In 2006, Brand Israel was the pits.
Voted the world’s worst brand according to the Anholt GfK Roper Nation Brands Index (NBI) study, Israel was not a place where the respondents in the survey would want to live or work. The NBI measures global perceptions of 35 nations by polling a worldwide panel of 25,900 consumers in five areas: tourism, exports, people, governance, culture and heritage, and investment and immigration.
Most notably, panelists (including the US panel) ranked Israel as lowest of all the 36 countries in the poll in answer to the question of how responsibly Israel acts in the areas of international peace and security.
“In 2006, Israel’s DNA was all about the conflict, a relentless producer of bad news”
- Ido Aharoni, Israel’s Consul General to New York
Since the NBI released its results to the world, Israel has been trying to create a more positive nation brand, by attempting to steer public focus away from the conflict narrative. The goal, according to Ido Aharoni, Israel’s Consul General to New York, is to highlight Israel’s strengths in creativity and innovation.
Watch an interview with him here:
Aharoni’s work paid off. Israel’s brand notably improved in the 2010 NBI, especially for tourism, innovation, and open-mindedness/tolerance (Tel Aviv was voted world’s best gay city in 2012), thanks to substantial promotional efforts to highlight these areas.
However, in many people’s minds, Israel’s brand remains controversial.
Last week, another Middle East conflict erupted between the Gaza Strip (controlled by Hamas) and Israel. Conflict between Israel and Palestine is certainly nothing new, but this time there’s a different weapon in the mix: social media.
Both sides have been posting regular Twitter updates as the battle progresses. These have ranged from information on which sites have been hit by rockets, to gruesome photos of dead fighters and civilians, interspersed with taunts at the opposite side.
Twitter handles from both sides:
@IDFSpokesperson (Israel Defence Forces)
Using social media adds a new dimension to battle, that’s for sure. And it’s not necessarily a wholly negative dimension. As the IDF claims, it is “meant to encourage transparency and provide breaking news regarding events in the area.” (about the IDF blog, set up in 2009 to provide information on Israeli defence activities).
But Israel took matters to another level (in line with their innovative and creative national brand image?) by creating a ‘war game’ to include on the IDF blog. ‘IDF Ranks’ lets users rise through the army ranks and win badges by sharing and commenting on blog content. When ‘Operation Pillar of Defense’ started, the game was taken down, only to be replaced two days later. When questioned about this decision, the IDF claimed ‘system issues’ and ‘high levels of blog traffic’ as the reasons for removing, and then reinstating, the game.
What’s worrying, and potentially damaging to the IDF’s image, is the fact that this game was reinstated during a serious conflict…for trivial reasons such as ‘system issues’. This was a serious miscalculation. At the very least, it makes the IDF PR people look alarmingly misguided, at worst, like they’re trivialising a vicious battle.
Either way, I can’t see it doing Brand Israel any favours. If anything, this is going to send Israel right back to the bad old days of 2006. Depending how the Gaza conflict develops, it’ll certainly be interesting to see how Israel scores on the 2013 NBI study. In the meantime, let’s hope for an early end to this nasty conflict.
Update: I just clicked on idfblog.com and the website is down. Either IDF finally saw sense or it’s been hacked by Anonymous.
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