RAND Recommends U.S. Military Adopt Consumer Marketing Strategies to Reach Iraqi and Afghan Civilians
Jul 17, 2007
The Marketing Approach to Earning Popular Support in Theaters of Operation
Published Jun 30, 2007
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Virtually every action, message, and decision of a military force shapes the opinions of an indigenous population: strategic communication, treatment of civilians at vehicle checkpoints, and the accuracy or inaccuracy of aerial bombardment. Themes of U.S. goodwill mean little if its actions convey otherwise. Consequently, a unified message in both word and deed is fundamental to success. Business marketing practices provide a useful framework for improving U.S. military efforts to shape the attitudes and behaviors of local populations in a theater of operations as well as those of a broader, international audience. Enlisting Madison Avenue extracts lessons from these business practices and adapts them to U.S. military efforts, developing a unique approach to shaping that has the potential to improve military-civilian relations, the accuracy of media coverage of operations, communication of U.S. and coalition objectives, and the reputation of U.S. forces in theater and internationally. Foremost among these lessons are the concepts of branding, customer satisfaction, and segmentation of the target audience, all of which serve to maximize the impact and improve the outcome of U.S. shaping efforts.
" 'We will help you'. What sounds like the title of a Queen rock anthem is actually a simple promise around which the US military might develop a branding strategy. It is part of 22 broad recommendations for the American armed forces in 'Enlisting Madison Avenue', aimed at leveraging the lessons of the marketing and advertising worlds to help the military win its nation's wars. The study's lead author, Todd C. Helmus, is a behavioral scientist with a doctorate in clinical psychology. Thus, he is well suited to examine the cognitive side of modern combat in this monograph, prepared at the request of the US Joint Forces Command… Whereas other recent literature on the subject tends to focus on overall US government public diplomacy efforts, Enlisting Madison Avenue's marketing-inspired recommendations are specific to the armed forces and provide real-life, rubber-meets-the-road suggestions… They [also] point out that US foreign policy and its actions on the ground often drive public opinion but do not absolve the United States from attempting to inform and influence relevant populations."
- Strategic Studies Quarterly, Summer 2008
"The authors suggest that the military could create more support for its operations, and thereby achieve greater success in conflicts like those in Iraq and Afghanistan, if it updated its 'brand' identity using models such as Apple, Lexus, and Starbucks. For instance, just as the marketing world uses 'segmentation' to identify different groups of customers and focus on the most profitable ones, the military could use 'enemy prisoner-of-war interrogations, focus groups, and surveys' to identify potential partners within local populations. The study also suggests that the military do more to meet and manage 'customer' expectations, taking a page from Continental Airlines, which tells passengers as much as possible about flight delays instead of keeping them in the dark… The report also makes a case for re-branding the military, advertising it more as an organization that's doing good in the world, through relief efforts like those in post-tsunami Southeast Asia or in post-earthquake Pakistan."
- The Atlantic, January/February 2008