How Killing Osama Affects America the Brand

Last Updated May 30, 2011 11:47 PM EDT

There was jubilation in the streets of America on Sunday, May 1st as President Obama announced the death of Osama Bin Laden. Coincidentally, May 1st is also the date the death of the biggest mass murderer on record, Adolf Hitler, was announced to the world 66 years before. Unlike Hitler, who cowardly committed suicide before the Allies found him, a masterful team of U.S. Navy Seals did the job up close and personal without suffering any casualties. The success of this operation gives a big boost to the image of America, which has suffered from a series of damaging events, from the financial meltdown to Katrina and the BP oil spill.

The success of this mission in light of its considerable risk has bolstered President Obama's image as well - especially since his predecessor was unable to accomplish in two terms what Obama accomplished during his first. A CBS News-New York Times poll shows that Obama's approval rating is up 11 points. Already highly regarded, the Navy Seals probably don't have to do much recruiting for a while. As with the President, their image has soared as a result of this successful operation - achieving their objectives in 40 minutes without casualties in spite of a helicopter failure in an inhospitable environment. Rather than Blackhawk Down (a fear of the mission team), it was more like the Raid on Entebbe.

How American business can benefit
The positive image and psychological boost this event has given to the American brand will help American business. It has showed the world that Americans do not give up on important objectives. We may go through tough times, but we learn from mistakes and fix what is wrong. The belief in being pragmatic and reinventing ourselves points to an optimism we have always had. Around the world, stock markets' initial reaction was to cheer this event, though the American market has since come down.

What marketers can learn
A significant event can have a big effect on a brand â€" in this case, the American brand. American business can tap into this and ride the coattails. The Navy Seal metaphor can be used in branding and marketing communications. It can also be employed to train marketers when they are overwhelmed by competition - "If a Navy Seal team can go into a hostile environment far away and come out victorious so can you."

As the British used the recent Royal Wedding to market Great Britain, American businesses can leverage the good feelings and positive energy that has been created by the elimination of a big source of negative energy. Since marketers tend to be the most optimistic people in organizations, we need to lead the way in using positives to erase any negatives and to achieve the goals of our market plans. As Jonathan Alter says in his Bloomberg post, "The old can-do competence that beat the Depression and won World War II isn't dead yet. Happier days may be here again."

How do you think your business might take advantage of the good feelings this successful mission has generated?


Ira Kalb is president of Kalb & Associates, an international consulting and training firm, and professor of marketing at the Marshall School of Business at University of Southern California (USC). Follow him on Twitter.
image courtesy of flickr user, Marion Doss
  • Ira Kalb

    Ira Kalb is president of Kalb & Associates, an international consulting and training firm, and professor of marketing at the Marshall School of Business at University of Southern California. He has won numerous awards for marketing and teaching, authored ten books and created marketing inventions that have made clients and students more successful. He is frequently interviewed by various media for his expertise in branding, crisis management and strategic marketing. Follow him on Twitter at @irakalb