‘Brand psychology is effective for business and politics alike’

Branding expert and marketing guru Jonathan Gabay speaks to the Post.

May 27, 2015 23:10
2 minute read.
Jonathan Gabay

Jonathan Gabay. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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There is healthy debate over how much corporate brands are worth, but the consensus is that they are extremely valuable. When you buy an Apple product or take a bite of Tnuva cottage cheese or purchase a ticket on Malaysian Airlines, your perception of the brand defines the qualities you expect in the product.

A survey by the Economist found vast disagreements over how much brands are worth. For example, the value of Google’s brand ranged from between $60 billion and $160b. based on different methodologies.

But the world of brands is changing, according to branding expert and marketing guru Jonathan Gabay, who was in Israel last week giving talks at Google and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.

“I think the biggest thing we are selling and will be selling is a cause,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “It’s not products. It’s not services.”

In an age of selfies and social media, where everyone has become a brand in and of themselves, brands are not just about logos and jingles, he said. They have become a way of people expressing outwardly who they are, or would like to be, and just as much are a way for people to help define themselves.

“There’s a greater need for identity, because basically there’s so much competition,” Gabay said. “There’s a sense that people are asking: “Who am I in this big place here?” That fundamental change goes far beyond the world of business and bleeds into the world of public diplomacy, he said.

One unexpected example he cited is ISIS. The radical terrorist group is savvy in its use of imagery and social media and is trying to sell its version of “the big A: Authenticity” to potential supporters. It tells them they are disenfranchised and asks if they really want to be part of the world around them, with all its ills.

“They’re using social as a currency,” Gabay said. “It’s a currency to make people feel they’re aligned to a brand, a cause, a meaning.”

What ISIS uses for evil, Israel can learn to use for good to rehabilitate its own brand in the world, he said, adding that one helpful tool is the “start-up nation.”

Though Gabay did not offer specific recommendations for how to tackle Israel’s “branding” problem, he believes the right tools lie in probing the psychology behind why people entrench their worldviews. He cited a study that shows that factual argumentation with people who have predefined beliefs is actually ineffective.

“Maybe a BDS supporter is really doing it because they think their peers are, so the solution is in changing social perceptions,” Gabay said.

If the Foreign Ministry is willing to listen, the UK brand manager said, he is willing to set up shop in Israel to get the job done.

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