How Gal Gadot changed Israel’s country-branding forever.
Branding is powerful; a real brand has no need to clarify what are its values as merely its name instantly connects to its essence.
It sometimes seems to me that Ben Gurion’s biggest mistake was to decide to name the state of Israel: “Israel” and not “Palestine”. After all, had its name been Palestine, we would all have been Palestinians, Palestinians Jews and Palestinians Arabs; all possess the same affinity to the location (branding wise, I save the arguments about the affinity for another article). That would have eliminated the today’s Palestinians’ claims. Reality would have been analysed just as it should — post ww2, two ethnic groups fighting on the same land — aka civil war, and this is exactly what occurred in the region in 1948; just like in India and Cyprus and many other nations.
Israel’s branding is very bad for too many years, from my personal experience living in London and LA in 2007 through 2011, Israel’s brand reflected terrible positioning. If we would have conducted a simple exercise of association brainstorming around the brand “Israel” amongst a heterogenic international group, it would have revealed: danger, terror, military, human rights violations, religious, and chronic instability.
It’s extremely hard if not impossible to change brand’s values, moreover challenging to point out the very moment when the brand’s values change. Try to point out at the exact time when Nokia phones became a symbol of archaism or when Kodak lost its Kodak Moment. These are slow processes with seminal moments that eventually tilt the weight to a new set of values.
In 2010, the book “Startup Nation” was crowned 5th in the New York Times best sellers list, it tells the story of the Israeli hi-tech wonder: how 63 Israeli companies were traded in the NASDAQ on that year, more than any other country. Although documenting the past, the book actually created a new reality; if a tree falls in the forest but no one is around to hears, does it make a sound? In 2010, with the entry to the best sellers list the sound was heard. But it was heard even more firmly this year, 2017, when Jerusalem based MobilEye, was acquired by Intel for the sky rocketing sum of $15.3B. More astonishing than this astronomical sum is the field in which the company is innovating — autonomous cars are undoubtedly the most burning space in the world of innovation today.
In 2011, the Arab Spring began leading to the Syrian civil war. The Islamic State that was nurtured in Iraq and Syria started to send to the world horrendous pictures of merciless Islamic terror not distinguishing between religions or faith, and all that terror had nothing to do with the Israeli — Palestinian conflict.
It seems like the world begins to understand that there’s no correlation between violent terror and injustice, its merely an irrational and negative phenomenon. ISIS is so extreme that there are no voices calling for reconciliation or explanations that its behaviour is a result of oppression. The long war in Syria, coupled with terror acts in the strongholds of liberalism in Europe and the USA generated an ever increasing standard of violence, one that we Israelis know too well. The story we loved to tell about Israel as a villa in the jungle (and nobody listened) is starting to be reliable. A tourist in Israel now fears to cross Israel’s boarders to neighbor countries, whereas until not long ago it was exactly the opposite.
But 2017 is definitely the peak; the rise of Trump as an American president (love him or not) with a Jewish daughter, a president being blessed by a rabbi on his inauguration for the first time, visiting the Wailing Wall and whose UN ambassador boldly siding Israel and protecting its stand. These facts create a deluge of news slowly percolating into global notion. But remember, the majority of people does not follow news and media obsessively like journalists and politicians, the client majority simply nourishes on fractions of information that shape its notion.
That seminal moment forming in front of us these days and diverts definitively the brand values of the state of Israel to a whole new horizon is the starring of Gal Gadot in the movie Wonder Woman. Just like that, and with no pre-planning, Hollywood gave birth to a true all-Israeli star that plays the role of a superhero as the main character in a movie all about justice and war of the good against the bad. The hero is a true all-around Israeli, with an Israeli accent, unlike Natalie Portman, a mere descendant to Israeli parents or Bar Refaeli who adopted an American accent and boyfriend, Gal is 100% Israeli, like us, and everyone knows that; Gal’s “Israelism” is acknowledged and discussed all over, from articles in the NY Times to Neo Nazi websites and forums.
The Israeli justice fighter reflects its values on Israel — tiny Israel is the Amazona, Wonder Country that protects the world from evil.
Soon Israel will turn 70 and turns out that, against all odds, time played in our favour — startup nation, MobilEye, Gal Gadot, Trump and ISIS are forever shaping Israel’s brand values to — justice, innovation and might.