For nearly a decade, FutureBrand, an international design and branding agency, has released its Country Brand Index (CBI), a list of the top country brands across the world. Their annual study focuses on “culture, industry, economy and public affairs to determine how key audiences see the world’s country brands, from awareness through to advocacy.” FutureBrand evaluates and ranks 118 different countries, using an international panel of experts, including business and leisure travelers, public policy specialists, and media analysts. This year, FutureBrand released a new list: the Future 15. This CBI is a projection of which world nations are poised to “transform the global landscape” in the coming years. FutureBrand claims a strong country brand makes its citizens’ lives better. In order to have a strong brand as evaluated by FutureBrand, a country must have positive associations and attributes across five key dimensions: Value System, Quality of Life, Good for Business, Heritage and Culture, and Tourism. FutureBrand’s country assessment focuses on measuring its experts’ awareness of, familiarity with, preference for, consideration of, advocacy and active decisions to visit or interact with a place, along with its more quantitative considerations. This year’s top ranked countries on the CBI are hardly surprising: nations like Switzerland, Canada, Japan, Sweden, New Zealand, and the United States top the list. The Future 15 list is headed by the United Arab Emirates, Chile, Malaysia, Qatar, Estonia and China.
Israel is not listed in either FutureBrand’s top 25 or Future 15. Why?
We know Israeli citizens are among the happiest in the world, and that Israel’s high tech economy draws companies from across the globe, including Apple’s new R&D facility. In terms of heritage benchmarks, Israel is home to fundamental religious and historical landmarks, including the Western Wall, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Al Aqsa Mosque, and the Ba’hai Temple in Haifa. Israelis boast a high quality of life, and the country’s democratic values focus on inclusion and political representation of all its citizens, including women and religious and racial minorities. Still, Israel doesn’t make the list. Again, why not?
We know misperceptions of Israel are rampant in the media; ordinary citizens across the globe see Israel cast as yet another violent nation in a region steeped in unrest and war. Conversations taking place in print, on television, and in the blogosphere often regard the Arab-Israeli conflict are both all-consuming and myopic; the diversity and excitement of Israeli society is often subsumed by 20 second sound bites focusing on only one aspect of the Israeli story. How do we change perceptions? How do we introduce nuance into global conversations surrounding Israel? How do we discuss the highlights and achievements of Israeli society, while also recognizing its weaknesses and shortcomings? What needs to happen to remove Israel from the bright spotlight of a violent conflict?