“Smart Power” Is Smart Marketing

March 24, 2010 at 12:27 pm 1 comment

The Wall Street Journal recently covered defense contractors moving into the realm of “smart power,” nation-building programs used in concert with military presence to promote America’s strategic interests in “hot spot” regions.

Some of these smart power programs include:

  • Lockheed Martin: training prosecutors in Liberia.
  • Northrop Grumman: training Senegalese peacekeeping troops in basic human-rights law
  • BAE Systems: providing anthropologists to accompany US troops to improve their cultural understanding in Iraq and Afghanistan

The Wall Street Journal article points out that such programs are not the typical purview of defense contractors. That’s correct; in fact, the smart power services seem to clash with the very brands of multi-billion dollar corporations known for military hardware. But a closer examination of these companies’ fundamental positioning shows that smart power is a smart marketing move.

Defense contractors’ embrace of smart power represents the upholding of existing brands with new products that accommodate shifting trends. Business history is replete with companies that failed to change with the times; Good to Great and Creative Destruction are catalogs of such failures. As the WSJ piece states, the Obama administration may be axing the F-22 fighter and new helicopters for the president, but they are pushing for more smart power programs. Lockheed CEO Robert Stevens asserts “(t)he definition of global security is changing.”

Smart power also has a positive PR effect for defense contractors as it demonstrates their facility and willingness in being part of humanitarian solutions. This can help their standing with the public and government leaders.

“Defense contractor” describes an organization that provides services and systems to help protect America and its interests. The Obama Administration has decided that a move to smart power, in essence preemptive “Marshall Plans,” is America’s best defense. With their new smart power programs, companies like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems are showing they will not surrender their “defense” positioning.


Entry filed under: Marketing, Public Affairs, Public Relations. Tags: , , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Fulcrum Strategic (@Fulcrum_Strat)  |  May 2, 2012 at 12:20 am

    Smart Power does seem to be the logical future but there will need to be some re-positioning as you say in your analysis. Thanks for the article.


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