3 Years Later, Scale Up Nation Is Getting Much Better At Messaging, Positioning And Branding
The last week has been a whirlwind at the Aleph portfolio. Lemonade, which is now a household name in insurance and not beverages, announced it was launching in California. Nexar, which is now a leader in driver safety and vehicle to vehicle networking, a wingman no Uber or Lyft Driver can live without, launched CityStream. Freightos has created the first free transparent freight pricing index. Moreover, Wix crushed their numbers, raised guidance and has become Israel’s definitive global consumer brand and not only because of their Super Bowl Commercials.
When we first started Aleph, we fretted a lot about how Israeli entrepreneurs would become better at messaging and branding, which is critically important for scaling companies and consequently for Scale Up Nation. We were so focused on this challenge that our partner-only firm hired Oona Rokyta as our first head of marketing and community and now Avigail Levine has taken on that very full-time role. The last week has made me realize that we, as a country, as entrepreneurs and as a firm, have made large strides in this critical area.
In one of our earliest, and still most popular blog posts entitled “Messaging, Positioning and Branding,” I wrote:
“great messaging inserts these early companies into key conversations and helps them self-fulfill their destiny. It makes them H O T. Hot companies get talked about and get invited to the right conferences and events and it is a positive feedback loop that helps propel these companies. Solving messaging and how you deliver that message creates a critical foundation for building leading and dominant businesses.
To my great frustration, I can’t recall a single Israeli company that had as much buzz nor moxy as any of the Benchmark companies I mention above (Zillow, Glassdoor, Uber, New Relic). “
In that blog post, I highlighted 6 core reasons why Israeli entrepreneurs struggled at messaging and branding.
1. Israelis prefer substance to form.
2. We are handicapped by geography
3. Israelis are misunderstood and misunderstand their audiences and mediums. Language, accents and cultural sensibilities are certainly a barrier to getting your message across. However, even more challenging, Israelis are not good at understanding a fundamental tenet of messaging, which is crafting it for the cultural sensibilities and interests of your AUDIENCE and then CONSISTENTLY and CONSTANTLY staying on message with the right words, phrases and rhymes.
4. Israelis actually do not think precision messaging and positioning is important to the core of the business.
5. Israeli companies are insufficiently aspirational in their branding approach.
6. Marketing requires friction and pissing some people off. Israelis do not create enough friction in their messaging.
This is emphatically no longer true.
Just look at Lemonade, Nexar, Windward, Honeybook and Freightos to name a few. As I wrote above, this has been top of mind at Aleph since our founding so naturally in our company selection, we paid attention to the storytelling, branding and messaging capabilities of the founders before we invested. As we like to say, top of the funnel matters a lot in everything. However, we think that there is more going on here and entrepreneurs have gotten more effective at it since 2014. We are making big advances in using our American and British expats to get messaging right. Our Aleph content marketing seminar initiative is targeted directly at increasing the number of capable content marketers and messaging experts in Israel. Companies are learning to generate friction in their marketing and leverage Israel’s skills in online marketing to amplify brand. Most importantly, we are getting more consistent and Israeli authenticity is shining through.
In the coming series of blog posts, I want to look at what these companies did in order to get their messaging and branding in order and what we can learn from it.