Branding crisis: Jews, start talking

As part of battle against Israel's de-legitimization, advertising people suggest 'viral marketing' of Mediterranean wonder by recruiting Jews who have reached key positions in the world

Alan Parker's legendary film "Midnight Express", about an American jailed in a Turkish prison, hit the screens in 1978. The following years saw a real decline in Turkey's incoming tourism. The economic damage the country suffered following the film – whether rightfully or not – was heavy.

I don’t know if the film producer's intention was to hurt Turkey, but this movie is a good example of what we now call "viral marketing" (or advertising).

Viral advertising is a marketing technique which uses existing media systems to raise awareness to a certain brand. This move is parallel to the spread of a virus. The distribution mostly happens by word of mouth, reaching many people within a short period of time and with a low cost, and the viewers don't even know they're watching a well-orchestrated advertising system.

What is it good for
Look at the amazing thing we have done here, in the Land of Israel. Within a little more than 60 years we have managed to drain swamps, pave roads, plant million of trees (Israel is the only country which plants more trees that it cuts down), win eight Nobel Prizes, be the first country outside of the United States where Microsoft has a development center, invent the USB flash drive, reach the third place in the world in entrepreneurship, take the first place in the world in R&D investments, send two satellites to space, have the highest number of scientists and engineers per capita in the world, be biotechnology leader, be No. 2 in the world in the number of start-up companies, be the leader in the number of high-tech companies, survive the latest global financial crisis, and a slew of interesting facts.

And yet we are facing one of Israel's most difficult problems ever, which is worse than the worst war we have ever gone through, worse than the worst problem we have ever encountered, which has to do with our existence – the de-legitimization of Israel which is beginning to form in the world. And this is very dangerous.

It's more dangerous than any war in which we'll have to sacrifice our best sons, because it will cause a domino effect and make an increasing number of countries and people (including many good Jews supporting the doctrine of "new historian" Prof. Benny Morris) ask why Israel exists.

There is only one solution: Branding Israel, making a small number of people understand that something amazing is happening here, an event of once in a lifetime, and that we are allowed to be a normal nation living its life, without anyone questioning our legitimacy.

A place of amazing things
The expectation from Paris is for an enchanted, romantic vacation. The expectation from a James Bond movie is for an experience of a little sex, a few gadgets, some pursuits and a number of beautiful women. The expectation from Israel should be for a place where amazing things happen. This expectation will be created in the world only if we prove the benefit or out unique way to benefit.

A decision on the benefit and the way to provide it is the branding strategy of the brand called "Israel". This strategy and the importance – as with any other brand – to fulfill its main promise to its customers, will be the driving force for what is taking place here in Israel – the industry, the research, the universities, the different companies, the different services, the army and all of us.

The essence of this driving force is creating more and more products, thoughts and new services which will fulfill the promise that something special is being created here.

And then we'll create what we once referred to as "brand expansion". Stef Wertheimer's vision will materialize – everything we create here will proudly bear the caption "Made in Israel."

How to do it
Let's go back to viral marketing. We must recruit Jewish directors Woody Allen, Steven Spielberg, the Coen brothers, Roman Polanski and the Wachowski brothers. We must recruit Jewish singers and actors like Amanda Bynes, Zac Efron, Michael Douglas, Daniel Day-Lewis, Dustin Hoffman, Sacha Baron Cohen, Harrison Ford and Natalie Portman.

We must recruit Jewish producers like Haim Saban, Jason Smilovic, Jeffrey Abrams and Darren Bennett Star, and ask them to do what the producers of amazing American TV series "The Office"did to the Mul-Yam restaurant in Tel Aviv by mentioning its name in one of the episodes.

A small line in a Woody Allen film about sunrise in the Judea Desert, a scene in one of Spielberg's films about an amazing device which only former Intelligence Corps soldiers were smart enough to invent, a long shot in a Coen Brothers movie on a Tel Aviv beach filled with handsome men and women, or mentioning Israel's advanced legal system in a scene showing Harrison Ford chasing a fugitive.

(Naturally, it will be our responsibility to provide them with the basis and proof that these scenes are true, and that is what will make all of us fulfill the promise of the brand called "Israel").

All this and other things will do what "An American in Paris" did to Paris, what "Gandhi" did to India, or what "Exodus" did to Israel of the 1950s. This (with a lot of help for world Jews) will slowly create fondness for the brand called "Israel"

Fondness for a brand is basically a feeling of something pleasant, something good, an expectation of good experience, positive feelings. The fondness for Paris was not created because the people there are pleasant and nice (they're not), but the experience is pleasant, and even the feeling that you're disturbing them and that they look down at you, because it's something you want to be part of – just like people will want to be part of the success of the "Israel" brand.

These beliefs are shaped by movies we watch, books we read, television programs we watch and other types of media we're exposed to, and perhaps even advertisements (although not necessarily).

Dividing these benefits into many issues (sunrise at the Judea Desert, the amazing device in a Spielberg film, the law system according to our friend Harrison and Tel Aviv's beach) will guarantee that they will fall in love with Israel, and like love – their sweetheart will be special to them in all ways or at least most.
We must stop selling Israel as a holy place. Enough with the posters of the Jerusalem and Carmel landscapes, enough with the camels and the Judea and Samaria mountains – they only bring us three million tourists a year. We want 40 million, like in Spain.

The consumer public (or "the world" as we have referred to it so far) exposed to the other Israel will find its new balance and new ways and know that they must not miss out on this amazing brand called "Israel".

The writer is CEO of Mesh Branding