By Ido Aharoni & Amir Grinstein
Received (in revised form): 18th January 2017
The concept of country branding – and its core guiding principle of positioning – triggers interest among politicians, policy-makers, businesses, and consumers. Increasing understanding of the most effective country positioning (or repositioning) practices can be especially valuable for countries with long-lasting suboptimal images. This article contributes to the country branding literature in multiple ways. Unlike prior research that often studies countries that suffer a reputational crisis following a one-time negative event, we focus on the study of a country with a prolonged negative image. Unlike most existing work that focuses on the study of communication tactics to improve a country’s reputation, we focus on a strategic, systematic, and longterm re-positioning process. Further, we propose an alternative country (re)positioning approach to traditional practices that are guided by two outdated principles, as many of them follow ‘‘an advocacy model,’’ which is at the heart of classic and public diplomacy, or apply a ‘‘broadcasting’’-based communication approach. Specifically, the article introduces a country (re)positioning practice that is based on a marketing/‘‘narrowcasting’’ approach, labeled ‘‘micro-marketing.’’ It then presents a case in point: the micro-marketing re-positioning of Israel – a strategic and systematic decade-long process that began in 2004. This case is of interest because Israel is a relatively young and very small country, which faces extreme geo-political challenges, and has been the subject of prolonged negative international media coverage. The article concludes with reporting positive changes in Israel’s brand/overall positioning performance and perception over time (2007–2015), as well as other country-level and niche-market-level indicators that demonstrate the effectiveness of the re-positioning approach.