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ISIS vs. Al Qaida: Battle of the Terrorist Brands

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It has been a bloody summer in Europe so far, with ISIS-linked and inspired attacks taking place in Nice, Wurzburg, Ansbach, Normandy and, just recently, Charleroi. The attacks seem to have been the work of a few individuals and the body counts have been low, with the exception of the attack in Nice, which claimed at least 84 lives. The number of attacks, the varied but generally unsophisticated methods,  and the lack of strong ties between the attackers and ISIS leadership in Iraq and Syria demonstrate a major difference between ISIS and al Qaida. Namely, ISIS has adopted the “Big Box Retail Outlet” strategy of branding while al Qaida remains committed to framing itself as a luxury brand.

ISIS’s big box retail approach consists of several important variables: reach, consistency, its positioning as a loss leader, psychological appeal and freshness (or keeping things new and current). Al Qaida, as the luxury alternative, is more focused on exclusivity, pedigree, price-setting and seeking adherents that truly understand its message.

For ISIS, it’s a numbers game, both in focusing more on the quantity than the quality of attacks, but also in terms of reach and thus, recruitment. To reach as many potential recruits as possible, ISIS relies on several mediums to communicate its propaganda, from print publications like Dabiq to videos produced in multiple languages. It even retains an unofficial wire service, Amaq News Agency, to disseminate messages, including claims of responsibility for attacks. Moreover, by delegating the bulk of its media output to provincial information offices that focus on local and regional events, ISIS is demonstrating a lack of concern with staying on message. – READ MORE

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