Evil acts and social currency: what terrorism and modern marketing have in common.
April 18, 2013
Like most of you I spent this week considering the horrific events in Boston. We watched the 24/7 news feed. Talked to our co-workers. Lessoned our children. We took part in yet another big, heavy conversation. It’s a sick and sweet thing, observing our nation coming together over something terrible. Alas, it has become all too common.
Or has it?
In reality, these public displays of cowardly violence are fairly infrequent, at least compared to violence in general. At the Boston Marathon a bunch of people were maimed and three people died, including a child. Terrible yes. But this sort of thing happens almost every day in every big city in every country in the world. We barely even notice. Case in point, the day after the Boston tragedy Syria unloaded arsenal on vague revolutionary targets killing dozens of innocents. The story was on page four of my local paper.
What makes the ‘Boston Bombings’ so different? Was it the public stage? The parade of innocent bystanders? The media? Or was it the fact that it occurred in America, where senseless violence isn’t supposed to happen? (Tell that to the parents of Sandy Hook Elementary or moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado.)
Whatever the differences, a brazen act of terrorism has much in common with successful modern marketing, doesn’t it? Not to come off as insensitive, but wasn’t the ‘Boston Bombing’ basically event marketing with a viral component? A flash mob, literally and figuratively.
The bombers knew the finish line of this iconic race would have countless spectators. With iPhones. That meant not only plenty of victims but even more survivors, who would film, post and Tweet.
The perpetrators are many bad things but they are not arbitrary. They know blowing up innocent people at a major sporting event creates epic, horrifying drama, the kind that trends on Twitter and clogs all other media: locally, nationally and globally.
The concept of killing innocent people is no longer enough. The vile act needs to be integrated with other pieces in order to go viral and give these merchants of evil the awareness they crave.
Too soon for a discussion like this? Perhaps. Or am I late? Consider another perspective from this VP of public relations: http://www.mediabistro.com/agencyspy/op-ed-when-tragedy-strikes-silence-is-golden_b47174