Friday, July 18, 2008

If NATO has Brand Management – Shouldn’t We?

NATO has hired Michael Stopford, a former Coca-Cola Company brand executive to shepherd its brand. According to the NY Times on 16 July (, the alliance feels it needs to be more effective at communicating to the citizen taxpayers who ultimately pay for it.

NATO is concerned about how their image is perceived across the alliance. The article quotes Jean-François Bureau, NATO’s Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy as saying “We have the green light to think about branding policy for NATO.”

A few of my more recent posts have drawn some very thought provoking comments concerning the military and its interaction with the media. I’ve often employed the metaphor of commercial enterprises and their PR and marketing departments and compared them respectively to the PAO and PSYOP. While I haven’t mentioned brand management too often, it’s a core part of successful organizations.

When I first joined Symantec in the fall of 2000 my boss was a former IBM Executive whose specialty was brand management. He was literally the right arm of Symantec CEO John Thompson and was able to exert significant influence on company operations in order to maintain the sanctity and value of the brand.

Translating that to the US Government – is the Department of State (DOS) the brand manager? Does DOD need its own brand management or is the notion of governmental brand management nonsense?

My perspective is that brand is synonymous with the reputation and imputed value of the organization. NATO has recognized the need to have a positive image and has taken a couple of baby steps such as the NATO Channel ( as a means of transmitting its messages about Afghanistan directly without the use of intermediary media. While it’s not clear how effective this effort has been, it gives credence to the concept of a military organization defending its ‘brand’ and in this case underscores the role of the Internet.

It remains to be seen how NATO doctrine will be adjusted to reflect an organization which is neither PAO nor PSYOP yet touches both worlds. The brand management effort is unabashedly one designed to influence the domestic audiences of NATO members, something the US military is prohibited from doing.

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