Friday, January 11, 2008
In case you missed it, Pakistan has hired not one but two lobby shops to polish its image in Washington and help fight off Congressional attempts to place restrictions on US aid. Ogilvy & Mather, one of the firms hired by Islamabad, declares on its website, "We work not for ourselves, not for the company, not even for the client. We work for brands." Which is, of course, nonsense. Ogilvy & Mather works for money, and not surprisingly that's just what Pakistan is paying them. $45K per month, to be exact, which is peanuts compared to the amount of US aid at stake.
But putting that aside for a second, what kind of brand is Pakistan, anyway? A pretty unsuccessful one, that's what. Anytime you start with military dictators and illegal nuclear proliferation both at home and abroad, you've got a problem on your hands. But when you throw in an Islamic insurgency, suicide bombers, autonomous tribal areas and political mayhem, you've got a pretty toxic mix. Market research has consistently demonstrated that when it comes to nuclear brands, even illegal ones, people prefer stability.
But if a nuclear-armed military dictatorship balancing on a precipice between Islamic insurgents on one side and rioting lawyers on the other doesn't quite make for an appealing brand identity, what, then, would you re-brand Pakistan as? Oddly enough, every time I see an old photo of Benazir Bhutto as a young woman, I think to myself that you could probably base a pretty winning brand image on that. Of course that's exactly what the PPP did before she was assassinated. Which explains why, given the choice, I'd much rather be working for the lobby shop that the PPP hired in order to pressure Congress to call for an international investigation of her death, even if they are only getting $30K per month for the gig.
One thing is certain. Pervez Musharraf can't exactly coopt Bhutto's image now that she's dead, given that she was basically tearing him out a new one when she was alive. So the options for a new Pakistan brand identity just don't seem that good. All of which means that the reason for hiring Ogilvy probably has less to do with its brand management services, and more to do with press releases like this one.