In the field of country and nation branding, what is key is perceptions, rather than performance. The power of branding is not measured by tangible results, but by how much the brand value improves perceptions, which in turn lead to tangible results in the form of “sales” of a country: more tourists, investment, foreign students, etc.
In other words, we measure the success of country branding through Key Perception Indicators, and not Key Performance Indicators. Think of it as the difference between the Marketing and Sales Departments of a company: The job of the Marketing Department is to encourage people to buy or use the product or service the company is offering. They are tasked with creating brand value, brand awareness and ensuring branding loyalty. They create the leads for the Sales Department. The Sales Department is measured by transactional value (how many dollars it brings in), whereas the Marketing Department will assess its success in the reach of its campaigns, the leads they generated and other things such as media publicity.
To understand how well Israel is doing in terms of its global image, we measure perceptions of global citizens towards Israel, compare to competitors, and evaluate trends over time. You can count on one hand the amount of global empiric rankings that measure perceptions about countries, and we use the Best Countries as a benchmark to evaluate Israel’s image over time.
WHAT IS THE BEST COUNTRIES RANKING?
Best Countries is a rankings, news and analysis project created to capture how countries are perceived on a global scale, published on US News every year in partnership with BAV (a subsidiary of Young & Rubicam) and The Wharton School of Business. Since its inception in 2016, when only 60 countries were evaluated, today the rankings evaluate over 70 countries across 24 sub-categories drawn from a survey of 21,000 global citizens, measuring 75 dimensions that have the potential to drive trade, travel and investment and directly affect national economies.
Here’s a short video explaining why Best Countries exists, published just before the ranking was initially launched:
What’s most important to understand is that differently to rankings that assess facts, such as the Bloomberg Innovation Index, the Best Countries assesses what people perceive to be true about other countries.
THE OVERALL TREND FOR ISRAEL
The good news: Out of over 70 countries, Israel is ranked in the top 30 Best Countries, a decent positioning bearing in mind how much negative news there is about Israel in the mainstream media. Furthermore, in the last 5 years, Israel has either stayed in the same please or climbed up in the rankings (in 2020, we were in 29th place), which means we aren’t slipping – an achievement not all countries in the list can claim!
The not so good news: The highest ranking we have is in the Power category, where Israel is ranked 8th. This is also what pushes up our position in the overall ranking. The Power category looks at to what extent a country is perceived to be “a leader, economically influential, politically influential, strong international alliances, and a strong military”. David Sable, the former Chairman of Y&R, calls this the “Banks and Tanks” category. Israel is 7th in the world when it comes to “Banks and Tanks”. These are assets or attributes that in the past were very highly respected, but for the millennial and Z generations (ages 40 and under – the movers and shakers of the world as much as they are young kids glued to their smartphones), this is exactly what they DON’T appreciate or relate to. The millennial respondents in the research even ranked Israel in 7th (not 8th) position in this category, which doesn’t bode well for Israel’s ability in the future to attract this age group, since they do not perceive this category to be positive.
The bad news: Unfortunately, there are two pieces of bad news that are strong indicators that Israel needs better branding and marketing:
There are categories in the ranking in which Israel is ranked so low that it just doesn’t make sense: the Adventure category looks at attributes such as “friendly, fun, pleasant climate, scenic, sexy”. Here, Israel consistently is placed in the last five countries of the ranking (in 2020, Israel ranked 69th out of 73 countries!). Are we not friendly people? Do we not know how to have fun? Aren’t we scenic, with a pleasant climate and downright sexy?? The answer is a resounding yes, but the world doesn’t know it. In the Open for Business category, Israel ranks 62nd, another indication of the huge gap between perception and reality that only great branding and marketing can overcome.
Millennials have a completely different perception of Israel than the general public: in 2020, out of the 21,000 survey respondents, 7,000 were millennials (ages 20-40). While the overall ranking for Israel was 29th, the millennials sub-group ranked Israel in the 46th place overall. Israel is the only country with such a vast gap between the overall results and the millennial results. Since the millennial generation now represents 25% of the global population and 50% of the global workforce, Israel really needs to improve its perceptions amongst this age group.
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