Like it or not, every country has a brand. Israel must manage theirs better. The Israeli press recently reported on the convention organized by the Foreign Ministry this past month. A group of marketing professionals – largely volunteers – came together to brainstorm and discuss Israel’s brand in the world.
Like it or not, Israel, like every entity, company, product or nation, has a brand; the question considered was what Israelis should do to better manage theirs. Some critics and some media have used the term “makeover” to describe the branding process, but that shorthand is neither correct nor fair.
“A brand is a promise; a good brand is a promise kept,” noted one expert who spoke. What then are the promises Israel and her people make to the world, and are they kept? Well, Israel promises that it will defend its people, its sovereignty and its existence as a democratic Jewish state, no matter what. The history of the past 58 years shows how well this promise has been kept at the cost of many brave lives; research on Israel’s brand shows how completely this reality has shaped Israel’s current brand in the world.
BUT IS security the only thing about Israelis the world should see or know? The question for the branding group, myself among them, became, “What else can Israelis promise – and deliver on – to show the world who they are?”
The answer is found in the essence of who Israelis are and what kind of society they create, and that is what the essence of Israel’s brand must be. It must include the reality of the security issues of course, the hand already seen. But the reality of what Israel is in the 21st century can only be shown by the work of the other hand, the one it uses to be a valuable member of the world community each day, and the lives led by Israelis each day.
So the branding workgroup started a process that can only be completed by ordinary Israelis when they embrace a vision and make the promises that will complete Israel’s brand. Claims in the press that the brand will show Israel to be a fun, libertine paradise blissfully unaware or unaffected by the rigors of the conflict are at best oversimplifications and at worst determined disinformation.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s admirable desire to close the gap between world perceptions of Israel and the reality of Israel is as legitimate a purpose as defense of the nation’s security measures or the pursuit of political justice. The branding process doesn’t preempt or replace these efforts, it augments them. It asks the world to know Israelis by the full scope of their society.
Some believe Israel is best served by focusing attention on the evils of her enemies. Elections are sometimes won by negative campaigns, but in the long term, respect and affinity – what marketers refer to as brand equity – can only be earned by focusing on the positive. With Israelis creating so much value for so many, there is so much that is positive to focus on and great potential for success.