Can branding fight terrorism?

blue mosque

blue mosque (photo:

What exactly do we mean when we say “X has better branding than Y”? Can this seemingly intangible concept, be better quantified, built, and measured?

Keller’s Brand Equity Pyramid is one of the best models that attempts to answer this. A stronger brand means more brand equity, and in order to build brand equity, there are 6 building blocks that the brand must have.

Keller Brand Equity Pyramid

It starts from building awareness (salience), and then after which you would communicate to your target audience your points-of-difference from a performance perspective or through the use of imagery (e.g. ads, packaging). You would then want to know how the response is, and measure these responses which would come from judgments or general feelings. This level of involvement ends of with the ultimate goal of a strong brand which is to build loyal, returning customers. The more of these 6 blocks you have, the better your branding is, and the more customers will reward and return to you.

With that, how do the terrorists’ branding fare against most counter-terrorism narratives from the Muslim community? Let’s do a quick measurement using the 6 factors above:

Brand Equity: Terrorism vs Counter-Terrorism
Factor Terrorism Counter-Terrorism
Salience High media coverage Low media coverage
Performance Increase territorial gains Slow response
Imagery Clear symbols & branding Varied
Judgements Strong condemnation Respected
Feelings Intense Respected
Resonance Reported more recruits Holding ground

Of course the table above was purely based on this writer’s quick assessment, may be accused of being overly generalized, and yours might differ on several points. However the purpose of this was a thought exercise, and at a glance, one can clearly see that the branding of the terrorists are stronger than the branding by the counter-terrorism parties as their components of brand equity are much stronger.

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What then can we do to reposition brand Islam? One conclusion is to go back to our branding drawing boards, and build on our brand equity clearly and properly. Mosques, counter-terrorism scholars and communities can come together with brand specialists and use the model above to build each brand component to match and hopefully outweigh that of the terrorists.

Islamic marketing can do its bit to fight terrorism. And it begins by winning the battle for the hearts and minds of Muslims and non-Muslims through a better brand strategy for brand Islam.

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