January 20, 2006
When I presented my end-of-year keynote to the Australian Graphic Design Association in 2004, and wrote a paper on virtual ﬁrms and Al-Qaeda, I wanted to get this message across: we have nothing to fear from audio tapes from Osama bin Laden.
Today, Mr bin Laden issued a new tape with another warning to the United States, and the CIA has conﬁrmed that the voice is his, and that it was made recently.
But if we think of Al-Qaeda as a virtual ﬁrm and not a terror network, it is far less frightening. And I should know: I have run a virtual ﬁrm since 1987, long before the term was even coined.
To me it was just a necessity of having no money to rent an ofﬁce and bulletin board systems were available to us as teenagers.
A virtual ﬁrm has the following. It has a corporate headquarters in charge of brand management, PR and administration. It has individual ofﬁces belonging to staff members and contractors, often from home. They are allowed to carry out their own projects using the corporate brand, provided they are done in a way HQ will endorse. Every now and then, to rally the team, the head of the company will issue an email, do a press release or contact the principals of the different teams.
Each “terror cell” is a home ofﬁce doing things in line with the corporate strategy.
Osama bin Laden has to rally the team, issue his emails, and his tapes are merely press releases, or branding exercises.
And like Howard Hughes, Osama bin Laden is a CEO who doesn’t show up all that often.
Like a lot of corporations, it uses jargon. We use names to refer to our competitors in a humorous way, which I can’t share outside the ﬁrm. They have ‘the great Satan’, ‘inﬁdel’ and similar phrases.
So for those of you freaked out a little, you need to bring this chap down to size. They like the secrecy and the fear that can bring—we call that a corporate image, a consequence of a branding campaign. When you examine the structure, there’s a lot less to it all than you might think: there are millions of home businesses operating in a similar way. Al-Qaeda is a lot easier to understand than they would like you to think, even if their business is terror, and ours is not.
Del.icio.us tags: Branding | Al-Qaeda | War on terror | Osama bin Laden | Virtual firms permalink
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