David Sarfati of The Israel Ministry of Tourism: “Make it clear”

Make it clear — As a brand you can have different brand identities to fit your different audiences. For instance, with Israel, we are working on multiple levels: Faith-based Israel, Adventure Israel, and Eco-travel Israel, just for starters. What we did was define what our strengths as a travel brand are and why they stand out, then […]

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Make it clear — As a brand you can have different brand identities to fit your different audiences. For instance, with Israel, we are working on multiple levels: Faith-based Israel, Adventure Israel, and Eco-travel Israel, just for starters. What we did was define what our strengths as a travel brand are and why they stand out, then create subsets to appeal specifically to the relevant audiences of those niches.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview David Sarfati.

David Sarfati has served as the Director of Marketing for the Israel Ministry of Tourism Western Region since 2016. He has worked with different influencers, media companies and travel trade media to help establish Israel’s growing brand as an emerging, diverse and eclectic destination. David has an extensive background in Film and Television; A Tel-Aviv University Steve Tisch School of Film and Television alum, he has served as a producer for several television and film projects and served as a writer for entertainment media in Israel.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I always loved watching television as a child. Growing up I watched so many American shows, from classic ones like Bewitched, to 90’s sitcoms like, Growing Pains and Full House, all the way through the “Spelling school” of juicy TV-hits like Charlie’s Angels, Beverly Hills 90210, and Charmed. I always had an affinity to TV and used to dream of one day making my own show, then writing, producing, and directing it. As I grew older, it was clear to everyone that I would be going to film school, which I did. It was a great experience where I met so many people who share my passion for the arts. When I had the opportunity to work for the state of Israel, promoting it as a tourism brand through my producing experience, it seemed like a no-brainer.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Years ago, when we were still learning about social media and the proper ways to use it, our team at a company I previously worked at, hit publish on targeted content to our entire audience- something both expensive and counter-productive. It definitely caused some stir and luckily, we caught it just in time to avoid a real mess.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Israel is a unique destination. It’s a coastal country with beautiful beaches, it has an incredible and rich history, and it’s the world’s religious center for the 3 big monotheistic faiths. Having said that, Israel is polarizing. People will always have something to say at the mere mention of Israel.

At the Ministry of Tourism, we always focus on keeping our message as, “There’s something for everyone,” which is so true. Our mission is to talk to and about people, shared experiences, and interests. Whether you like hiking and biking, or you just want a relaxing vacation, a wine tour, or you want to explore your religious identity, you can literally do it all. What makes us stand out, is our ability to showcase the unique landscape and make it accessible to Americans who might think this far-away exotic country is out of reach.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are currently working on a podcast series showcasing the beauty and diversity of Israel. We’ve partnered with an incredible team (Don’t Forget to Move) to create the most compelling content, and we’re striving for it to resonate with all types of people. Our hope is that it will help people understand how to approach planning a visit to Israel while showcasing activities you might not find when googling “Top things to do in Israel”.

Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

Brand marketing is everything that happens between (and during) the various advertising campaigns. It’s the everyday life of a brand. This is how you keep your brand alive: the logo design, the visual language, social media activations, and partnerships. It is the way you make your brand present.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

As I mentioned before, your brand is the identity of your company, your product, your story.

When you log onto my company’s website, what is it going to feel like? What is it going to look like? What is the first thing I’ll notice? Would I want to stay and learn more? What are your brands values and why would I want to be part of it?

If you know the answers to these questions, it will be easier to translate yourself into a well-defined brand.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.

1.) Make it clear — As a brand, you can have different brand identities to fit your different audiences. For instance, with Israel, we are working on multiple levels: Faith-based Israel, Adventure Israel, and Eco-travel Israel, just for starters. What we did was define what our strengths as a travel brand are and why they stand out, then create subsets to appeal specifically to the relevant audiences of those niches.

The important thing is that each of our travel brands have a specific promise and story to tell.

It is imperative to know what that promise is. What is the story you’re telling? How do I get it? One of the ways to do it is by developing a strong visual language that includes matching iconography and colors. Every detail matters.

2.) Be everywhere but be specific. — There’s no way around it, if you want to be part of the conversation, you have to be where the conversation is. If your brand is targeting young mothers, find those blogs, find the most influencer Instagrammers, look for Facebook groups where young moms seek out advice at.

While it’s important to have presence in the digital space, you need to be able to be specific and personal. You want to create conversations around your brand, driven by the people who consume it.

3.) Be thoughtful and authentic. — Brands have started becoming more and more vocal about social issues, and while I welcome that wholeheartedly, I believe that there’s a right way to do it and many wrong ways too. For example, around Pride month, we see a lot of brands coming out with LGBTQ+ related marketing. This is a great way to show support for the LGBTQ+ community, but unless you’re actually investing in your LGBTQ+ audience all year round, they will see the bluff. Consumers are very preceptive, sophisticated and smart. Treat them accordingly.

4.) Know your audience — Part of your brand’s story, that is just as important as the brand itself, is who are you telling the story to. In the past year, I’ve seen so many companies opening TikTok accounts when their core audience is Gen X-ers. This is a waste of resources. You need to know who your audience is and where to find them.

The other part of this is then knowing how to engage with your audience. How do you make them relate to your product? What values do they share with you? Do your research!

5.) Differentiate your brand — There is so much competition out there and we’re constantly fighting for our targeted-audiences’ attention. You need to ask yourself, what differentiates my brand from other similar brands? For instance, why would potential travelers go to Israel and not any other country in its region? To answer this very valid question, we make sure to demonstrate how this is the trip that will change their lives more than any other place they could go to in the world. Whether they find inspiration in Israel by exploring their heritage, drinking a fabulous cocktail on a rooftop in Tel-Aviv, through rejuvenation by the healing powers of the Dead Sea’s muds, or after hiking to Masada, we know our brand’s strength is in the unique awe and wonder it brings to everyone who goes to experience it that cannot be found anywhere else.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

The best example out there is Apple. They have been consistently innovative, slick, and coveted. They deliver on their own promise to give you the best user experience and the best quality hardware and software with accessories that will make you look cool.

I know what you’re going to say — it’s so much easier to pull off when you have those kinds of budgets. However, I remember watching TV as a kid and seeing a character with one of those colorful iMacs and just knowing they’re cooler than a character with a PC. It’s very intuitive, Isn’t it? Same with the original white corded EarPods. It was such a small and unique way to differentiate themselves from any other mp3 player at the time, and everyone knew what was in your pocket if you had those white EarPods on. Brilliant.

In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?

The questions you need to ask yourself — is there brand recognition? It is memorable? Is it distinctive? Are people talking about it? Are your efforts driving the conversation around your brand?

Thoughtful and intentional execution will help you create a thoughtful brand.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Love it or hate it, social media is here to stay, and it is still one of the best ways to target and communicate with your audiences. As I said earlier, it’s important to be everywhere and do it well. If your brand’s demo is 40-year old’s, it doesn’t make sense for you to invest in a TikTok account, but it could be successful if you want to reach gen Z-ers.

What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

Keep it fresh. Find ways to communicate that would be appealing if you were trying to target yourself. Be self-aware. Look out for current trends and be ready to join the conversation on the fly.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We are in the business of bringing people together and that is and has always been my mission. I want people to see other people for what they are, not through any bias or with assumptions. I want people to be guided by love and not fear. I want to leave people thinking about all the things they have in common and not what sets them apart.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

As a child, whenever I had fears about doing something, my mom would always say, “What’s the worst that can happen- you’ll succeed?”. It serves as a constant reminder for me to not be paralyzed by fears or anxieties when going into a new project or unknown territory. I know if I do my best, I’ll succeed.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to meet TV writer/producer Damon Lindelof, creator of two of my favorite shows of the last decade: The Leftovers and Watchmen. He has a way of creating impactful projects guided by love, that have deeply influenced the way I see the world and understand it.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidsarfati/

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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