Spreading Democracy

Roisin Keown

George W Bush, recent heir to the family business, had a grand expansion plan. As the 43rd US president, he would export democracy to a new territory. Iraq. His brand of democracy would have a new name, to be called ‘liberal western-style democracy.’

Fashioned in the mythical image of the American West, like those other iconic brands Levi’s and Marlboro, Bush imagined he and his product would take the world by storm. But what George had in enthusiasm and drive, he lacked in strategy and planning.

Bush believed in his product. He generated great hype around it. With all the excitement it was not long before he lost perspective. He began to believe in his own hype, leading him to make two elementary misjudgements at the product design stage.

He did not stop to question if his democracy was the right fit for the marketplace. He did not ensure a standard of quality control to ensure he could deliver what he promised. Bush was in too much of a rush to get his product out there.

He was sure he was on to a great wheeze. His friends agreed. They were convinced their product could tap a lucrative vertical market of resource-rich territories headed by tyrannical regimes. Today, Iraq; tomorrow, the world.

But what Bush & Co were selling and the market was interested in buying were two different things. Removal of a megalomaniacal dictator would have attracted little interest and no doubt did; establishment of a fully-fledged empirical state rather less.

Even a cursory piece of research, an examination of the category of Middle-East Muslim nations, would have revealed the discrepancy between the revolutionary new product from the US and the prevailing tastes of the region’s residents.

The initial miscalculation on product proved fatal when the cost of democracy emerged. It prompted chronic ‘buyer regret’ in the Iraqi people, who were yet to be convinced they had signed up for anything at all, much less a debit on their revenue stream.

But it was the hidden costs of looting, civil unrest, ethnic conflict, fear, terror and death that proved too much to bear. For their part, the Americans became increasingly uneasy as the degree of continued and future investment was revealed.

As compulsory shareholders, they began voicing concerns they had been misinformed on the amount of finance, period of investment and commitment of manpower the project would require. Bush had underestimated the need for public approval to fund the scheme.

It soon became clear that Bush’s inexperience in anything other than self-promotion meant he failed to grasp the basics of the service industry. A happy customer will tell one person of their experience, but get it wrong and that customer will tell four.

There was a cavalier attitude in the boss’s war room. When quizzed on the looting and mayhem in the initial aftermath, Donald Rumsfeld said that “stuff happens”. The argument for war was a classic case of naive and reckless oversell.

Some folk may even justifiably say it was criminal. The 45-minute claim about weapons of mass-destruction is a textbook example of fictional product benefits creating short-term gain but proving the ultimate undoing of a venture.

Distribution was all over the shop. Bush was seduced by the faddish new principle of ‘Shock & Awe’. This was a false economy, akin to a giant like Coca-Cola choosing to only supply outlets to save on sales and delivery overheads.

So when the launch took place, the manner and means of making democracy available to the Iraqi people was woefully under resourced. Even if people were keen to buy into the idea, access was patchy at best hampered by poor rollout nationwide.

Losing Grip


A failure by President Bush and his cohorts to have the most rudimentary grasp of marketing’s fabled 4Ps left them ideologically and morally bankrupt.

The consumer product experience of democracy was further weakened by the questionable attitude and commitment of a number of sales reps. Abu Ghraib was a human tragedy and so much more than a PR disaster for Rumsfeld.

It showed that the brand ambassadors, the soldiers, were unclear themselves what democracy meant. The ignorance was compounded by a distinct lack of respect for – or appreciation of – the people they were supposed to attract to the brand.

McDonald’s has been the best exporter of an American experience. Consistency is maintained throughout the franchises with a rigidly enforced code of conduct for staff. The code means the consumer knows what they can and should expect.

When Bush and chums were dreaming of market domination, they would have done well to remember it was the Land of the Free that enshrined the dictum the customer is always right. Bush has abandoned his plans to make democracy available beyond the US.

He is promoting a new product, peace and stability. The internal marketing to the shareholders has been refined from ‘Support the war’ to ‘Support the troops’ and with limited success. Bush will soon exit the White House.

Roisin Keown (roisin.keown@ddfhb.ie) is a copywriter with DDFH&B

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