‘Brand Israel’ has failed

Israel/Palestine
on 49 Comments

Gary Wexler, owner of Way Beyond Branding, writing in the Forward:

Yet, as strange as it may sound coming from a marketer with an advertising background, who has represented hundreds of Jewish organizations worldwide, I have arrived at the conclusion that the solution will not be found in branding, marketing, public relations or the writings of political pundits. The problem is that all their concepts, strategies, words and legitimate defenses – no matter how powerful and clever – are not going to elevate Israel’s plummeting image. Hundreds of thousands of dollars from donors and the Israeli government have been poured into this effort, yet the situation only worsens every month. I am as much to blame as anyone for being a supporter of these actions.

It has become clear that the world doesn’t care about Israel’s wines, its Bauhaus architecture, its fashion, its alluring women, its sexy gay men, its beaches, its ballet or its hummus. The world, its media and its university campuses are riveted upon Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians as well as the state of its democracy.

No, the answer to Israel’s image problems does not depend upon the marketing. It depends first upon the policies.

Something is proving wrong with several of the ingredients in Israel as a product. The policies – whether we argue they are right or wrong internally – are spoiling the taste for the world consumer as well as for many in a new generation of young Jews, even those who have been on Birthright. This is not a left- or a right-wing opinion. It is a fact. No matter how Israel markets or defends itself in the media, the policies seep into the equation and kill the success of the image.

Do I have the answer for how to fix the policies, or even which policies need fixing? No. But I’m not a politician. I’m an adman and a marketer. And I can tell you, from my years creating ads for products from Coca Cola to Apple Computer, if people keep reading about some bad ingredients in the ketchup, very few people will buy the bottle, no matter how much money and creativity you pack into the marketing. No amount of branding, slogans, viral ideas or clever engagement is going to lead towards the success that supporters of Israel need.

Read the whole article “Israel’s Image Won’t Improve Without Policy Changes” here.

About Adam Horowitz

Adam Horowitz is Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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49 Responses

  1. Dan Crowther
    August 30, 2011, 2:19 pm

    Hey Witty, does this article get written without BDS?

  2. MRW
    August 30, 2011, 3:08 pm

    Wexler’s so right about that bad ingredients point. What a great analogy.

    It’s like what we know about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), introduced into US food in 1975 at Nixon’s request to solve his political problem. A cheap and expedient replacement for real sugar. It’s in everything now.

    It acts like alcohol on the liver but not the brain (which alcohol does), then turns into fat; hence, American obesity beginning now in infancy because HFCS is even in baby food and school lunches. An NIH study announced recently—I read it on HuffPo—HFCS is a 6X breeding ground for cancer cells, acts like Miracle Gro on even one cell.

    People in the know are trying to avoid it like the plague; the endocrinologist who discovered its activity a couple of years ago calls it poison.

    Israel has HFCS in its DNA. All the sweet stuff is the ‘only democracy in the Middle East’, the just looking out for our own security business, the branding. But it’s poisoning itself.

    • LanceThruster
      August 30, 2011, 4:17 pm

      Yours is also an excellent analogy. Spot on.

    • annie
      August 30, 2011, 5:08 pm

      MRW, that’s so funny because i was just using an analogy of whiskey and getting drunk wrt zionism a couple hours ago. of course your analogy was much better.

      it’s apatheid, apartheid is extremist. only if you live in some sheltered mindframe that divorces the states actions for an ‘ideal’ of zionism, an ideal that could never exist in a land already inhabited by another people and remain jewish democratic, an ideal divorced from ethnic cleansing and slaughter and occupation, only then could you consider zionism something other than extremist. iow, if one were delusional. it’s like thinking you can drink whiskey all day everyday and not get drunk. you can’t separate the reality from the fantasy. zionism has consequences and you can’t have the ideal divorced from the consequences. that would be incomprehensible to a rational mind.

    • Daniel Rich
      August 30, 2011, 6:55 pm

      Hi MRW,

      Q: It’s like what we know about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), introduced into US food in 1975 at Nixon’s request to solve his political problem.

      R: Yes, you’re right about the consequences of using HFCS. However, the US consumption of HFCS came to life because of the sudden loss of Cuba’s sugarcane crops. HFCS itself was invented in the early 19th century, but ‘perfected in the 20th link to ucdavis.edu .PDF

      As to Israel, I would argue that the state is in a self-destructive mode and hammers away at its own image with the ferociousness of a chain-gang gone mad. This point is extremely difficult to get across to those whom should be concerned the most.

      • MRW
        August 30, 2011, 8:07 pm

        I’m confused, Daniel Rich.

        The PDF you link to says this in the opening paragraph: “Since its invention and refinement in the 1970s, HFCS has become a remarkably prevalent key component of processed foods in the USA.”

        What it says is that “the concept of deriving sweet syrups from starches dates back to the Napoleonic Wars.” Using potatoes, etc. But it was only when an enzyme was created in the 1960s that they could use corn to come up with HFCS. Or am I reading it all wrong?

  3. Mooser
    August 30, 2011, 3:14 pm

    Shorter Gary Wexler:

    ‘We need to strangle the Palestinians a bit more slowly, the haste is unseemly’

  4. Taxi
    August 30, 2011, 3:17 pm

    DO NOT discourage them, Adam! Let them spend all they got on their failing worldwide campaign.

    The morally bankrupt deserve to be financially bankrupt too.

  5. piotr
    August 30, 2011, 3:18 pm

    Philophically, one may ponder why Israel needs a brand.

    Consider Qatar. It actually engages in some marketing effort, leading various folks to have favorable or unfavorable associations. But do people “buy Qatar” to a larger or lesser extend as a result? Does it matter for the ruler, the indigenous population and the more numerous imported working population? Not too much.

    So why Israel needs marketing? Sometimes I think that it is the reverse. It is marketeers who need Israel. The product is “Israel in crisis, she needs your donation now more than ever”. Being a member of Israeli lobby makes good living. And if something is “wrong with the product”, all the better! Because this means than “Now, more than ever …”

    • justicewillprevail
      August 30, 2011, 4:29 pm

      Good question. Israel needs a brand, because they built their borderless, constitution-less state on a mishmash of myths, lies and concocted stories. The whole project has been an exercise in branding, an ersatz state dreamed up on a 19th Century concept of statehood, mingling racism, nationalism and a perverse, some would say, hijacking of a religion. A simplistic Hollywood bible history has been imposed on a region which has its own, real complex and rich history involving three major religions, not to mention myriads of minor ones. An American monoculture has been laid over a culture of greater depth and history, smothering and wiping out that of the people who have lived and farmed there for thousands of years.
      That is why they need branding – take it away, and suddenly there is one group of people who have a supremacist set of beliefs trying to gain the whole region and dismiss the original inhabitants, for no reason other than greed and power. They too have bought into the brand, they think they are the brand.

      • piotr
        August 30, 2011, 6:33 pm

        Well, don’t take away the branding, and you still have one groups of people who have a supremacist set of beliefs. [And to some people, like Christian Zionists, this is exactly what is appealing about Israel.]

        By the way, “American monoculture” it is not, but (trying to avoid disparaging words) a “wondeful mosaic” of various groups that all too often detest each other. And if we talk about a “myriad of minor religions”, Jews have quite a few sects. I think that back when Jon Steward had “This week with God” part of his “Daily Show”, he could feature something appropriately hilarious on Israel every week.

        Ketchup analogy is quite telling, actually. It is hugely popular, health benefits are modest at best, and the taste … well, I think it is vile, but I am in a “radical minority”. Add campaigns are needed to slow down the migration of true believers to generics.

    • MLE
      August 31, 2011, 5:33 am

      Sometimes I think Israel branding is more for the Jews than for anyone else. My family loooooves “brand Israel”, it gives them a sense of pride of “Oh look what a great people we are, we create all this neat stuff”. Never mind all the accomplishments Jewish Americans have made- through the process of assimilation.

      She was trying to cheer me up the other day, because I can’t find work and she was telling me things are bad everywhere, “the economy is bad everywhere- except Israel- they have an unemployment rate of 5%”. I don’t how I was able to restrain myself from hanging up on her after that.

  6. annie
    August 30, 2011, 3:33 pm

    awesome! i just linked to this excellent article and blockquoted a section in one of the earlier threads. kudos for wexler for writing it and the same to the forward for publishing it.

    • Mooser
      August 30, 2011, 3:41 pm

      Yes, he can seel ice to Eskimoes, but he can’t, for the life of him figure out quite what is wrong or what to do about it. And as usual, the idea of him doing anything about it is not even worth thinking about. After all, he’s an adman, and that let’s him out of any moral or political thinking.

      • annie
        August 30, 2011, 3:53 pm

        i didn’t read it like that mooser! it’s right in the title: Israel’s Image Won’t Improve Without Policy Changes.

        and then he double downs in the text:

        t has become clear that the world doesn’t care about Israel’s wines, its Bauhaus architecture, its fashion, its alluring women, its sexy gay men, its beaches, its ballet or its hummus. The world, its media and its university campuses are riveted upon Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians as well as the state of its democracy.

        No, the answer to Israel’s image problems does not depend upon the marketing. It depends first upon the policies.

        so, he’s figured out what’s wrong and he’s saying. as a professional ad man ‘ quit dumping money into the branding because this can’t be fixed by us. fix the problem, the policy’.

        take a hard, honest look in the mirror and uncover the deeper problems, the ones that cannot be fixed with a better logo.

      • Light
        August 30, 2011, 6:15 pm

        Mooser, he knows what the problem is. He just won’t say it.

      • lobewyper
        August 30, 2011, 8:40 pm

        Jeez, give Wexler a break! He tells it like it is, as Annie has already pointed out. Anybody here that doesn’t think that is speaking truth to power and takes some guts? When folks see the light and essentially start thinking like many of us do, what’s the point of then trashing them or for not doing more about the situation?

  7. VR
    August 30, 2011, 3:42 pm

    The lipstick on a pig analogy applies here, smear it with lipstick and makeup as much as you like, it is still a pig (this only works for cartoon characters or puppets). Perception cannot change with the news and images of the occupation, it is like trying to sell cigarettes with a film of the Marlborough Man on the operating table for lung cancer. So, unlike the author of this piece, here is the answer – cease the occupation – now. You will never win the image battle –

    IT IS WHAT IT IS

  8. seafoid
    August 30, 2011, 3:43 pm

    It isn’t even the politics. It’s the morality. You wouldn’t buy a Lexus from a dealer whose after work speciality is throwing acid in childrens’ faces. Why buy Israeli?

    • Woody Tanaka
      August 30, 2011, 4:10 pm

      Exactly right, seafoid. Too many other countries in the world for me to buy a product with “Made in Israel” on it.

  9. seafoid
    August 30, 2011, 4:23 pm

    Who killed Brand Israel? Lieberman? the settlers? the girls who signed the rockets destined for Lebanon in 2006? Mark Regev? The Dersh ? the Christian Zionists? This lady?

  10. radii
    August 30, 2011, 5:08 pm

    wow … cracks in the Brand Israel campaign so soon?

    BDS is working – but, more importantly, the date approaches for a unilateral declaration of statehood by Palestine – the world’s eyes are on that

    I’ve said repeatedly here in the the comments that Brand Israel would fail and it is not something you can market your way out – but that was just stating the obvious – glad to see a person in a meaningful position related to the issue so succinctly and honestly lay it out

    the Tide of History is catching israel and the world’s zionists at a standstill as it marches forward past them – they can decide to be part of the solution or continue to be a problem

    • Philip Munger
      August 30, 2011, 8:14 pm

      BDS is working – but, more importantly, the date approaches for a unilateral declaration of statehood by Palestine – the world’s eyes are on that

      anyone who doesn’t think there will be a major overload of bright shiny objects touted in the news during the UN Palestinian recognition debate, well, I’ve got an Ahava franchise in Dearborn you might be interested in.

    • Lightbringer
      August 30, 2011, 8:43 pm

      … unilateral declaration of statehood by Palestine

      That would be lovely.
      Any cross-border terrorist attack finally could be considered an act of war by Palestinian Government and treat as such.

      P.S. BTW, there is no legitimate border line for such state – ’67 armistice line is irrelevant.

      • Chaos4700
        August 31, 2011, 1:51 am

        Meanwhile, Lightbringer, all those settlers on the West Bank will suddenly become unlawful enemy combatants, and they can be treated as such.

        If Israel refuses to adhere to any legal borders, you will end up with no state at all. There is no room in modern society for expansionist empires.

      • Shingo
        August 31, 2011, 5:19 am

        <blockquote< Any cross-border terrorist attack finally could be considered an act of war by Palestinian Government and treat as such.

        What Lightbringer means is a cross border raid by Israel (ie. terrorist attack) would be likely be used by Israel to provoke a reaction, which Israel will then insist it must defend against.

        P.S. BTW, there is no legitimate border line for such state – ’67 armistice line is irrelevant.

        You’re right. The legitimate border is the one Israel declared in 1948, which is the partition border the ones that do not include any part of the West Bank or Jerusalem.

        Glad you’re finally seeing the light, Lightbringer .

      • Lightbringer
        September 1, 2011, 3:57 pm

        The legitimate border is the one Israel declared in 1948, which is the partition border the ones that do not include any part of the West Bank or Jerusalem.No Arab country have ever accepted the legitimacy of 1948 borders which renders them rather illegitimate.

      • MRW
        September 1, 2011, 4:38 pm

        Take it away, Hostage.

    • Bumblebye
      August 30, 2011, 9:21 pm

      BDS is definitely working – sodastream update, Sweden’s coops have banished it! Big juicy piece in EI, with lots of information revealing sodastreams ‘disinformation’ -
      link to electronicintifada.net
      and the fact that Maaleh Adumim grew up around the damn plant.
      And Sweden’s one of their biggest customers.

      • thankgodimatheist
        August 31, 2011, 7:53 am

        It definitely is: Agrexco goes belly up.

        link to ynetnews.com
        Is BDS campaign working?
        Ynetnews special: Anti-Israel boycotters increasingly successful in strangling economy of Jewish state: More than 20 organizations in Europe in 13 countries endorse boycott of Agrexco, Israel’s leading flower exporter

        Many Israeli agricultural products have been recently targeted by the Israel boycott campaign: tomatoes, peppers, citrus fruit, carrots, melons, strawberries and celery. But the flowers have been the primary obsession of the divestment movement, which wants to strangle the Israeli economy.

        Agrexco, Israel’s leading flower exporter, has recently declared bankruptcy, partially due to the global boycott of its produce, according to some reports. More than 20 organizations in Europe in 13 countries endorsed a boycott of Agrexco.

  11. libra
    August 30, 2011, 5:27 pm

    Wexler gives himself away as an old-style product pitcher, completely behind the curve as regards to modern communications techniques. Clearly he still hasn’t heard that BrandIsrael long-ago changed its account to Witty #AND# Witty who for several years now have produced a long series of edgy, cryptic messages inserted into progressive Internet sites such as Mondoweiss.net (where they enjoy what can only be described as a cult status).

    These insidious insertions don’t do anything as out-dated as actually attempting to directly “sell” Israel as a product. Rather, they use an advanced neurolinguistics-based technique to create a state of confusion and doubt in the entire Middle East nation category, thus prolonging the position of Israel as the “safe choice” in the key US marketplace.

    As founder Dick Witty said in one of this famous quips, “Hey, so we suck but if the other guy’s a war criminal who’s going to switch?” Perhaps a cynical philosophy but one that’s allowed him to turn a small, regional accountant into an international communications powerhouse.

  12. Les
    August 30, 2011, 6:42 pm

    “I am as much to blame as anyone for being a supporter of these actions.” Israel’s Jewish enablers are far more numerous than all the Zionists in the world.

  13. Sumud
    August 30, 2011, 6:47 pm

    The long overdue death of hasbara.

  14. ToivoS
    August 30, 2011, 7:37 pm

    The author points out a change that has occurred in recent decades but that I had failed to notice. Made in Israel used to be a selling point for consumer products and Israeli origin was prominently displayed. This has changed. Wexler gives the example of Sabra Hummus, he had to go through 2 links from its primary site to find reference to the fact that it was an Israeli company. This is a huge change. BDS is alive and well.

    I should have registered this change myself. Recently, I went through my local Trader Joes attempting to identify Israeli products. I failed to find any.

    • MRW
      August 31, 2011, 4:56 am

      You’re supposed to be able to tell from the bar code. It starts with 729.

      They may be getting a US subsidiary and trying to pass it off as American, but that’s illegal. (Nothing new.)

  15. annie
    August 30, 2011, 9:02 pm

    israel’s idea of changing policy is devising new framing for killing civilians like they did with the dahiya doctrine. for them it’s always about changing framing, fancy new hasbara. it’s never about changing their actions unless it becomes an escalation of tightening of the noose. it’s the ratchet effect. the ratchet only turns in one direction making it tighter. so even if they temporarily slow the pace it’s still just more of the same.

    • seafoid
      August 31, 2011, 9:28 am

      all true annie but the Israelis don’t get it any longer. They milked the war on terror and now that whole worldview is dead with the financial crisis and the debt crisis ruling out a global war on Islam.

      Israel is like Nokia. It doesn’t have a smartphone that anyone wants to buy but has lots of handsets with settings from 2005.

  16. Pat Carmeli
    August 30, 2011, 10:18 pm

    Earlier this year I attended an event in Syracuse NY featuring Ido Aharoni, Israeli Consul General NY, speaking of the exciting take-off of “Brand Israel”. I hope Wexler has it right and that the “Brand” is leaving a bad taste is people’s mouths.

    • Sumud
      August 31, 2011, 8:11 am

      I hope Wexler has it right and that the “Brand” is leaving a bad taste is people’s mouths.

      Indeed: Melbourne BDS rally chant:

      “Max Brenner, Come off it
      There’s blood in your hot chocolate”

  17. American
    August 30, 2011, 11:21 pm

    Wexler is just now realizing the Israel branding isn’t working?

    And speaking of ..”leaving a bad taste is people’s mouths’, ..if anyone remembers Coke’s giant marketing flop of ‘new’ coke…..you just can’t sell s*** no matter what you call it or what you spend marketing it.

  18. longliveisrael
    August 31, 2011, 1:34 am

    The analogy is wrong. It’s actually more like the lunatics that inject poison into Christmas Turkeys, just like you on the radical left aligned with radical Islam do regarding Israel. Israel is just fine.

    You see, we tried to be without a brand for over 2000 years, we tried to keep our head down and not cause trouble. We were super well behaved in Spain and Portugal in the 1400s. In the 1930s, many many Jews were assimilated, they could care less about being Jews, they looked down on their obviously Jewish brethren. Unfortunately, they were branded nonetheless, in most cases directly on their arms with a number. (That is, if they were “lucky”, otherwise they were spared the branding on their way to the gas.)

    So, Mr. Wexler, you may be a marketing expert to Apple and others, but you know nothing about genocidal intent towards Jews.

    • ToivoS
      August 31, 2011, 4:38 am

      Hey shortlivedisrael, you are beginning to sound deranged. Is this what happens in endtimes? Israel is not just fine.

    • Shmuel
      August 31, 2011, 5:34 am

      You see, we tried to be without a brand for over 2000 years, we tried to keep our head down and not cause trouble.

      Ah, the 2000-year-void version of Jewish history. No languages, literature, music, ideas, etc. from the Hasmoneans to Herzl. Just sitting tight, heads down, waiting to return to Zion. Sounds like something an anti-Semite would say.

  19. lyn117
    August 31, 2011, 2:02 am

    Yeah, he complains that the hummus, a cultural item confiscated by the Israelis from the original people isn’t being openly sold as Israeli. Whatever.

  20. MRW
    August 31, 2011, 5:09 am

    we tried to be without a brand for over 2000 years, we tried to keep our head down and not cause trouble. We were super well behaved in Spain and Portugal in the 1400s.

    You’re a riot, LLI.

    We tried to be without a brand for 2000 years?
    You were a brand: you were a religion.

    We tried to keep our head down and not cause trouble?
    Hunh? Jews were all living in the same place so you know this? There is no Jewish history book from 70 BC to 1800 AD, according to historian Shmolo Sand. Jews were Germans and Swedes and Mexicans and Americans and Khazars and Russians and Australians and Brazilians and South Africans and Boers and Spanish and Chinese and Dutch and on and on.

    They were different nationalities of Jewish faith. You coulda’ bin somebody, you coulda’ been a Ugandan. Think about that.

    • Sumud
      August 31, 2011, 8:23 am

      You coulda’ bin somebody, you coulda’ been a Ugandan…

      …you coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what you are, let’s face it.

  21. Eva Smagacz
    September 1, 2011, 5:15 pm

    Guys,
    I want to send a bottle of Champagne (or equivalent of his choice) to Shingo, who’s Hasbara busting on the comments of this article is a picture to behold……

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