Chinese-Jewish restaurant sign

The Chinese Restaurant Association of the United States would like to extend our thanks to the Jewish people. We do not completely understand your dietary customs… but we are proud and grateful that your GOD insist you eat our food on Christmas. Happy Holidays!

You’ve got to love this sign.

Yes, it’s obviously hand-made. It has some strange capitalization and punctuation in places. But overall it’s great. Very charming.

This is a good example of targeted niche marketing to a very well-defined group of prospects. It also packs in a lot of subtlety that may not be readily apparent to anyone who is not in their target demographic.

(I know because some of it was lost on me until it was explained to me by one of my dearest Jewish friends.)

For starters, Jews in the US are a bit like rubber ducks in the ocean; they are completely surrounded by non-Jews who control the culture and understand little about their heritage. Jews typically don’t celebrate Christmas in the same way that the rest of us do. Even those with kids and in mixed marriages who may “observe” Christmas, give gifts and put up decorations do so more to fit in than anything else. For reasons of culture and heritage, they try desperately to keep observance of Christmas to a minimum and focus more on Hanukkah (which I know is actually a relatively minor Jewish holiday; Christians in the US have puffed it up to be “Jewish Christmas” but it’s really not.)

On Christmas Day, Jews typically prefer to go out to eat. Being largely run by Buddhists who also don’t celebrate Christmas, Chinese restaurants are usually the only ones open. So over the years it has become a sort of de facto cultural tradition for Jews to go out to a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day.

It’s also the one day of the year that you may find it impossible to get pork fried rice.

So that’s the first bit of brilliance of this sign: it takes that whole symbiotic cultural history of Chinese and Jews in the United States and pays homage to it in a way that is unlikely to be noticed by many outside of those two groups. This is ultra targeted marketing at its finest.

The second great thing about this sign is that it sells without selling. It’s more like a public service announcement or a heartfelt greeting card than a commercial advertisement. The makers of the sign know that Jews reading it are already predisposed to being customers. Indeed, they may already be regular customers. There is no need to push for the sale. Instead, they simply create an environment where these customers have warm feelings and are inclined to buy.

The sign also throws in a very subtle implication that patronizing their establishment is commanded by God himself. A tricky line to tread but they pulled it off nicely.

Respectful humility is also displayed here. The writers of the sign are saying, “Hey we don’t really get what you Jews believe in but we don’t disrespect you simply because we don’t understand the ways in which your beliefs differ from ours.” In fact, the sign even openly implies a sort of homage.

Will hanging a simple hand-written sign like this one in their front window increase business on Christmas Day? Honestly, I have no idea. (That’s always a key thing with marketing. Anyone who tells you they know how customers will react is probably lying.) I can tell you that I think it will probably get them an extra couple of families. If they had put a sign out on the street where passing traffic could see it, the effect might have been increased many times over.

What about a mass media advertisement such as TV, radio or the newspaper? That’s a tricky one. One the one hand, you reach a lot more people and that certainly has the potential to help a lot. On the other hand, there’s something charming and sincere about the fact that this sign is hand-written. You lose that with mass media.

The only way to know for sure would be to test it and see.


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