Rebranding the “War On Terror”

Photo credit: Aldrin Muya

Positive marketing messages work, especially when they're issued in the form of a command:

  • "Just do it."
  • "Have a Coke and a smile."
  • "Come back to Jamaica."

Same goes in the realm of politics:

  • "Yes we can!"

Here, again, it's visible in the realm of social marketing (marketing for a cause):

  • "Only you can prevent forest fires."
  • "Just say no."
  • "See something, say something."

It even works in song: "You've got to fight for your right to pa-a-a-arty." (How can you argue with that, anyway?)

Experiment: Imagine that you're a publisher and somebody shops you a book called "Don't Eat That." Even if Dr. Oz were the author you'd give it a thumbs down. Yet "Eat This Not That," which is not affiliated with any particularly sterling medical brand or diet doctor (Men's Health magazine???), is so successful it's spawned an entire series. All by adding a positive twist to what is essentially a negative message.

Great marketing slogans are positive and action-oriented, in addition to possessing the "6 C's" (yes, I made this up):

  • Catchy
  • Clear
  • Compelling
  • Customer-centric
  • Campaign-driven (they feel urgent and temporary)
  • Commitment-focused (they elicit a sense of commitment from the audience)

Such slogans are unforgettable, consisting of simple-to-understand words that draw you in and put you on the side of good versus evil. There is an immediacy to the words and they ask you to be more than you are.

With continued exposure to the slogan, you begin to see its meaning in your life, and you are drawn in and psyched up by the prospect of adopting the values it espouses. "Just do it" was more than a vehicle for Nike – it was socially transformational, promoting the value of hard work and sweat in pursuit of a worthy goal.

All of this is a major part of why "The War on Terrorism" needs work. It sounds negative, and negativity doesn't sell.

Brainstorming some alternatives:

  • "Freedom Fighters" is not workable either, for obvious reasons.
  • "Save the world – stop a terrorist" sounds like "Save the whales."
  • "Make the world safe for democracy" is outstanding. Except it was used in World War I. ("Make the world safe again?" – except it was never…)
  • "The enemy is extremism"?

I almost give up.

No. Wait a minute. I've got it.

  • "Uncle Sam wants you – to join the fight for peace."

I sort of like that one. Except women have the right to vote now - where is "Aunt Sally?"


Although I am slogan-challenged at the moment, it seems the formula is clear. I hope somebody picks this up and builds on it successfully.


Note: As always, all opinions my own.


Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal is an author, independent brand researcher, and adjunct marketing professor with 20 years of varied experience. An avid researcher and prolific, creative writer, Dr. Blumenthal's interests span communication, marketing, qualitative media content analysis, political rhetoric, propaganda, leadership, management, organizational development, and more. An engaged citizen, she has for several years worked to raise awareness around child sex trafficking and the dangers of corruption at @drdannielle on Twitter. You can find her articles at Medium, and, and she frequently answers questions on Quora. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own.