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On the upside

Teng Fang Yih | April 14, 2009
I also know that if the dregs of civilisation can sell something so counter-intuitive as murder-is-a-fight-for-freedom-and-God, we humans are capable of exemplifying, illustrating all those buzzwords we hear and sometimes use liberally like a shibboleth to get into the board roomcreativity and innovation.
The BBC World Service reported sometime last month the fatal mauling of a 10-year-old boy in Sicily by a pack of stray dogs, which had dragged him off his bicycle before setting on him. Presumably in reference to the law in Italy that protects dogs, making it an offence to kill them in the country, the priest at the boys funeral accused society of turning animals into icons.

When I heard this report, it didnt strike me as odd. And instead, I thought about the other animals in the world that have become iconswhether for good or evil. Along with images of vermin such as Osama Bin Laden and his crew, the face of one Ajmal Kasab, the only surviving member of the pack that killed a lot of people and held downtown Mumbai hostage for days late last year.

To most of us, these subhumans should be exterminated and be forgotten. But to someamong the beaten and dispossessed of Palestine, the poor and hungry on the streets of Islamabad….they are icons of a glorious fight for freedom.

Yes, by ramming jet airplanes into tall buildings, making sure that even that janitor from Cuba working the morning shift on the eighth floor of the building dies by taking the whole building down, scum can become heroes. That idea of heroismbattling the evil empire of infidel America by killing noncombatants from other countries round the worldcan be sold successfully to suckers everywhere. And as the saying goes: Theres one born every minute.

So theres your overwhelming support from some corners of the earth for the cause of Al-Qaeda and its affiliates.

Then I thought about parallels in the world of business. Icons as brands. And I remembered that one of the worlds biggest brands is that of a company barely settled in its accounts when it started just before the Great Depression and ran successfully right through it to this day: Walt Disneys company now has dealings across the globe.

So really, I have two points to make here. The first: you can sell anything to the right target market, as shown by Al-Qaeda and its supporters. The second: you can also do it in markets as poor as those the world saw during the Great Depression.

Of course, you may say, we always knew that. Trouble is how. Well, you got me. I dont know how. But I do know that theres nothing to be gained by not trying. And I also know that if the dregs of civilisation can sell something so counter-intuitive as murder-is-a-fight-for-freedom-and-God, we humans are capable of exemplifying, illustrating all those buzzwords we hear and sometimes use liberally like a shibboleth to get into the board roomcreativity and innovation.

Do you agree? Tell me what you think you can sell to whom today.