Call for Ways to Launch a High Impact, Integrated, Global Branding and Marketing PR Campaign Against ISIS

America has enormously talented branding, marketing and PR leaders who have used these skills to build great companies. The time has come to pull these talented people together to tackle the problem of America being out-marketed by ISIS.  People around the world used to admire us and our way of life. Now, in too many parts of the world, America is misunderstood, not trusted and hated. They do not see or appreciate the strong, positive qualities of the American people.  The challenge is to find a way for America to out-market ISIS, particularly among idealistic young people who are disadvantaged, under- or unemployed, and feel isolated from friends and community.

We have two challenges that need to be tackled:

1. Fix our own broken systems in government, education, healthcare, the family unit, financial systems and more.

2. Have America out-market ISIS, particularly among badly disadvantaged young people who cling to any better options they might have.

8 comments on Call for Ways to Launch a High Impact, Integrated, Global Branding and Marketing PR Campaign Against ISIS

  • sandy wiener

    Jack and Kent, Thanks for starting this thread.

    Yes, two important challenges and goals (the first one being to me the more important and more difficult one).

    Then the big question comes: how do we actually go about starting to solve these problems?

    A huge question, and since you raised these two topics, I wonder what are some of your thoughts about solutions.

    To be continued, Sandy

    • Kent Hackmann

      Sandy, You are welcome.

      In answer to your question, how do we get underway to solve the problems, I suggest addressing the second challenge first by getting informed about the underlying terrorist threat that ISIS poses. Knowing the enemy will give me a starting for out-marketing ISIS. I recommend Louise Richardson’s WHAT TERRORIST WANT. UNDERSTANDING THE ENEMY, CONTAINING THE THREAT.(Random House, 2006). Richardson grew up in rural Ireland and watched her friends join the Irish Republican Army. She knows terrorism first-hand. She is a professor of government at Harvard. She has spent her career explaining terrorist movements around the globe and throughout history.

      Richardson is only one of many authorities. So many of you read broadly and, I hope, will comment on Richardson and add to the reading list.

      In a future posting, I will make a suggestion for understanding Jihadists from the USA.

      In the belief that knowledge is power, I look forward to reading your informed comments.


  • Jack Killion

    Sandy, to tackle these very tough, critical challenges we have to bring our country’s top thinkers and doers together to focus on these issues. This won’t be a Republican or Democrat solution. Led by our next President we have to get beyond the bitter in-fighting between the two parties and put together impacting teams of just the very most talented people. Each team would work on a specific challenge. Jack


    We don’t need genius. We need logic.
    #1. Leaders don’t kill themselves, but they talk others to do it.
    Osama Ben Laden did not kill himself.
    Leaders are power-driven cowards that promise the gullible that heaven awaits.
    “Are you gullible?” Let’s ask that question with leaflets.
    #2. Assume there are 30,000 dedicated ISIS members. If each one killed 150 innocent people they would kill a tiny fraction of the world’s 7.125 billion people. To be exact .00063% The effort is doomed no matter how many ISIS can recruit. They cannot win.
    Does it pay to kill the innocent with a result that no change can be expected? We have to state “Only a child who does not know math would believe that the threat of ISIS is real nor can it’s goals be achieved. It’s impossible. Why kill and die for the impossible?
    Paper leaflets have to be read. Drones with speakers have to be heard.

  • Jack Killion

    Thanks for the feedback with good observations and suggestions. About a year ago I met a Brit who is a terrorism consultant working with the UN. He made the point that terrorist groups seldom extend beyond a single generation. Like you, he also thought in the overall scheme of life and death they are relatively unimportant vs. many of the other things that kill us including diabetes and heart disease.

    My concern is that ISIS, in this day and age, can have a leveraged impact by:

    * using weapons of mass destruction that previous terrorist groups did no use
    * inciting other terrorist groups around the world to come after us. Previous terrorist groups did not have the globally available communications systems available for linking different groups together.

    Besides pamphlets and drones, how can we use social media to send our message?

    How do we get ISIS followers to recognize that their leaders are gutless and not strapping explosives around their waists?

  • Kent Hackmann

    I am picking up on the two previous postings on how to deal with ISIS as a terrorist threat. Both of Jack’s concerns are worrisome, to say the least. He repeats the question we started out with, how to use social media to send our message?

    To understand the target for a media campaign, I get lots of ideas from Peter Bergen’s new book, The United States of Jihad (2016). It is a must read. The ISIS threat is real but not a danger to our existence.

    I was surprised to learn that the 330 persons who became militants after 9/11 had an average age of 29, a third were married and parents, and were as well educated and emotionally stable as the typical citizen. They were, in short, ordinary Americans. And they were savvy about the Internet and social media.

    I found it useful to learn that the factors in their radicalization are similar to those outlined by Richardson (see my previous post) and include an idealistic desire to correct perceived wrongs against Muslims, a wish for martyrdom, and alienation from family. They responded to appeals on the Internet that gave them a religious cause greater than themselves. What message or messages will counter the propaganda from ISIS?

    Any campaign we inspire will take a while to be effective. We have, Bergan concludes, “a persistent low-level threat that will take many, many years before it withers and dies. . . In the meantime, understanding, mutual respect, and open dialogue seems a good way to more forward.” (A long, patient anti-terrorist campaign was part of the story of the British against the IRA years ago.)

  • Kent Hackmann

    Related to the question of how to mobilize social media and the Internet against potential militants at home, is a major question foreign policy.

    Should the US launch a major military drive against ISIS?

    Peter Beinart, writing in the March 2016 issue the Atlantic magazine, describes the “Terror Trap.” “Presidential candidates claim that attacking ISIS will make America safer. The opposite,” he observes, “is true.” As you read my summary here and his essay, you may disagree — an appropriate subject for a separate discussion. Yet keep in mind that his point repeats the case that credible statesmen (and a few brave politicians) have made for a decade or more.

    In military terms, how is ISIS an existential threat? The US military establishment is the most powerful in the world and while ISIS, by contrast, is puny. The equation changes of ISIS acquires weapons of mass destruction or incites other groups to attack us (Jack’s points). Can we count on the CIA, the FBI, and other agencies, national and international, to contain these threats? Is it conceivable that ISIS would take the risk of using a weapon of mass destruction, knowing that overwhelming retaliation would follow?

  • Kent Hackmann

    What motivates men and women to become a jihadist? That question intrigues me, as you can tell from my contributions earlier this year. A new perspective comes from George Packer’s “Exporting Jihad.” He suggests that the Arab Spring gave Tunisians “the freedom to act on their unhappiness” in the March 28, 2016 issue of The New Yorker.

    The essay offers many insights. I quote one passage: “. . . the factors that drive young men and women to adopt Salafi jihadism are diverse and hard to parse: militants reach an overwhelmingly reductive idea by complex and twisted paths. A son of Rayadh grows up hearing Salifi preaching in a state-sanctioned mosque and goes to Syria with the financial aid of a Saudi businessman. A young Sunni in Falluja joins his neighbors in fighting American occupation and “Persian” – Shiite – domination. A Muslim teenager in a Paris banlieue finds an antidote to her sense of exclusion and spiritual emptiness in a jihadi online community. Part of the success of ISIS consists in its ability to attract a wide array of people and make them all look, sound, and think alike.”

    How to counter the call to jihad, by using the best social media at our disposal, remains the question that we posed earlier this year. I welcome a conversation.

    I have referenced sources that suggest ways of understanding the jihadists. I covet your informed responses to those and other authorities on the subject.

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