Tuesday, July 24, 2007

This Week Only! 30% Refund On Unexploded Cluster Bombs. Plus Half Off All Artificial Limbs

Dag! Here's poor president Bush searching all over the place for a way to win in Iraq when the answer was right in front of him all the time: Toothpaste. That's right, toothpaste. See, while Bush and all the generals he eventually ended up firing because they couldn't win were thinking the secret was blowing things up and shooting people and stuff, the answer was in getting the Iraqis to think of the Americans as the quicker picker upper instead of an occupying army of foreigners.

Why does BBDO hate America?

The key to boosting the image and effectiveness of U.S. military occupations 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 from People You're Trying to Kill." The 211-page study, for which the U.S. Joint Forces Command paid the Rand Corp. $400,000, (after manufacturer's rebate) was released this week.

"See, it turns out getting their houses blown up really negatively impacts positive feelings towards the agents of that destruction. We're thinking of giving all the combat patrols coupons to Home Depot to distribute after they kick someone's door in," Helmus said.

Helmus and his co-authors concluded that the "force" brand, which the United States peddled for the first few years of the occupation, was doomed from the start and lost ground to enemies' competing brands. "We really should have used focus groups," Helmus told reporters. "We weren't aware the our slogan 'Shock and Awe' would carry a negative connotation with the people who were being bombed. Fox News tested it for us and said it was a slam dunk."

Helmus acknowledged that it could be too late for extensive rebranding of the U.S. effort in Iraq. "Once a Yugo, always a Yugo," said a representative of the Rand Corporation.

"This isn't just about going in and blowing things up," said Duane Schattle, whose urban operations office at the Joint Forces Command ordered the study, "This is about working in a very complex environment. And then blowing things up."

Walmart's desired identity as a friendly shop where working-class customers can feel comfortable and find good value, for example, would be undercut if telephone operators and sales personnel had rude attitudes. ""Well, sure, you like them now," Schattle said. "But give them automatic weapons and tell them to clear the parking lot and then see how popular they are. Oh, and no rain checks either."

Helmus recommends expanding military training to include shaping and branding concepts such as cultural awareness, and the study underscores the perils of failing to understand your consumer. "In the big picture though, it becomes somewhat problematic how you develop this level of understanding when your objective is to kill the consumer. We're still working on that," Helmus added.

Schattle acknowledged that much of what works for consumer advertising in the United States might not translate well in Baghdad. But urban ops, he said, is all about experimenting and adapting to new realities. "We'll do better in Iran," he added.

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