In the advertising world, brand identity is everything. Volvo means safety. Colgate means clean. IPod means cool. But since the U.S. military invaded Iraq in 2003, its "show of force" brand has proved to have limited appeal to Iraqi consumers, according to a recent study commissioned by the U.S. military.
The key to boosting the image and effectiveness of U.S. military operations
around the world involves "shaping" both the product and the marketplace, and
then establishing a brand identity that places what you are selling in a positive light, said clinical psychologist Todd C. Helmus, the author of "Enlisting Madison Avenue: The Marketing Approach to Earning Popular Support in Theaters of Operation." The 211-page study, for which the U.S. Joint Forces Command paid the Rand Corp. $400,000, was released this week.
Some days I read something so mind-numbingly stupid that I wonder how the author finds their way to the restroom. Sample:
In an urban insurgency, for example, civilians can help identify enemy infiltrators and otherwise assist U.S. forces. They are less likely to help, the study says, when they become "collateral damage" in U.S. attacks, have their doors broken down or are shot at checkpoints because they do not speak English. Cultural connections -- seeking out the local head man when entering a neighborhood, looking someone in the eye when offering a friendly wave -- are key.
So now we know why the Iraq occupation isn't going so well. We haven't been marketing properly.
"We want to look at new concepts, new business practices, to see if there are things that we can learn," he said. Since his office was established after the U.S. military issued a new doctrine for urban warfare in 2002, "we've been collecting lessons learned from all over the world," he said. "Not just Iraq and Afghanistan, but places like the Philippines and South America. Wherever there have been fights, we went out and looked at them."
The challenge for the advertising study, he said, was to find "something we can learn from Madison Avenue or from the marketers, the best in the world, that might help us when we're trying to deliver a message about what democracy is." In Iraq, Schattle said, the "urban population is the center of gravity" and the problem is "how we influence them to be on our side, or at least not be an enemy" when "what they see is armor." The goal of such studies, Schattle said, is to distill what works and incorporate it into future training.
Yeah, that'll work.