Israel as a (Negative) Brand

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Those of us who have been around the Jewish world know that Israel’s attempt to market the country have often not succeeded. I am not speaking about efforts during the current – or past – wars. But rather, our day to day image in the press. How Israel, as a country, is regarded.

In 2005, a joint project was initiated by the Directors General of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Finance Ministry. The intent was to rebrand Israel in the eyes of both Jews and non-Jews. The driving concept was that Israel will win supporters only if it is seen as relevant and modern rather than only as a place of fighting and religion.

Many of us are familiar with the initiative. Presentations have been made at various conferences and board meetings the past few years. We’ve seen the videos of focus groups. Pilot projects are underway in North America. And now we have attracted professional interest in the international branding community. And, did we ever attract interest!

Enter, an established global resource for branding professionals and a part of the international Interbrand group.

This past Monday morning a featured story was released, “Israel: Branding Beyond Conflict”. Written by Chana Mayefsky, the well researched and prepared article was the showcase piece on the Website and featured as the lead story on the weekly newsletter. I was so impressed with Chana’s description, I was in touch with Brandchannel and received permission to post an excerpt on this site.

Brandchannel’s timing was unfortunate. While this was in the works for a while, it had the misfortune of being published as we were in the 2nd week of the Gaza war. In fact, from the time I first came across the article, until I received permission from Brandchannel (about four or five hours later) they had inserted, in bold red, an introduction to Chana’s story explaining the timing issue and how they felt we should read past the current conflict and examine the merits of the branding initiative. This is in fact Brandchannel’s overall goal.

I was all set to post when I discovered it had been pulled from the Website and the previously supplied link was no longer valid. Pulling teeth all day yesterday, I finally received this reply from Brandchannel’s editor, James Thompson:

“Shalom Israel” was pulled from our site yesterday because we felt the spirit of the article was overshadowed by the specter of developing events in the Middle East, and that the overwhelming volume of hateful and unprofessional commentary confirmed that now was an inopportune time to explore a dialogue regarding Israel and its branding efforts.

Thompson ignored a question as to whether Brandchannel would republish the story at a later date.

With international offices in, among other places, Dubai perhaps we are seeing the 21st century continuation of the Arab boycott.

It’s a shame Interbrand and Brandchannel behave so unprofessionally.