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War, An Extreme Marketing Example

As previously introduced, the essentials of Marketing rely in the Marketing mix (the 4Ps). I also stated that none of the marketing principles apply without understanding that it is about People, even if we do not state People as being the first P. The product may be an idea, a thought, or an ideal. One of the extreme applications of marketing is war.

Wars start for many reasons: Political, Religious, Economic, and others. History tells us that some wars started because of the love of a woman. Although new era wars use tactically and strategically the marketing principles, old history wars did not lack the usage of the same principles even though it may have been without knowing the marketing terminology.

We should however differentiate between War as a marketing tool, and usage of marketing tools to support a war. Let’s look at the 4PS and see how this applies in a war situation.  I will take a recent history example: The war of Iraq. In the table below, you will see the differences between War as Marketing tool, and the marketing tools used to support the war.

War Of Iraq

War as a marketing tool

Tools of Marketing used for War

Product Product
Expansion of Control War against Terror
Oil WMDs
Special Interests (Arms manufacturing, Private Security Companies, etc…) Spreading Democracy and freedom
Price Price
Political criticism Thousands of dead soldiers and mercenaries
Loss of Political positions Weak Economy
Sacrificing Subordinates Damage to International Image
Place Place
US and International Iraq
Promotion Promotion
Like minded individuals and organizations Linking Bin Laden to Saddam
Use of Marketing tools for the public (next column) WMDs

As you can see, Marketing can be declared or hidden. The hidden agenda had its own marketing plan. It promised the contributors to guarantee the expansion of US and its allies’ control bringing them even closer to a rising regional power (Iran), while offering a direct presence in an oil rich country (Iraq). It also guarantees massive conventional weapons production and testing, and the application of the armed forces privatization theory (The US Federal Bank is a successful example of privatizing national interests to its stakeholders) .

The price to be paid by the war stakeholders was minimal. Those who will object to war will definitely criticize the ones who started it. The stakeholders may have to sacrifice seats in the states they represent, in the congress, and in the senate. Some of those who are linked to stakeholders may lose their positions even though they are not part of the stakeholders.

The place to sell the product is the US and potential International allies. Stakeholders had to work in those places where they can ensure enough support of those who will buy into the idea.

It does not take much of Promotion to convince like minded people or organizations. However, to promote the war among the majority, the stakeholders knew that they need to come up with a convincing product.

To ensure their success, a full marketing plan was thought of. It did not rely on the 4ps only, it rather focused on human psychology.

The product was the war against terror as a start. The planners used fear and anger to motivate public support. After 911 attacks on the American soil, and the vicious murder of civilians, some people were still in fear while others wanted revenge. The war marketing planners used those emotions to their favor.  By fabricating links between Saddam and Bin Laden, the public who wanted revenge was ready to support a war against Iraq. Marketers knew that they should still fuel the fear to guarantee the support of those fear driven, and the claims of the risk that Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction could fall into terrorist hands was enough to convince the majority among them. As those emotions started to fade after the success of invading Baghdad, a new product has to be put in place to guarantee the extension of war. The marketers quietly withdrew from the claims about the WMDs as they were nowhere to be found, it became all about the spread of democracy, and freedom. Although the majority of current Iraqi leaders are as democratic as Saddam himself, this would not affect the targeted consumers (The American public and the public of our allies).

The price had to be determined. In order for the public to support such a war, they have to believe that the cost is minimal. People are ready to pay their dearest so they can guarantee their safety. On another hand, when we are blinded with revenge, we do not really look into the cost. Taking a decision of war is expensive enough, yet people supported it because it was a price we were ready to pay. As the product changed, the price had to change, the public will not support high costs for a product they already have. This was already known to the marketers. By including mercenaries, and private contractors from the beginning of the war, the planners of the war knew that the cost in American lives will be minimal. They also controlled the release of information about US casualties to make sure the flow of information is slow and would not cause a major shock back home. They also thought of the image of Iraqi casualties in the war. We are human beings, and images of tens of thousands Iraqi civilians dead, severely wounded, and turned homeless would surely affect us and make us think again about our approval of the war.  The weight of the war on economy was a heavy price to pay. Marketers and stakeholders knew that this is not a price the public would want to pay when they know that the outcome of the war was not as they expected. Initially people supported war at any cost. Slowly, the war started crippling the economy. The cost for the public was much higher than the cost on the selected few. Their cost was pre-calculated, they may lose some of their political positions, but the whole economy problem can be blamed on those who will replace them. Another human psychology understanding that was well thought off by the war marketing gurus: People forget! When it comes to everyday necessities, we will not look at the past and who caused the problem, we will be looking at those in office to solve our issues. The third price that we had to pay was the US image as the leading power, the world cop, the defenders of democracy and freedom worldwide. To guarantee the safety, people were ready to pay this price. For those who wanted revenge, the understanding was even easier, how can we be looked at as a super power if we do not retaliate to such an attack on our soil? The pricing strategy model was well thought off and backed with public support.

What about the place? You cannot “sell” your product without having a place.  The chances are that the more convenient the place is the more customers you will get. In a war case, to make people buy into the idea, the place has to be as far from home as we can have it. The statement “We are taking the war to them” is the perfect application of the place convenience. The war is waged in Iraq, thousands of miles away from home.

Promotion is where we summarize all we want to say to the public. It is how we advertize our product to guarantee support. In previous marketing articles I discussed the difference between promotion and communication. Marketing a war is an example where we can see the application of communicating a promotion. Promoting fear was one of the major tools used in the war in Iraq as a whole. Saddam is linked to Bin Laden, Bin Laden attacked us, and Saddam has WMDs that he can give to Bin Laden to attack us again: Lets’ get rid of him! Although news conferences were organized to promote the war, you could see at a certain stage that there was a lack of communication. Not all facts were put clearly to the public, while some information was pure fabrication. Although official after official were communicating their arguments about the necessity of war, at times it was a one way promotion. Intimidation is an example of a one way promotion “You’re either with us or against us” is a perfect example.

Of course, war supporters have their own understanding and arguments about the whole issue, but that does not deny that a marketing effort was put into the war itself. I consider war as an extreme marketing example due to its cost, human lives.

Comments are always welcome.

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