Ways to brand Israel for the younger generation

Israel, we’re often told, is not very good at telling its own story.

October 7 was a time when every professional tasked with telling the world who Israel is had to meet a critical moment because now the whole world is watching. How do we succinctly convey the impact of the atrocities we experienced, while also highlighting the resilience, courage, and compassion of the Jewish people in Israel and beyond?

For decades, we spoke about the importance of better communicating Israel to the next generation of leaders. However, as Israel fights for its existence and global public opinion becomes increasingly hostile to the Jewish State, the time is now.

From my vantage point as the Global Chief Marketer at The Jewish Agency for Israel — an organization that has its finger on the pulse of the Jewish community both in Israel and across the Jewish world — here are five recommendations for a fresh approach to branding Israel for the younger generation.

Meet Jews where they are

Anyone with a smartphone can deliver the right message, the right way, to the right audience.

That’s why The Jewish Agency helps its Shlichim (Israeli emissaries who build connections to Israel in Jewish communities worldwide) become content creators and brand ambassadors. Serving in these roles, Shlichim are young adults who are part of the generation that’s highly familiar with utilizing digital tools and spreading the word on social networks. When it comes to the young generation, Shlichim are speaking to their peers, which enables them to meet Jews where they are.

These emissaries create content in a way that aligns with the interests of diverse audiences, be it lifestyles, food, arts and entertainment, and more forms of content. They don’t speak to just one kind of Jew. They pinpoint their messages for an array of audiences and don’t exclude anybody.

Celebrate diversity and unity

Israel is a different country than it was in the days of its establishment. It has also evolved from the birth of the “start-up nation” concept in the not-too-distant past.

October 7 spurred a profound change in Israeli society. From Jews to Christians to Muslims, from the Haredim to the secular, and from the Druze in the North to the Bedouin in the South, Israelis have embraced a sense of mutual responsibility regardless of their background.

Accordingly, the Israel-positive narrative we promote to the younger generation shouldn’t be solely based on high-tech innovation, scientific achievements, or venture capital and other areas of finance. While those topics certainly still deserve a place within the strategy to brand Israel for the young generation, in this moment it’s crucial to prioritize celebrating the diversity of Israel. This includes both the pluralism within the Jewish community, and the warm relationships between Jews and members of other faiths. This message will resonate strongly because Gen Z (those born from the late 1990s through the early 2010s) is more diverse racially and ethnically than previous generations.

It’s also important to harness the strength of the Jewish people for the sake of the prosperity of Israel. October 7 provided The Jewish Agency with a more open-minded environment to do just that. Israel needs a strong Jewish people because without that, Israel doesn’t thrive. This was more apparent than ever amid world Jewry’s remarkable and historic displays of solidarity and philanthropy for Israel following the Hamas massacre.

For Israelis, unity is more than a slogan on a bumper sticker. The uncompromising support and solidarity of world Jewry gives them peace of mind — to know that amid the chaos and upheaval, someone is always with them.

Bring young Jews to Israel for immersive experiences / on-site marketing

Once you experience Israel firsthand, see the people, visit the towns that were decimated on October 7, participate in volunteer initiatives, and live like a local, your connection to Israel and to your peers is demonstrably strengthened.

Case in point is Masa Israel Journey, the leader in immersive international experiences in Israel for Jewish young adults, which was co-founded by The Jewish Agency and the government of Israel. Masa’s diverse portfolio of experiences include study abroad, internship, service learning, or Jewish studies programs, ranging in length from 2-12 months.

Whether these young adults return home to the U.S. or elsewhere as a brand ambassador for Israel, or their program inspires them to eventually make Aliyah, these immersive experiences play a major role in placing Israel at the forefront of their Jewish identity.

Be honest and nuanced about Israel

Not everything about Israel is sunshine and rainbows, especially after October 7. Life in Israel, or for the Jewish state’s supporters abroad, is full of complexity and difficult decisions. Content that promotes Israel shouldn’t ignore these realities.

Israel is also a brand that’s not easy to digest. When you think of Italy, the first thing that comes to mind is world-class cuisine. For Singapore, it’s educational excellence. But Israel is far more complex and nuanced. Israel is an idea. That means you can’t always unabashedly “sell” Israel or tout it as an unblemished product. Your message needs to be authentic, genuine, and balanced.

Connect people to Israel’s story through unique content creation

 The Jewish Agency is increasingly working with social media influencers because we understand that when a younger audience wants information, they don’t go directly to the original source (like an organization’s website). They go to TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, X, WhatsApp, and other platforms. You need to deliver content where the young generation will seek it and find it.

We’ve also been hosting more webinars. Jews in America and worldwide can always benefit from learning more about the current situation in Israel. It can be a common occurrence that when you ask a young American where Sderot is, they will have a hard time locating it on a map. Broadening one’s knowledge is always a helpful way in connecting him or her to a brand.

But this isn’t a one-way street. We also need to connect the younger generation in Israel with each other, and with the Jewish world. Israelis have notable gaps in knowledge about the American Jewish community, its religious streams, and its diverse culture.

In many ways, October 7 ushered in a paradigm shift in the world of Israeli PR. At The Jewish Agency, our number one mission is to strengthen Israel and create vibrant communities. But we can only do that if people believe in the miracle that is Israel. It is a mistake to think that explaining our narrative must be left to the professionals only – on the contrary, everyone who understands why Israel exists should get involved in telling the story of the country which is really the story of our people.

As an organization that specializes in community building, I can’t think of another mission that demands that we’re all in this together. The Israeli story doesn’t belong to one single person, generation, or demographic – it’s something that embodies us all.

Let’s tell this story now, especially when everyone is paying attention.

And, if not now, when?

About the Author
Elad Sonn is the Global Chief Marketing Officer at The Jewish Agency for Israel
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