The most successful direct marketing campaign in the world was not masterminded by Nike or Coca Cola but by al-Qaeda.  Despite a trillion dollars of US spend on the war against terror, al-Qaeda membership continues to grow.

It was obvious really.

CEOs have only just cottoned onto the ‘relationship marketing’ thing.   The concept of ‘Tribe building’ and ‘Permission’ may have been identified by Seth Godin but the concept has been around since the year dot.  Our technological achievements in recent years may be off the chart, but our understanding of human behaviour is still at ground zero.

2000 years ago the Jewish temple leaders and the Roman big wigs (the CEOs of their day) figured out that the best way to deal with the insurgent Jesus Christ was to kill him. The strategy behind this was that it would ‘act as a deterrent’ and serve as a ‘show of strength’ to both secular and religious communities.  In other words obey the laws, stop stirring up emotions, stop telling people that they have ‘inner power’ and that they are only answerable to God.

Fast forward to the present day.  Bin Laden had no problem recruiting disciples who were happy to die (as Jesus pointed out, no big deal if you believe in the after life).  Same philosophy, different context.  The line between love and hate, between adoration and abomination, is as thin as the one separating the above pictures.

Despite the luxury of being able to observe and reflect on 2000 years of history.  Despite the trillions of dollars spent on a vast number of wars – we have learnt nothing.  Imagine what the world look like if that money had been spent on third world schools, hospitals, art galleries, orchestras, dance academies or any scheme dedicated to the celebration of the human spirit and the unity of culture. Imagine the new tribes we could have built.  Imagine how hard al-Qaeda would have to work to compete with that relationship.

Today, crowds of people rejoice in front of the White House (reminiscent of the crowd who chanted ‘Kill him…kill him’ in front of Pontius Pilate’s gaff).  The media is going mad with celebration ‘We got the bastard!

Anyone who jumps up and down with national pride, identifying with the braggadocio of the US marines who sorted out the situation once and for all – ‘Yeah we nailed it’ – better look at the piece of wood on which they nailed the last guy.

Three billion crucifixes.  Two billion brand evangelists.  No venture capital. That’s the kind of relationship marketing CEOs would kill for.  They think it’s all over.  In fact it’s only just begun.

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