Ambassador speaks about country "branding"

by Tyler Deffebach / Beacon Correspondent • October 18, 2012

Ambassador ally
Ambassador Aharoni spoke on campus last Thursday.
Ambassador Aharoni spoke on campus last Thursday.

Ambassador Ido Aharoni, the consul general of Israel in New York and Emerson alumnus, shared his expertise on establishing an identity for Israel to students and professors Thursday.

The consul general spoke to a packed room of financial and strategy context and global market planning and global journalism students in the Walker Building for a conversation about the repositioning of Israel’s image to the world.

Aharoni began the rebranding of Israel in 2002 with the creation of the Brand Israel Group, a research organization tasked with changing how Israel is viewed internationally and marketing Israel to the rest of the world, a concept he calls “place positioning.”

The research organization was formally adopted into the Israeli government in 2007.  

Aharoni, who earned his master’s degree in mass communication from Emerson in 1990 and his undergraduate Bachelor of Arts degree from Tel Aviv University in 1987, said the main goal of “place positioning” is to create a brand niche for a country or region. He cited examples such as Nashville’s association with country music, and Las Vegas being known as Sin City.

In an interview, Aharoni said one of his top priorities is to improve the prominence of Israeli companies in global markets, to export not just Israeli products, but also Israeli creativity and ingenuity. Aharoni said his ultimate goal is to achieve a brand association similar to that of Sony to Japan, Nike, and Apple to the United States, or BMW to Germany.

When asked how Israel’s companies would emerge into the global market, part-time faculty member Stanley Miller said, “I sense that Israel would be developing more niche elements or components that would work with companies like Intel so that they might be a partner or they could be acquired by Intel for their niche technology, so they would be more of a collaborator rather than a competitor.”

Aharoni said Israel’s strongest brand is its cities, as Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem are well-known around the world and provide global windows into Israel. The Ambassador said he hopes to raise the number of tourists who visit Israel from an estimated 4 million in 2011 to a goal of 10 million by 2016.

However, Aharoni said this developing niche is faced with the task of replacing what people formerly considered Israel’s main brand such as Israeli gun manufacturer Uziand Mossad, Israel’s equivalent of the Central Intelligence Agency.

This in combination with the geopolitical conflicts such as increasing tension over Iran’s nuclear program and the reigon’s unpredictability following the Arab Spring, Aharoni said there is no solution to solve Israel’s attachment to regional conflicts that have been plaguing Israel’s brand since the country’s inception in 1948.  

“When people ask what is the essence of what I do, I tell them I am trying to make sure that I am not defined in the eyes of the world by my problems,” said Aharoni during the lecture.

Journalism professor Emmanuel Paraschos, who previously worked as a consultant to the Greek government concerning Greece’s international brand, said he was unsure how successful long-term attempts at revitalization would be considering the current state of instability in the region.

“No matter how positive some news items can be for 12 months, it will take one incident to erase all the good stuff that you have created through your efforts,” he said.