Goodby: Al Qaeda Is the ‘Ultimate Brand’

SAN FRANCISCO Al Qaeda has the best brand in the world. That’s what Goodby, Silverstein & Partners’ co-chairman Jeff Goodby suggested in his opening keynote address at Adweek’s 30th Creative Seminar here today.

Goodby discussed why branding can take a lesson from news stories, which boil down complicated topics to one or two unforgettable images.

Using slides, he cited news stories that are conjured with one picture, such as the end of World War II (an image of a sailor kissing a woman in Times Square) and Nixon’s resignation (the former president flashing peace signs).

“They’re very complicated but at the same time they seem to boil themselves down to really simple images that become the only thing you remember about them,” he said.

Showing a slide of Osama bin Laden, Goodby said Al Qaeda had branded itself better than anyone else lately, using just one spokesperson (bin Laden) and commercials (videos shown on Arab news network Al Jazeera) and images of destruction. When he commissioned the design director at Goodby to create a log for Al Qaeda, the designer came up with one incorporating the Twin Towers burning.

While he admitted what he was saying might seem shocking, Goodby said he was just illustrating his point, that the mechanism for brands work the same way news stories work.

“Next time you’re sent down working on a new account think, if it were a news story, what would be the thing to take away,” he said. “Look at the most complicated images and work from there. Which image eats the rest of them alive?”

As far as comparing branding with terrorism, Cameron Douraghy, vp of Artisan Creative in San Francisco, said, “I had no problems with that. He should have developed it a little longer.”

“I don’t think he was as shocking as he was hoping to be, but that’s not necessary, he had a lot of good information,” said Margaret Bond, a copywriter at Wilson McGuire Creative in Winston-Salem, N.C., who said she enjoyed the speech.