As the old saying goes, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat” (at the risk of offending the animal rights folks), and Turkey is skinning a lot of cats. Ankara’s multifaceted, long-term efforts to improve its image constitute the broader context in which Genocide denial falls.
At least since the time of Ataturk, Turkey has gone to great lengths to become “European” and shed its well-earned barbaric image. Some efforts were silly, such as changing their attire. More recently, some constitutional/legal reforms have been made. You might remember, perhaps a decade ago, Turkey’s public relations efforts expended significant energy on trying to get English speakers to pronounce the country’s name as “toor-kee-yeh” to avoid being associated with the homonymous bird and the dopiness being “a turkey” connotes.
More serious efforts include hiring spokespeople, to represent Turkish companies and products. A good example is the Kobe Bryant/Turkish Airlines deal. This ball-bouncer is so well liked, that even many Armenians who are otherwise very committed to our cause gave him a pass. That positive image then “transfers” to the company, and more subtly, to Turkey. While this issue was hot, even someone as sensible and rights-defending as Earl Ofari Hutchinson came to Bryant’s defense. He argued that Bryant’s association with the Turkish company (half government owned) would not help Turkey’s denial campaign. He went even further, falling into the ludicrous “Turkey is a key ally” argument’s trap, defending Obama’s refusal to carry out his pledge to properly recognize the Genocide. I wonder if Hutchinson would have made similar arguments about the anti-South-African-apartheid divestment campaign of the 1980s.
This kind of more subtle, psychology- and marketing-based approach seems to have been under way since January 12, 2004 under the auspices of Turkey’s Ministry of Economy through a program dubbed “Turquality”—clever, isn’t it, the association of a “positive” – quality – with Turkey? Check out the website, available in Turkish and English.
This all matters because: Imagine you have a positive opinion of someone, let’s say a good friend or sibling. If another person comes along, even a trusted one, who gives you negative information about the friend/sibling, you will probably not accept it as true or valid. The new “information” conflicts with your positive “frame” of the friend/sibling. This is the kind of positive image Turkey seeks to build so that when someone criticizes its human rights record, occupation of Cyprus, support of Islamic extremists, or Genocide denial, the person hearing the critique, because of a preexisting positive frame of Turkey, will disregard the “bad” news.
I learned of Turquality from a friend who is a distributor being wooed by some Turkish producers. According to this source, Turks have fairly strong business/marketing/distribution operations in other parts of the U.S. such as New York, Ohio, Texas, and Chicago, and are now targeting Los Angeles. The same source also told me that part of Turquality is a program that will match, dollar-for-dollar, the money a Turkish company spends on marketing! I could not find this on the website, but that does not mean it is untrue.
Turquality seems like very serious business. An unsurprising cast of American consulting firms (Boston Consulting Group, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, Mc Kinsey, Price Waterhouse Coopers), projected to grow in number, is already involved. Already, 100 companies and 111 brands are part of this program, presumably partaking of the roadmap development, vision seminar, and executive development activities
Turquality, as described on its website, “is an ambitious project associated with bringing ‘Turkey’ and ‘Quality’ concepts together. It was initiated by the Turkish Government, Ministry of Economy, Turkish Exporters’ Assembly (TIM), and Istanbul Textile and Apparel Exporters’ Association (ITKIB)… It is basically an accreditation system.” The objectives are listed as:
–Support companies in their brand-building efforts via helping them to develop essential capabilities, competences, skills and resources
–Undertake PR activities abroad for creating and enhancing awareness on Turkish brands
–Create awareness on the internationally accepted values like quality and novelty
–Ease access to the market intelligence in order to help companies brand-positioning
–Act as an incubator and catalyzer for selected Turkish brands
This is the kind of effort that makes businessmen salivate. It can also have serious ramifications for Armenians in our battle against the Turkish government. We should be alert to this program and do whatever is possible to mitigate its political/public relations side effects.