by Vidhi Singh who enjoys top of the mind recall by moving gracefully on stage and loves observing people, places and drawing insights
Terrorism has been described as a plan or strategy, a crime, a holy duty and even a justified reaction to oppression depending on which side is being represented. The US Department of Defense defines terrorism as “the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat to inculcate fear, intended to oppose or intimidate government or society in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious and ideological”.
The 4 P’s of terrorism that we are familiar with would be:
Plan the massive attack to instill fear or caveat
Prevent knowledge of these attacks to the “enemy” government & civilians and therefore rope in alliances in “enemy” territory for assistance
Pursue the plan in full swing with utmost aggression
Hence, Protect the sovereignty of one’s political, religious and ideological beliefs
But as marketers, let’s explore the marketing mix of terrorism just to see if something substantial comes up. Off the top of your head you may say: Product-Terror, Price-Life, Place-Where potential terrorists are brainwashed and Promotion-The act of brainwashing by influential orators. But to explore this it is important to delve into the origins and the economics of terrorism. Hence the 4 P’s would look something like this:
Product: Terror? Not really. Believe it or not this could range from arms to oil to drugs in general to opium more specifically. How? Well, there is a close nexus between Taliban and Pakistan in drug trafficking. According to the UN Drug Traffic Control Programme, Afghanistan produced 4,600 metric tons of opium in 1999 which is 3 times the opium produced anywhere else in the world.
Place: The target of the attack? Not quite. The places of origin, those which are generating terrorism, drug trafficking, health epidemics, refugees and environmental disasters, are shattered countries where hunger, poverty, repression and greed have fed violence, despair and extremism. In economic terms, these are countries that have low opportunity costs of terror. Pakistan and Afghanistan are striking examples of these. Then again, if we want to look at the distribution channel of this “product”, the sale to the black markets is dominated through channels that include smugglers, terrorist organizations, and other crime organizations, a multi degree channel.
Price: Price is the motivation behind terrorism: Lost lives? Religious satisfaction? Not entirely. The price of smuggling is such that it generated trade between Taliban controlled Afghanistan and Pakistan work over $2.5 billion in 1997 (according to World Bank Report 1999) and if we include the neighboring countries into this network, the turnover works out to over $5 billion. Now we’re talking numbers, eh?
Promote: The brainwashing to young potential terrorists? Not really. Youtube videos of the late Osama? Partly yes. You see, terrorism as we know it today as 9/11, 7/11 etc. is funded by “sales of the product” i.e. trade. It is a marketing strategy. How so? It rules out “competition” i.e. resistance by those who uphold the law. It makes you untouchable by instilling that fear. It allows you to “sell” i.e. trade without interruptions because you are feared. How is this different from the mafia? The scale at which they indulge in “promotion” i.e. the thousands of lives they take, the millions of lives that get affected. Also the extent to which they go in terms of blowing themselves up in order to get the message across. In short, it’s the impact!
So there you go: Terrorism here isn’t the product, it’s actually a means to an end and therefore would form the “Promotion” aspect of the marketing mix.
While we’re on the subject, the 4 P’s to counter terrorism can also be identified.
There are the usual solutions like:
Pursue terrorists with utmost force
Protect civilians by installing security
Prepare against the consequences of a terrorist attack
But the key is to strike at its root:
Prevent terrorism by tackling the root cause. The poorer world is in a state of turmoil caught in the vicious cycle of poverty, disease and instability. Large scale financial and scientific help is an investment worth making not just for humanitarian reasons but because remote countries in turmoil become stations of disorder for the rest of the world. Currently US’s foreign aid is a pitiful 0.1% of GDP but bringing it to 0.3% would make $20 billion a year available for the economic development of these nations and thus breaking the nexus of illegal economic activities. A long as there is no “product” i.e. trade there will be no “promotion” i.e. terrorism.