South Asia Center Nonresident Fellow Ahmed Humayun writes for 3quarksdaily on ISIS’s branding and media strategy:
A shepherd tending to well fed sheep on a lush green field, the blades of grass glistening in the sunlight. A bustling marketplace with stalls sparkling with multi-colored fruit and loaves of freshly baked bread. A father looking on affectionately as his young sons frolic in a playground.
These images are culled from the advertising campaign of a highly successful global brand, though likely not the one you have in mind: these are all high quality, high definition images found on pro-ISIS Twitter feeds, advertising life in the self-proclaimed Islamic state. That the brutality of ISIS – the beheadings, mass executions, child soldiering, and enslavement – has galvanized Western media attention is unsurprising but it comprises only one element of its vast propaganda campaign. No other violent extremist organization in the Muslim world has gone to such lengths to define and broadcast a new cultural expression, which amounts to a branded vision of violent extremism as a consumerist lifestyle choice under the ambit of a restored caliphate. Transfixed by the ghoulish atrocities, we overlook the subtle cunning of brand ISIS.