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Friday, August 22, 2014

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Israel re-brands with new holistic approach

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More than a century ago, Theodor Herzl wrote a book in which he described Israel as an old new land. For the public, with its archeological digs and religious sites, Israel definitely conjures images of the old. The new, not so much.

But today Israel is a land that is trending, that tweets, that has hashtags. It’s innovative and spunky. It’s a place where you can go rock climbing, dance in a disco, dive with dolphins, and enjoy cuisine as fine as anywhere that side of Paris.

It’s very much a place that is a world leader in all manners of innovation, so it was about time the country’s pitch to tourists reflected that.

That appears to be the thinking of officials at that country’s ministries of tourism and foreign affairs, who commissioned studies to determine how best to re-brand the country.

Last week, representatives of the Israel Government Tourist Office (IGTO) unveiled a new campaign aimed at updating and modernizing Israel’s brand while taking into account its diversity and innovation.

The re-branding features the name Israel in colourful, custom-designed typeface, accompanied by the catchphrase, “Land of Creation.” The new typeface, designed specifically for the campaign, blends elements of Hebrew, English and Arabic writing. Designers came up with more than two dozen variations, from which the Ministry of Tourism selected three for its marketing campaigns. Other ministries will select other options, but they are so similar, they will present a unified image of Israel.

“[The slogan] Land of Creation ties everything together,” said Jerry Adler, PR and communications director for the IGTO.

“It doesn’t just refer to Israel as a start-up nation,” said Ami Allon, the IGTO’s consul for tourism. “It’s about culture, it’s about history.”

“It’s about Israel as a whole,” he continued. “Over the last few years we realized that the right way was to give a logo, a branding, that would create a whole, that would have everything within it.”

The logo is not static – and neither is Israel. It’s “a dynamic logo with one visual language that can be adopted by all government offices,” said Adler.

“The new logo is part of an ongoing efforts of the government of Israel… to change people around the world’s view of the country and its people,” he added.

It is expected the logo will be employed in future marketing and PR initiatives, collateral materials, Internet and social media presence, TV, radio or other forms of communication.

Even the logo with a much older vintage – that of a Bible scene in which two of the spies sent to Canaan by Moses carry back a massive load of grapes suspended on a rod – has been updated.

Variations feature the spies carrying a watermelon, a telephone, a heart, a sun umbrella, and even an ice cream cone, all on very colourful backgrounds.

The logos and the creative language were designed by Open, an Israeli firm, following market research by Saatchi & Saatchi England, which suggested the theme of the rebranding should be Israel’s creative energy.

The colourful contemporary Israel logo and the phrase that accompanies it suggests modernity and innovation, said Allon. Another aspect of the new campaign focuses on the country’s people – the faces of the country.

Saatchi & Saatchi was asked to provide its expertise in designing the most effective campaign, from the perspective of an outsider looking in. The company’s market research showed that for visitors, “Israel was not only about the country. It is about the people within the country,” Allon said. “So in the last campaign we not only showed the places, we showed the faces.”

The goIsrael website, a portal into all things connected with travel to the Jewish state, employs a unique interactive video designed by Interlude, an innovative Israeli company. Visitors are guided around the country by a trio of native Israelis. Visitors to the site can choose which Israeli will show them around, and the video takes them to locations ranging from Eilat, where you can swim with dolphins, to Tel Aviv, where you can enjoy a great meal and finish the evening enjoying the latest in techno at a dance club.

“Israel is seizing on the dynamism of multiculturalism and using that,” said Adler.

So far, in its first few weeks of operation, the interactive feature appears to be succeeding. “The average stay on the website is more than six minutes. It’s a lot,” said Allon. “It’s far more than YouTube.”

It’s too early to say whether the re-branding campaign is working, he added.

But there is certainly some success to build on. Despite the turmoil in Israel’s neighbourhood – unrest in Egypt, civil war in Syria – more than 3.5 million tourists visited the country in 2013. “It was a fantastic year, if you think what happened in our area,” said Allon.

Of that number, some 70,000 carried Canadian passports. The number of visitors from Canada was likely 20 per cent higher than that, he suggested, since it doesn’t include people traveling on non-Canadian passports, such as Israelis returning for a visit.

Canadians are valued visitors, since they spend $160 a day on average, more than most others. And 35 per cent are on a return trip.

“It means people who go to Israel feel they haven’t seen enough,” said Allon.

To increase awareness of the country as a vacation destination, the IGTO recently hosted five travel bloggers in Israel.

“We developed and launched an online Israel specialist learning centre for the travel trade,” said Adler.

“Our plan for this year is to divert more budget into social media and bloggers, allowing us greater access to the mass market and hopefully succeed in changing opinions and reinforce the image of Israel as a world-class, modern destination.”

North America is the largest and most important market for Israeli tourism, and, therefore, represents “the largest investment in advertising,” Allon said.

There are many short-term visitors to the country, from cruise ships, Russia and even Egypt and Jordan. But in the last two years, tourists have been spending more time in the country, and “that means people are spending more money in Israel,” said Allon.

No doubt attracted by the country’s unique blend of the old and the new.

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