The Maxwell House Haggadah — How Content Marketing Made Coffee Kosher for Passover

Apr 16, 2019

This weekend marks the start of Passover. On the first and second night of the holiday, Jewish families traditionally gather for a Seder – a ceremonial dinner and a reading of the Haggadah, which tells the story of the Jewish people’s freedom from slavery and exodus out of Egypt. For countless Jewish families in the U.S., the blue and white Haggadah booklets they’ll use to recite the story didn’t come from a Rabbi or a synagogue. They came from a grocery store.

The reason why is a clever bit of content marketing from Maxwell House dating back nearly 90 years.

Maxwell House’s Content Marketing Strategy

In the 1920s and 30s, many grocers and Jewish consumers believed coffee beans were not kosher for Passover, causing a dip in Maxwell House sales every spring. The coffee company hired Joseph Jacobs Advertising to tell coffee drinkers that coffee “beans” are technically a seed and coffee was OK to enjoy during Passover.

To get the word to Jewish customers, Maxwell House printed Passover Haggadahs and gave them out for free with each can of coffee.

Recent Jewish immigrants were eager for a text to help guide their Passover seders. Maxwell House printed Hebrew and English translations in two columns in each booklet. It gave away as many books as families needed for their dinner guests.

50 million Haggadahs later, the campaign remains the very definition of smart content marketing and providing value for customers. Today, the Maxwell House Haggadah is synonymous with Passover celebrations in America. Soldiers have carried it in every U.S. war since 1933. It’s the version President Obama used at his White House Seders. Stained and tattered copies become family heirlooms. According to one Rabbi, “Maxwell House did more to codify Jewish liturgy than any force in history.”

Maxwell House Introduces Midge’s Haggadah

While other close connections between brands and holidays have faded away, Maxwell House has maintained the association by regularly updating the Haggadahs to incorporate more modern translations into the text. This year, it announced a partnership with Amazon to create a limited edition “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” Haggadah, complete with wine stains and notes in the margins. The Amazon Prime promotion sets the table for another generation of Maxwell House’s enduring role in Passover celebrations.

Long story short: Content marketing should be a generous act. Finding new ways to maintain connections between your offering and the things your customers value most is key to marketing efforts that stand the test of time.

This article also appeared in our weekly newsletter, Long Story Short. It was written by Caitlyn Koch.

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