Published November 23, 2010
The problem isn’t the full-body scans or the pat downs. What TSA is doing wrong is it is not getting the message of their mission out there. We, the American people, need to have faith in their brand… but we don’t.
A brand is more than a name. For an organization like TSA, it’s the public perception built over time based on their actions and statements.
Unfortunately, TSA was a brand created on the run. Unlike products designed to fit a market need and generate consumer support, TSA was –like most wartime efforts— forced on the American public one painful bit at a time.
Not only that, but they’ve always appeared to be reacting. Even now, TSA’s head and the Obama administration are throwing around the word “refining” to describe what is basically waffling, poorly thought out and even more poorly executed security measures.
TSA has always been seen as playing catch-up with terrorist reality. A shoe-bomber is discovered and suddenly people have to take off their shoes when they go through security. A terrorist has a bomb in his underwear and now it’s full-body scans and pat downs. This doesn’t inspire faith.
With most brands there’s a product life-cycle. It’s introduction, growth, maturity and then decline. TSA was introduced badly, its growth has been seen as out-of-control and pretty random, and, everyone basically knows, that it can’t decline (i.e., go out of business). Basically, TSA or some version of it is here to stay. Gone are the days when there is no security to go through to get on a plane.
Bottom line, TSA needs to take more control not less. In other words, it needs to make clear what its brand is all about: stopping terrorists from either taking over planes or blowing them up.
TSA needs to aggressively market one message: “We’re Here To Keep You Safe. We Are Ahead of The Curve, Not Behind It.”
This is not really about political correctness and profiling. Of course, the TSA should profile passengers, but they should also treat everyone as if they are a potential threat…because terrorists have the potential to turn almost anyone into a threat.
In other words, critics of TSA make the argument that it’s ridiculous to treat granny like a terrorist but ignore the guy with the long beard and kufi. But if the terrorists know that the only person TSA is looking for is the guy wearing the kufi, they’re going to find a granny (or impersonate one) to get their evil work done.
Let’s a take a page from the Israelis who have decades of experience thwarting terrorism. They’re basically tough on everyone who flies or comes across their borders. They don’t hesitate to be strong and they don’t apologize –and there’s probably no better anti-terrorist screening in the world.
And, remember, things are always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind.
John Tantillo is a marketing and branding expert and president of the Marketing Department of America who markets his own services as The Marketing Doctor. He is a frequent contributor to Fox News Opinion and the author of the book "People Buy Brands, Not Companies."