Should marketers seek to leverage violent incidents?
When a big security breach occurs, the phones start ringing at security companies, or so the expectation goes. The nature of security is that it takes a security breach, or even a high-profile tragedy, to convince managers of the need for security technology. When a school shooting occurs, schools take note. When terrorism strikes a soft target, other vulnerable institutions notice. Same for hospitals and airports and even nightclubs. When an event occurs, it gets attention that could translate into business for security companies of various types. But should security companies seek to capitalise on these opportunities? We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: Is it fair game for manufacturers or marketers to leverage recent violent incidents or terrorist attacks to promote sales of security systems or products?
If a product has the ability to hinder a terrorist incident, the type that security professionals dread, it only makes sense for the manufacturer to let the industry know. Here is a real life situation. On July 12, we announced that our portable barricades would be used at the upcoming GOP convention to stop terrorists from attacking those assembled with vehicles. Two days later, on July 14, a terrorist drove a truck through a crowd in Nice, France, and murdered 86 people. With Nice at the top of their minds and seeing the announcement about the Secret Service using Delta’s portable barriers to protect an event, we received many inquiries from people around the world who had never considered the problem of vehicles used as weapons.
As a security professional I want to provide products and solutions that minimise dangerous events from happening and mitigate risks to people, property, and information. I also realise that our products and services will never completely eliminate terrorist attacks. I personally find it deplorable and sickening when I hear manufacturers and integrators using fear-mongering techniques to sell products and services by using recent events. In the physical security space, we need to act ethically, sensitively and be socially responsible in marketing and selling. Security products minimise risks. They do not completely alleviate risks, and to pretend that our products would have holistically prevented a recent violent attack or incident is short-sighted and ethically wrong.
The recent growth in violent attacks the world over is not something that manufacturers should ignore, but these events shouldn't be used as a marketing or promotional opportunity. The lesson to be learned in these incidents is not about how much we can analyse after the fact, but more about how certain indicators can be used to help prevent future incidents. Out of respect for the many families that have fallen victim to this type of violence, it is more prudent for security manufacturers to help eliminate threats proactively with new levels of intelligence about how these events occur and why.
Rather than leveraging major security incidents, manufacturers should focus on spotlighting trends that are gaining in frequency – not individual events. By identifying an uptick in certain threat tactics and methods, whether terrorist acts or cyber-attackers, vendors can be much more effective focusing on preventing future threats rather than fanning existing flames. For example, cybersecurity is a rapidly growing problem as all of our businesses migrate toward network-enabled devices, and the topic deserves all of our attention, but security manufacturers risk not looking toward future innovation if they fixate too much on the threats that have already occurred.
I would imagine there’s a group of folks who feel compelled to promote their products and services in a fashion related to recent terrorist attacks. I would propose to you that the majority of security professionals servicing our industry maintain a consistent commitment to providing the highest level of security services regardless of recent events. As security professionals, our mission and commitment should always be at the highest level regardless of what might be happening with respect to current events.
It takes a delicate touch to ensure that companies and institutions that could benefit from security equipment get the information they need in the aftermath of an awareness-raising (often tragic) incident. Heaven forbid that a company be seen as trying to capitalise on tragedy! On the other hand, if solutions exist to prevent a future incident, shouldn’t that information be provided in a timely fashion (i.e., when awareness of a threat is heightened)? Still, our Expert Panel Roundtable responses reflect an awareness of the pitfalls, and the need to tread carefully.
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