Case Study: Al Qaida Used Both Outbound and Inbound Marketing Techniques

By:  Karen Pelletier

Anwar Al-Awlaki andInbound Marketing Samir Khan, the two Americans behind al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, were killed in a 9/30/2011 drone strike on their convoy.  The intelligence community considers it an effective blow to al-Qaida because Al-Awlaki & Khan were the inspiration behind some of the most recent terrorist attacks, the underwear bomber (Nigerian) and homegrown terrorists: the Times Square bomber; and the Fort Hood shooter. The reason Al-Awlaki & Khan were so effective was because they used the techniques of Inbound Marketing to generate leads and attract recruits.  They didn’t have to go out and recruit. The recruits came to them.

The principals of Inbound Marketing, espoused by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah in their book Inbound Marketing, include:

  • Creating an online hub where people who are searching for your product or service can find you.
  • Creating content (blog articles, videos, white papers) that provides value to your target audience.  This content enhances your credibility in your field.
  • Promoting your content online by using social media and blogs to promote your content and spread the word.  Making your content easy to share, helps spreads your reputation cost effectively.
  • Using keyword optimization and SEO (search engine optimization) to help get found by people searching for your products/services.

Al-Awlaki & Khan utilized these principals by creating a hub online with lots of content in a variety of forms, including videos and Samir Khan’s Inspire Internet magazine.  That magazine reportedly used bite-sized, easy to consume content articles, including “How to” articles, like “How to Make a Bomb in Your Mom’s Kitchen.”[1]

Unfortunately, al-Qaida was also very effective at traditional outbound marketing, creating massive awareness with the attack on 9-11.  The most effective marketing combines both outbound (awareness generating) and inbound strategies.

1 NPR, Al-Qaida’s Americans Were Link To The West, Dina Temple-Raston, 10/2/2011.

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About Karen Pelletier

Karen Pelletier is an independent Marketing Consultant. She has over 30 years of experience in consumer packaged goods, new product development, technology marketing, and Internet Marketing. She can be reached at kjpelletier@marketing-consultant-k-pelletier.com.
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