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Eclectic Thought Samples From Larry Burns

Marketing Terrorism? Really?

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Eclectically Sampling has been a place for my musings over many years.   I took a hiatus as life underwent some unexpected and unwelcomed changes.   So, here in June of 2017,  there is a place where I share commentary about the world of Product Sampling and invite you to visit SamplingWorks if you are seeking that fare.    Here, on the other hand, I will be discussing whatever topics strike my fancy – actually living up to this blogs name.

Marketing Terrorism.

What grabbed my eye and prompted this note was a short sentence in a Washington Post bylined article printed in my local suburban newspaper (YES, in actual print on my driveways end each morning) .

 “The promotion of a youthful figurehead with an iconic family name appears to be a key element in the rebranding effort”

(Daily Herald, May 28th, Section 1, p12)

The article headline was “Bin Laden son becomes al-Quida’s mouthpiece”.     I read the piece and was thinking about it for a moment and then suddenly it all felt very wrong.  Just wait a moment!   Have we really “normalized” the awful reality of these organizations to simply another “brand” to be discussed as if a “New and Improved” burst had somehow appeared on their package?

I know in this era of endless news cycles and awareness of the marketing lexicon to describe all sorts of things it has become commonplace to apply branding concepts to nearly everything.   While this supports my long used quip (said with a laugh and strange accent) “Everything’s marketing” ..  I found this piece to hit me squarely in the WTF part of my brain.

Acceptance and ‘normalization’ are an enemy of critical thought.   Somehow looking at al-Qaida as an organization undergoing a “rebranding effort” pulled me up short and made me shout … “Now hold on a damn minute here!”

At the risk of being declared an older white comfortable suburban guy railing against the institution of Journalism I actually find little fault in the article itself.  It clearly reports (in a rather matter of fact way) on what is happening and offers background and places the subject in a context to be understood.   It pays off on the headline and is about a 300 word, 9 column inch, page 12, piece and yet, somehow it still hit me so wrong.

By choosing to relate the changes in leadership of a terrorist organization to language best used in analyzing the latest soda / pop advertising campaign are we not diminishing and in some insidious ways simply ‘accepting’ the normalcy of the organization’s very existence?   Yes, I do know it is a horrible reality that needs to be reported upon and I also know continuing to approach every piece by screeching fear in not proper either.    Yet, somehow this fits with the all too familiar way the news seems to ‘accept’ something and simply move on to the next.   Editorially I get it – this is a page 12 filler piece, worthy of some coverage but really  … nothing blew up, no one was killed hence, it’s not bleeding so it’s not leading.

Still … something here is truly unsettling.   I feel it, I know it – I guess I just can not find the right words.


Categorised as: Media