It is somewhat out of the ordinary for the New York Times Travel section to devote three feature articles to a single city within a three-month span. It would be even more surprising if the pieces focused on a city other than the world’s established tourist capitals. Yet, it has happened - to Tel Aviv.
Last month, the Times devoted an additional article to Tel Aviv, noting that it has become one of the world’s cultural capitals, especially for the plastic arts. This article joins a stream of pieces, published during the past year in leading American newspapers and magazines, which paint Israel - particularly Tel Aviv - as the “next hot destination” for culture, lifestyle, tourism, fashion, and architecture.
Why Tel Aviv? Why right now? There’s no one easy answer. Instead, a number of factors have contributed together, the most important being a realization that the city delivers on - and even exceeds - the promise that its brand name conjures up.
Those of us responsible for promoting Israel’s image currently face a dilemma: Do we invest our limited financial resources in improving American public opinion, which already recognizes and values Israeli culture and lifestyle? Or, are we better off devoting these resources to locales where our national image takes a beating on a daily basis?
This dilemma takes on greater significance during a period like the present economic downturn. Many of the organizations that have helped us previously are themselves facing a crisis and have cut back on their contributions until the storm passes. These organizations allowed us to work not only in the field of public diplomacy, but also in promoting topics that portray Israel as a normal, vibrant, and modern society.
The coming year marks Tel Aviv’s centennial, an occasion that provides an outstanding opportunity to cover the city’s cultural and lifestyle offerings. To those responsible for Israel’s image, Tel Aviv represents much of what we want the world to know about us, but of which many remain unaware: The city is cosmopolitan, multicultural, trendy, chic, modern, intellectual, young, and open.
A successful brand has two elements: “trend” and “buzz.” The meaning of these concepts is simple: In order for a branding project to succeed, people need to talk about it (“buzz”). As more people discuss the brand positively, the brand name gains enough traction to exist on its own (“trend”).
The same thing is true about the “Tel Aviv” brand. The city is already on the world map. The current challenge is to keep people talking; journalists need to keep up the stream of articles, and leading cultural and lifestyle figures need to continue visiting. Only by amplifying the “trend” and “buzz” around the brand name of Tel Aviv can we ensure that at some future point the city - and thereby Israel as a whole - will become a brand name that can stand on its own.
In addition, an investment in the “Tel Aviv” brand name at the present time can also bear fruit in the short term. Our target audience is the “sophisticated segment.” Members of this population sector have high buying power and are constantly searching for new and promising destinations for tourism, culture, and lifestyle. Members of this “sophisticated segment” have maintained their lifestyles and remain consumers of all forms of culture, despite the economic crisis.
Our hope is that a day will come when the City that Never Stops will join the ranks of cities like Paris and London, which need no reinforcement of their status as global cultural capitals. It is imperative upon those to whom Israel’s image is important to bring the innovation, creativity, and culture that characterize Israeli society to the attention of the public the world over.
David Saranga is the Consul for Media and Public Affairs at the Consulate General of Israel in New York.