This article on the attempt to re-brand America
in the Middle East hits me as very wrong-headed. I read it because of the many connections of Sun Tzu's strategic idea of positioning in modern marketing and warfare, but this article highlights the misconceptions that make so much modern marketing a waste of time. It also points to many of the misconceptions that get nations into trouble. For example:
''One of the fundamental tenets of branding is consistency...When you have regime change every four years, or at least every eight years, you are hard-pressed to get consistency of policy,'' says Allyson Stewart-Allen, director of London's International Marketing Partners.
First, ignoring the use of the insulting term "regime" to describe a change of leadership, a "brand" comes from an organization's core philosophy, not from its leaders. The organization must understand its philosophy to pick the right leaders, but leader cannot change the core philosophy without literally destroyng and remaking the organization.
America's core philosophy was set down in our nation's founding documents. It has been further defined by everything America has been through since. While we can certainly improve the way we articulate those values and communicate Amrica's core philosophy in the Middle East and even more consistenly live up to our values, we cannot change what America is. Postmodernists think that you can change things by changing how you describe them. This is not reality, either for successful marketing or successful nations.
''The way to address this issue is not through ads, but through actions,'' says Cari Eggspuehler, executive director of Business for Diplomatic Action and a former special assistant to Under Secretary Beers. ''For Americans in general, it's very difficult to step back and listen. But that has to be the starting point.''
Is somewhat closer to the mark, but again, it seems to say that America can arbitrarily define a new starting point. In using Warrior's Rules, the starting point is always where you are. You step back and listen to find out where you are because that it something that can get easily lost along the way. All the good that America has done, all the mistakes we have made, and all the lies that those who hate America tell about America are all part of what America is. The purpose of a brand is to sum this all up in an articulate way, not reinvent it from thin air. You try to articulate your philosophy so that you have a clearer guide for decision making.
When this article quotes from the 9/11 commission:
If the United States does not act aggressively to define itself in the Islamic world,'' the report declared, ''the extremists will gladly do the job for us.''
I took it exactly the opposite of what the report apparently meant. America's enemies have always helped defined America, but not to our disadvantage. Despite what the commission or the writers of this article think, people do not naturally believe or admire terrorists. The real problems do not come from our enemies, but from the mainstream media, which regularly disparages what America stands for.