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Focus Groups Anyone?

(We were joined in comments tonight by Dr. Maryam, an Iraqi Pediatric Oncologist. The discussion allowed us to hear a very clear voice from Iraq, a voice missing in the news we normally read – the conversation begins below the fold.)

Jim Wolf of Reuters had a catchy story that caught my eye earlier this week:

Like the maker of an out-of-favor car or sneaker, the U.S. military needs a new “branding” campaign to earn civilian support in Iraq, Afghanistan and other hot spots, a report for the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

“We will help you” could be the pitch, said the 211-page survey by RAND Corp.,


“Like commercial firms that must update unattractive brand identities, so too should the United States consider updating its military’s brand identity to suit current and future operational environments,” the report said.


“It is a promise that can be kept,” the authors said. “And because it positions the United States as a partner of indigenous populations, it does not usurp their authority, dignity or responsibility.”

Later in the week, the full report became available – Jeffrey Feldman over at Frameshop discusses it and has the PDF. Titled “Enlisting Madison Avenue: The Marketing Approach to Earning Popular Support in Theaters of Operation” the report cost $400,000 and was written by Todd C. Helmus, a clinical psychologist who included the warning “Certain things do not translate well.” Karen deYoung of the Washington Post however seems to like the new marketing which she sees as part of a “new Bush Iraq strategy:”

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. While not abandoning the more aggressive elements of warfare, the report suggested, a more attractive brand for the Iraqi people might have been “We will help you.” That is what President Bush’s new Iraq strategy is striving for as it focuses on establishing a protective U.S. troop presence in Baghdad neighborhoods, training Iraq’s security forces, and encouraging the central and local governments to take the lead in making things better.

But given reports like yesterday’s of the U.S. bombing of the district of al-Husseiniya in northeastern Baghdad late on Friday night where casualties rose to 23 including women and children, Lurch of Main and Central offers the definitive response:

Isn’t it a perfect example of the age of Bu$h that we plan to swarm the civilians with a new propaganda campaign even as we’re killing them off?

So anyone know if those guys are still giving out the Shinola Awards for “the world’s worst rebranding?”

We may be joined tonight by Maryam who is an Iraqi pediatric oncologist and who has written here and here. If she is able to participate (esp given the time zones involved) please welcome her – we have so much to learn from her.

h/t to Ran at Moon of Alabama for Reuters link. YouTube of “Sell, Sell” by Alan Price Group from O Lucky Man – a surprisingly prescient film – scheduled to finally be released on DVD this summer along with If…

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Siun is a proud Old Town resident who shares her home with two cats and a Great Pyrenees. She’s worked in media relations and on the net since before the www, led the development of a corporate responsibility news service, and knows what a mult box is thanks to Nico. When not swimming in the Lake, she leads a team working on sustainability tools.

Email: media dot firedoglake at gmail dot com