Changing perceptions by branding Israel

Israel has long had an image problem for which it has been mercilessly criticized at home and abroad.

February 25, 2019 21:46
3 minute read.
Changing perceptions by branding Israel

CEO of Vibe Israel Joanna Landau [L] and to President Reuven Rivlin [R] at the presentation of the new study conducted by Bloom Consulting for Vibe Israel . (photo credit: MARC NEYMAN/GPO)


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Like so many of Israel’s great achievements, the credit for the Vibe Israel Initiative belongs not to the government or a specific ministry, but to individuals who care enough to help build hospitals, schools, universities, cultural centers, and more.

The thousands of collective plaques on these institutions tell the story.
Israel has long had an image problem for which it has been mercilessly criticized at home and abroad. Israeli public diplomacy has not moved with the times and is still used to explain government policies. In other words, it’s a propaganda vehicle, and is often recognized as such.

Enter Joanna Landau, a London-born Israeli who received her education in both England and Israel, after coming to Israel with her family when she was five years old. She went to elementary school in Israel, high school in London, served as a paramedic in the IDF, and received her BA and MA degrees in Law from Cambridge University and an MBA cum laude from IDC Herzliya.

Landau comes from a family of community activists, and as someone who has extensively traveled and lived abroad, she was well aware that radical change was needed in the world’s perception of Israel.

After working as a lawyer in hi-tech and establishing two Internet start-ups based in Tel Aviv, Landau turned her hand to enhancing Israel’s image. In November 2009, she founded Kinetis, a nonprofit, non-political enterprise. She later changed its name to Vibe, because it was obvious to her that Vibe would have more appeal to Millennials.

“We must understand how they think and talk,” she says.

She enthused other Israelis from many walks of life and they dreamed up a series of projects related to various consistently positive aspects of Israel, publishing a book titled The Israel Brand Narratives Book, which Landau presented to President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday.

The profusely illustrated book – with guidelines for use and a cornucopia of Israel experiences from which to choose – is designed not only for tourists, but also for Israelis.

Small though Israel may be in size, no one has seen it all, and no one can say of everything that goes on in the country that they have “been there, done that.”

A not for profit enterprise, Vibe Israel is part of The Israel Brand Alliance comprising an action-oriented group of individuals, companies and organizations dedicated to preserving and improving the Israel brand narratives in the book. There is also ample room at the back of the book for users to write their own narratives of their experiences in Israel.

The slogan on the opening page of the book states: “We are an optimistic nation of dreamers and doers.”

Equally important was the fact that although they believed they could do better than the government in branding Israel, they were fully aware that they needed expert and experienced guidance.

TO THIS END, they hired Bloom Consulting, an international firm that works on four continents and specializes in nation and city branding, including research, strategy implementation, master classes and more.

Whatever happens in Israel finds its way outside, said Landau, but based on a broad survey, a lot that happens in Israel doesn’t seem to have much impact abroad. People from the Y-generation, namely 22-38 year olds in 12 countries, were questioned about the first thing that came to mind when presented with the word “Israel.”

Surprisingly, it was not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was safety and security – because most of what penetrates the consciousness of foreigners about Israel is related to violence.

The second thing they related to was religion, which surprised Landau because there are very Catholic countries such as Italy and Brazil, but respondents in similar surveys replied regarding Italy that the first thing that came to mind was fashion, and with regard to Brazil it was the samba.

Other questions in the survey were knowledge based, and it transpired that most people know very little about the real Israel.

Israel prides itself on being the start-up nation, an asset known to world leaders, but not to ordinary citizens. When asked what Israel excels in, less than 5% knew of Israel’s scientific and technological prowess, said Landau.

Vibe aims to show the world what Israel has to offer.

Rivlin was frankly shocked, because the Vibe survey produced completely different results from what he was used to in his conversations with world leaders.

Despite the health crisis in Israel, he said, world leaders know about Israeli breakthroughs in medicine, and they’re also anxious to share in Israel’s hi-tech know-how.

He praised Vibe for performing a very important service, but regretted that in this period leading up to elections, the only thing that the public will be interested in is political developments.

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