How a Jewish Marketing Pro Used What He Learned in Touro to Launch a Successful Marketing Career
If you’ve eaten cereal or had a yogurt, there’s a good chance you’ve seen something that Touro alumnus and brand whisperer Yosi Heber has worked on.
Yosi, who holds both an MBA from the famed Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and rabbinical ordination from the prestigious Torah Vodaath Yeshiva, created and led multi-million-dollar national campaigns that have advertised everything from children’s yogurts to cookies, and he credits Touro with helping him get his start.
Yosi, a native of St. Louis, MO, attended Telshe Yeshiva in Chicago. After spending several years learning in the Mir in Israel, he returned to the US where he learned in Torah Vodaath, while studying finance at Touro’s Lander College of Arts and Sciences.
“It was a great experience,” recalled Yosi. “I learned how to be frum in the non-Jewish world. Touro was very good at talking about this. I had great teachers and they talked about the most important thing: the real world. I think that’s where Touro stood out. We learned the academic dimensions of accounting and finance, but also what happens in the real world.”
A Branding Expert is Born
While leafing through a Procter and Gamble brochure at a job fair, Yosi had an epiphany. “I looked at the brochure and I realized that this—this brochure—might be what I want to do,” he said. “Seeing the brochure and how it advertised their products, made me realize that I liked working on real products that I could touch and feel. I wanted to work on something that people could actually use.”
Yosi’s first position out of Wharton was as a product manager at Kraft General Foods, and he found that being an Orthodox Jew really didn’t hinder his corporate success.
“Thirty years ago, a lot of people didn’t understand what kosher was,” remembered Yosi. “During lunch meetings, I’d drink a coke or have a fruit salad, it was a bit of a challenge, but I never had issues. If you treat people well and they see you’re religious and consistent, then no one has a problem with it. Someone once said to me, ‘If I was consistent with my weight loss program as you are with your religion, I would have lost 20 pounds by now.’”
One of his first assignments was developing a campaign for the ubiquitous Kraft Jell-O brand, which is not kosher.
“It was a $200 million brand and we had to design the mold and recipes that were on the back of the boxes,” explained Yosi. “I was in charge of working with the kitchen so here I was going to these taste tests and getting served Jell-O, and I couldn’t eat it. I’d just jiggle it and say how beautiful it looked. “
Helping His Employers and His Community
When the company’s Post cereals changed to a more stringent kosher certification, Yosi saw an opportunity to help both his employer and the Jewish community.
“I proposed that we advertise to Jewish kids and their parents, in order to let the Jewish world know,” he said. “We developed a program called ‘Brochos for Breakfast.’ It was virtually unheard of for a large non-Jewish corporation to do a program targeting the Jewish world. There was the Maxwell House Haggadah, but that was pretty much it.
“At the time, there were no books on brochos (blessings) and no one knew what brochos to make on many cereals,” continued Yosi. “We created this pamphlet that talked in a fun way about which blessings they should make on cereals.”
The booklets went out to 300,000 students enrolled in Jewish day schools around the country. The campaign was a big success and received media attention from over 200 Jewish newspapers as well as The New York Times.
“In Touro, we learned about how we apply our Yiddishkeit to the non-Jewish world. This was a good application of that,” stated Yosi.
The Spirit of Touro
Yosi said that trying to do something for the Jewish community was a bedrock value he learned in Touro.
“I heard it from my parents, and I heard it in Touro,” he said. “It was something that Lander College of Arts and Sciences Dean Dr. Robert Goldschmidt always talked about. Our teachers were people who not only taught but did things in the community. They helped people get jobs and advised them when they needed help. I think that’s the spirit of Touro that is unique. Aside from the academics, Touro focuses on giving back to the community.”
After five years at Kraft, Yosi left to become a VP of marketing at Dannon Yogurt. His next major success came from a trip to Israel where he noticed the popularity of yogurt geared towards children. “There were no children’s yogurts in the US, so we created one,” said Yosi who helmed Dannon’s Sprinklins, America’s first yogurt geared exclusively to children. “We grew it from nothing to a billion-dollar category.”
When Dannon yogurts switched to OU certification, Yosi saw another opportunity to serve the Jewish community. Yosi created ‘Dinim by Dannon,’ a pamphlet that contained the laws of Sukkoth and Pesach along with information about Dannon products. (Dinim is Hebrew for laws.) A quarter of a million copies were sent out to Jewish families through the Torah Umesorah network of Jewish day schools.
“We wanted to marry the non-religious world with the religious world, while doing something for Klal Yisrael,” Yosi explained. “These booklets taught kids about brochot and dinim, but also publicized our product.”
While at Dannon, Yosi also developed the “Daf Yomi Masechta Review,” a well-known audio review series covering all of Shas (The Talmud), which came to be used by tens of thousands of people around the world. At the time, there were very few resources available for those studying Daf Yomi, and nothing to help people review what they had learned. This review program was sort of a Cliff Notes executive summary of the key learnings and takeaways from every page of the Talmud, and Yosi considers this to be one of his proudest achievements. Today, the program is featured on many online Torah portals including Kol Halashon and the OU’s All Daf mobile app.
After more than twenty years in large corporations, including a stint as chief marketing officer at Barry Diller’s IAC, Yosi opened his own marketing and consulting firm, Oxford Hill Partners, LLC. His clients have included small start-ups, medium-sized companies, and many large corporations like Hyundai, Krispy Kreme, and even Procter and Gamble, the company whose brochure inspired his career.
Yosi continues to serve both the professional world and the Jewish community. He has written extensively on the concepts of Kiddush Hashem in the workplace, as well as marketing/digital trends, and has spoken on these topics in many venues including various Agudath Israel conventions, trade shows and business schools. He lives in Detroit with his wife and six children.