Information operations

Baghdad Ten Years Ago – 30 Sep 07

WEEK 46: Time to relook the Mission Branding concept and tagline.

King of Beers

“Here comes the King, here come the big number one.

Budweiser King of Beers is second to none.”

 – Anheuser Busch ditty

The other day, I was humming this tune as I was in my boss’s office nuking my Doma – an Iraqi meal of rice and chopped lamb stuffed in vegetables.  Specialist Black, the soldier guarding the office, remarked to me, “Sir, New Castle is the best beer.”  “Yes,” I replied then inquired, “But who is the King of Beers?”  Specialist Black responded correctly, “Budweiser”.  Even though I am not allowed to drink alcohol in Iraq and I am not a big Budweiser drinker – I prefer Michelob if it is Anheuser Busch– I often think of the King of Beers.

Several months ago, I stopped in to raid the Division Chaplain’s candy dish.  Chaplain Steve Walsh and I engaged in a discussion over my job of communicating to the Iraqi people.  Steve asked if I had yet determined how to sell us to the Iraqi people.  “Have you found out how to be the King of Beers?” is roughly how he posed the question.  I had not and still have not.  While a brand slogan is not exactly the correct approach, Steve Walsh understands we have to find a niche to market our wares.

As I continue to discover that the Iraqi people do not understand why Coalition Forces are here other than to prevent a civil war, it is imperative we find a way to communicate why we are here and what we do for the Iraqi people.  This is why we are attempting to communicate Coalition partnership with security, governance and economic development.  We want the Iraqis to know how the Coalition is assisting.  Doing this allows the Iraqi to infer as to why their government cannot do it.  This also deters the Iraqi government from trying to portray us as interference.

Mission Branding is a message organizations use to define and communicate their purpose.  Mission Branding should answer a question. Why does the organization exist?

Dr. Daly from University of Texas asked the Commanding General during our training, “Why is the First Cavalry Division going to Iraq?”

BASF Makes the Products You Buy Better

The best example of Mission Branding would be BASF:  We don’t make a lot of the products you buy; we make a lot of the products you buy better.

I attempted to develop a mission brand early in the deployment and failed.  I failed early and I failed often.  The first brand was based on the mission to continue transition of the area of operations to the Iraqi Security Forces:  “Placing the future of Iraq in the hands of the Iraqis.”

This phrase begot many questions.  What kind of future? Who’s hands? Jaysh al Mahdi’s?  We had to work through the questions to show that adding too many quantifiers extends the brand name and makes it unwieldy.

Then, the mission changed to supporting Farhd al Qanoon and a surge.  Upon further review, the mission brand was no longer clear.  As one officer noted during our discourse on this branding, “You are starting to explain. When you are explaining, you are losing.”  He was right. We had to review the brand.

We tried a new phrase:  Coalition Forces are partnered with Iraqis for Iraq’s Future.  The questions again ensued.  Which Iraqi’s? What kind of future?  By the time we were done, the mission branding was most prodigious.  Coalition Forces are partnered with freedom loving democratically inclined Iraqis from all sects and ethnicities who are dedicated to a prosperous and free and Iraq led by a representative non-sectarian parliamentary government.

This is obviously too long with too many quantifiers.  Mission Branding needs to be succinct and manageable.  We have to leave room for inference that the partnership and future will be healthy and positive.

To wit, who’s the King of Beers?  Budweiser is.

Here Comes the King (of Beers)!

Nobody asks if Budweiser is a good king, a tyrant king or a magnanimous king. Nobody asks if it includes light beers, bottled beers or whatever.  King of Beers.  Period.

When we went through this drill several months ago, I had to regroup by writing a white paper.  The mission branding concept, however, was not gaining traction.  The moment was passing.  Rather than write a white paper or continue to walk in quicksand, I wrapped the mission brand around a Nerf football and metaphorically punted it over the barbed wire fence to be later retrieved.

Now, we are looking to capitalize on the success of the surge. We may transition our efforts towards supporting progress and we, or our successors, have another opportunity to define why we are here.  We can again tackle Mission Branding supported, of course, by solid pre-testing.  This ensures the Iraqis will buy into the concept of Mission Branding as well as the brand we develop.

To reignite this concept, you are reading my white paper.