a proof. Yes, it’s the 22nd. Oh no! We’re so sorry you won’t be able to make it.”
Put Vendors on Pay-for-Performance Incentive Plan: Why shouldn’t the caterer, the photographer and the DJ have some “skin in the game” to make sure our goals are aligned? If they win, we all win, right? We’ll simply do a brief online poll after the event, and the vendors’ compensation will be based on the guests’ ratings. ME: “Sorry, the chicken only got a 3.2 out of 5 on ‘juiciness.’” Caterer: “But there was a circuit breaker problem that reset the oven timer to 4 hours instead of 1.” ME: (straining to hide glee) “Sorry, not covered in the T’s & C’s. That’s another 2% off the tab.”
Bobservations is written by me, Bob London. More of my writing can be seen at www.bob-servations.com. I’m also president of London, Ink LLC, a full-service marketing and communications firm and serve as a Virtual VP of Marketing for growth-stage companies that need hands-on project-based leadership in marketing strategy and planning. More information is available at www.londonink.com.