THE U.S. SENATE REPORT ON TORTURE: Curative international marketing is a remedy


Michael R. Czinkota and Thomas A. Czinkota

The U.S. Senate report on the treatment of Islamic extremist captives has dealt a major blow to the reputation of American exceptionalism. “Curative International Marketing” can help restore the brand equity loss of the United States.

The report recounts the torture employed, with interrogation results which were insubstantial in the war against terrorism. Directly and indirectly, the use of repellant interrogation techniques has soiled Americans with terrorist muck.  The use of intermediaries or a stump in the chain of command, do not provide plausible deniability. “Stomach slaps” and “rectal re-hydration”, gnaw on the tree of freedom. But remorse alone is insufficient.

At Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business we have worked for several years on the concept of Curative International Marketing as a new direction for countries and businesses, very apropos to the current ingloriousness. We use the term “curative” to connote restoration and development of international societal health. ‘Restoring’ indicates something lost which once was there. ‘Development’ refers to new issues, new tools and new frames of reference. ‘Health’ clarifies the importance to overall welfare, all of which marketing can address and improve. International carries the concept across borders.

Some may be distracted by the term ‘marketing’. Yet one needs to consider that any complaints, accusations and malfeasances will, in the first place, affect businesses in their public efforts around the globe. Firms will be shunned, deserted and even attacked. It this their marketing efforts which will dissipate hatred.  Also, when troops, interrogations and drones become insufficiently effective, business activities are the action sector which can most quickly and clearly communicate and display high morals. Particularly with focused education and training, managers can emphasize that not all that can be done, should be done. Since firms know that they will be the first to pay the price of hatred abroad, they also need to be the ones to dedicate themselves most rapidly to the restoration of a reputation symmetry.

Curative international marketing takes responsibility for problems which a society and its members have generated. Marketing can help set morally wrong actions right and  rebuild the wellbeing of individuals and society globally. Curative marketing determines what wrong has been wrought and then initiates future action to make up for past errors.

Moving on is not enough !  Mistakes inflicted on society cannot be swept under the carpet. Errors fester like a destructive virus culture. One needs the spirit of “Wiedergutmachung” or restitution. A curative marketing approach is instrumental for governments, managers, and firms in their work on five pylons crucial for a renewed shining position on the hill: Truthfulness, simplicity, less pressure, more participation and personal responsibility.

Truthfulness: Citizens have either been actively mislead, or been left with a sense of substantial ambiguity. Curative actions must be based on fact and insight rather than emotions within the context of societal change. One must restore a presumptive burden of honesty.

Simplicity: Simplicity adds value and is crucially linked to truthfulness, learning,  and making sure that one knows and understands the implications of decisions. More knowledge and training makes it easier to be truthful.

Less pressure: To soar is only one mode of behavior, even for eagles. Sometimes there is too much effort aimed to expand too fast. It may be time for a slow food era.

More participation: A new international outlook must make allowances for others. Inclusiveness helps with future change when power waxes and wanes. One tendency is to focus on and celebrate winners. But when the rising tide arrives, leaking vessels, untrained crews, and flaccid sails will only lead to hostile refugees.

Personal responsibility: Distance does not remove responsibility. One can no longer use intermediaries and, later on, be suitably astonished, surprised and mortified about their actions. Realistically, locals take even distant actions quite personally. Though there is frequent talk about mutual understanding, the actual overlap between societies remains miniscule. The average Chinese person understands as much about Columbus, Ohio as the average American knows about Tianjin, China.

Governments again assert a growing role. New global regulations and restrictions are not always free from fault and ambition. Global discord is growing. Conflict it is not resolved by simply moving on. One needs to invest the time and effort to systematically rebuild trust and admiration to which the United States used to be accustomed.

The sad conditions are a clarion call for international curative marketing. Nobody is perfect, but a fair compensatory effort can restore many opportunities. A strong international and moral presence by the U.S. and its businesses can well be a carrier and agent of positive change. At the front line they can mend broken dreams and fears of America.

Professor Michael Czinkota ( teaches international business and trade at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. He has served in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. Thomas Czinkota advises international companies from Frankfurt, Germany