Israel at 70: Is it Possible to (re)Brand a Country?
In the spring of 2018, Israel was set to celebrate its 70th anniversary. While there was much to rejoice in reaching this milestone, the country's brand image internationally was far from ideal. Past efforts to impact perceptions of Israel, spearheaded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as various Jewish organizations, were mainly aimed at "explaining" Israel's political position and convincing the world that the country was acting in a just manner. However, a series of seminal market research studies revealed that many people in the U.S. and Europe primarily associated Israel with military imagery, held views of the country as steeped in conflict, and believed its people were devoutly religious and unwelcoming. Making matters worse, many expressed an indifferent attitude towards the country and felt that Israelis were dissimilar to them. In an attempt to change the situation, several individuals and entities embarked on various initiatives aimed at branding Israel differently and "broadening the conversation" about the country. These efforts included: generating a brand book for Israel that suggested a guiding brand position of "creative energy"; inviting social media influencers to partake in trips focused on lifestyle interests; generating appealing, non-conflict related content linked to Israel and attracting online viewers to the content; appointing a goodwill ambassador to communicate the culture and day-to-day life in Israel; and multiple measures to draw in more tourists (Jewish and non-Jewish) to the country. Taking stock of these efforts revealed a mixed picture at best, and it was unclear whether Israel's brand image among international audiences was indeed shifting in the intended direction. Several observers were further worried that the younger generation was finding Israel even less relevant and urged for devising a new approach. What should or could Israel's brand positioning be? Were the recent efforts to change perceptions about Israel and Israelis on the right track and it was just a matter of time and scale before they bore fruit? What else could be done to break the indifference and emerging negative attitudes towards the country?