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The Lessons of the Bark Mitzvah

I read an article this week about the phenomenon of the Bark Mitzvah. For those unfamiliar, we’re talking about people who celebrate their dogs’ thirteenth birthdays with – you guessed it – a traditional ceremony including the wearing of a Talit and Kipah, and a “reading” from the Torah. My children found this hilarious, as did I, and suggestions of initiating new traditions of Meow-Mitzvahs,Quack-Mitzvahs, and even Moo-Mitzvahs started flying around the table.

barkmitzvahI am unqualified and uninterested in the theological or dogmatic implications of the Bark Mitzvah. However, as a marketer – and more importantly a copywriter – I am interested in the psychological motives behind the phenomenon. Because we can learn something from the Bark Mitzvah, and we can apply it even in the most mundane of our communications with the outside world (i.e. our target audience).

And here it is, in its simple glory: people need to feel a sense of belonging. They need to demonstratively associate themselves on a personal level with long-held, popular values. This drive is so powerful that they’ll go to extreme (or in the case of Bark Mitzvahs, ridiculous) lengths to fulfill the need.

And here’s where we, as marketers, need to cynically step in. Find the need. Find the longing. And tap into it. I tell my clients that I want to know what color socks their target audience wears on Tuesdays, and what they like on their toast.

We’re not talking about just consumer products either. My B2B clients sometimes tell me “well, we ARE B2B, so we can keep the messages general.” WRONG! People are still the ones making making decisions in any market, in the end. And it is exactly these people who are driven – as are we all, apparently – to feel part of something larger than themselves, to be fulfilled in a way that they themselves may not fully understand. So, before we can effectively reach them, we need to identify exactly what it is that (collectively) motivates them.

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