August 29, 2011

Brand Israel can't turn a liability into an asset

Here's an article in the Forward about how Israel's sexy branding campaign doesn't quite cover for the repugnant nature of the state and its policies.  See how the writer, Gary Wexler, focuses on the problem of marketing Israeli products even in America:

I pulled out my smart phone and did a quick Google search. I found that Sabra Foods is owned by Pepsico Corporation. But as I searched further, buried under other information, I read that Sabra is a joint partnership between Pepsico and Strauss Foods. The next Google search brought up Strauss Foods of Israel.

Why is the national identity of Sabra Hummus not clearly stated right on its label, like the pride with which spicy red tomato sauces are called Mexican Salsa? Or tomato sauces with garlic and oregano are called Italian Tomato Sauce? Or Indian Curry? Or Greek Olives? Or Turkish Delight? Certainly not because other Middle-Eastern nations can also claim hummmus as their own cuisine. The Turks and Greeks claim everything each other cooks. The same with the Indians and Pakistanis, as well as Mexicans and all their Central American neighbors.

Is the Israeli-ness of the hummus hidden because of boycott fears, legitimately fueled by the smashing of Israeli wines in Europe and Canada? Perhaps. But isn’t America supposed to be the last bastion in the world of big Israel supporters?

I don’t blame Strauss Foods for positioning these product lines in America as “Mediterranean.” They’re in the business of selling food, not selling Zionism. The unfortunate truth, though, is that “Israel,” associated with anything except hi-tech and security products, is proving to be an increasing liability, especially when it is identified with mass consumer goods. Even with all the efforts of Camera, the Israel Project, the Jewish Federations and all the other organizations that blast my email inbox daily with defensive statements, Israel is increasingly emerging as the world’s pariah nation.............

It has become clear that the world doesn’t care about Israel’s wines, its Bauhaus architecture, its fashion, its alluring women, its sexy gay men, its beaches, its ballet or its hummus. The world, its media and its university campuses are riveted upon Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians as well as the state of its democracy.

No, the answer to Israel’s image problems does not depend upon the marketing. It depends first upon the policies.

Actually it might be the state itself that is hard to sell.


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