Israel tries branding … again

Update: You can download the actual 2006 branding report here. Download: Brand Israel Study

Richard Silverstein gave us this heads-up about Israel’s latest efforts to bypass reality and win friends and gain influence. NYT reports the new $2 million effort to re-brand Israel:

“When we show Sderot, others also see Gaza,” said Ido Aharoni, manager of a rebranding team at the Foreign Ministry. “Everything is twinned when seen through the conflict. The country needs to position itself as an attractive personality, to make outsiders see it in all its reality.”

This is old news. Several years ago at the Jewish Federations General Assembly in LA, I watched in person as Tzipi Livni and friends announced with great fanfare their first re-branding effort.  And boy, did it launch with a bang. That same month, before the latest Gaza war, and Netanyahu and Lieberman, mind you, Israel Today reported:

As if Israel’s position in the world in not bad enough, a new survey published in the US Wednesday says that Israel is suffering from the worst public image among all countries of the world.The study, called the National Brands Index, conducted by government advisor Simon Anholt and powered by global market intelligence solutions provider GMI (Global Market Insite, Inc.), shows that Israel is at the bottom of the list by a considerable margin in the public’s perception of its image.

The Index surveyed 25,903 online consumers across 35 countries about their perceptions of those countries across six areas of national competence: Investment and Immigration, Exports, Culture and Heritage, People, Governance and Tourism. The NBI is the first analytical ranking of the world’s nation brands.

“Israel’s brand is by a considerable margin the most negative we have ever measured in the NBI, and comes at the bottom of the ranking on almost every question,” states report author Simon Anholt.

I actually found this heartbreaking. The bottom? For real? Like, lower than Iraq during a war? Or Sudan? or…

Also heartbreaking was the video footage of focus groups the Israeli branding team showed at the LA General Assembly. They said no matter what city they were in, respondents described looking at a house that represented Italy as one with laughing, drinking, yummy food, warmth. And to a T, each group described a house representing Israel as surrounded by concrete and barbed wire, with ultra-orthodox religious folks inside who didn’t want visitors.

As far as the chance that the rebranding will work? Well, as any marketing person knows:

Anholt comments that to succeed in permanently changing the country’s image, the country has to be prepared to change its behavior. He reiterates his strong belief that a reputation cannot be constructed: it has to be earned.

Duh.

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