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Exporting Entertainment to Win Hearts and Minds

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The Los Angeles Times published an interesting editorial, "Friends - and enemies" on April 25, 2007, about a survey that reported, "the U.S. is losing the fight for the hearts and minds of Muslims, even among our allies." It summarized the findings published in WorldPublic-Opinion.org and was frightening to see the conclusion in print: "the struggle for Muslim hearts and minds may already be lost."

This wasn't news. We know Americans and the war are not popular. It still was shocking to read, "overwhelming majorities of those surveyed in Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan and Indonesia say they believe the U.S. seeks to 'weaken and divide the Islamic world,' and to 'achieve political and military domination to control Middle East resources.'"

I was struck by the contrasts to a story recently sent to me from the advertising and marketing magazine, Brandweek. The story, published April 16, 2007, was headlined, "Emerging Markets Still Like U.S. Brands," and reported the results of a study that "developing countries prefer foreign names to local offerings."

That story reported the "top brands" in various countries, including:

Egypt:

Designer clothing store: Nike

Fuel: Mobil

Hotel: Hilton, Sheraton

Make-up: Avon

Shampoo: Pert Plus

Turkey:

Designer clothing store: DKNY/Gucci

Fast Food: McDonald's

Hotel: Hilton

Iced tea: Lipton

India:

Fast food: McDonald's

Motor oil: Castrol

Coffee: Nescafe

Argentina:

Car: Ford

TV: Philips

Saudi Arabia:

Iced tea: Lipton

Packaged cheese: Kraft

Salty snacks: Lay's

Thailand:

Convenience store: 7-Eleven

Whiskey/Scotch: Johnnie Walker

My family and I have been fortunate to benefit from the world's appetite for American entertainment, as my husband's television shows air countless times around the world every day, every hour. Among our country's largest exports are film, television, music and other entertainment.

Maybe it's time for our creative and marketing minds to get involved in capturing hearts and minds, and not just pocketbooks. The political marketers keep selling us more stories about wars, vetoes, attorney generals and enemies. We saw the failed partisan efforts to "market" our country early in the war. It's time for a new campaign.

Our country is greater than the sum of our iced teas, fast foods, make-up, convenience stores and hotels. The fact that our entertainment and products are more trusted around the world than our leaders, government, democracy and philosophy is frightening. We're the world's greatest marketers. Let's market us. If the world tries us, they'll like us, I'm sure.

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