LONDON, England — As Iran’s leadership looks to shore up its legitimacy following a controversial presidential election held last month, reports have emerged that a top European marketing firm was recently hired by the Iranian regime to help re-brand its image.
With condemnation of the brutal crackdown against street protesters pouring in from around the world, sources say that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad discreetly authorized Cromwell Kurtz — a world-renowned marketing/public relations consultancy with headquarters in London — to prepare a series of proposals designed to improve Iran’s reputation overseas.
According to Cromwell Kurtz executives, however, the campaign never actually saw the light of day, due to the “unresponsiveness” of the Ahmadinejad administration to re-branding initiatives.
“We put together what we think was a really great set of ideas,” says Ian Ransom, a vice-president at the firm. “But in the end, they just weren’t ready to pull the trigger.”
Mr. Ransom says that the campaign’s strategy was essentially geared around “softening out some of the rough edges,” and helping Iran to project a less threatening persona without sacrificing its own true identity.
“We came to them and said, ‘Hey, why not consider changing your name back to Persia? The current name — the Islamic Republic of Iran — brings to mind 1979, the hostage crisis, Khomeini, all kinds of unpleasant associations,” explained Mr. Ransom.
“On the other hand, the name ‘Persia’ is fantastic. When you hear Persia, what do you think? Persian carpets, Persian kittens… it’s just a friendlier, more welcoming vibe.”
A similar approach was brought to bear on the titles of Iran’s public figures. “These are the officials who are constantly in the news, so you want to make sure that they convey competence and gravitas, ” says Skip Richmond, a creative manager at Cromwell Kurtz.
“Take Khamenei, for example. Does he really need to be called the ‘Supreme Leader’? Why not something a little more modern, like Chief Spiritual Officer? Or Celestial Attaché?”
Mr. Richmond told The Qnion all of these names were rejected, as were the proposals to re-brand the “Council of the Guardians”, a powerful group of clerics who play an important role in the Iranian government.
“Council of the Guardians? I mean, come on… what is this? The Lord of the Rings?” chuckled Mr. Ransom.
“These are major policy-makers in a country with sixty-five million people. Referring to them as “clerics” doesn’t exactly inspire investor confidence,” he said, adding, “It makes it sound like Iranian fiscal policy is being set by Roderick the Alchemist and Ali the All-Night Apothecary.”
Rosalind Smythe, a Cromwell Kurtz wardrobe consultant says that the company also tried to delicately suggest to the Ayatollah not to frown so much and wear black all the time.
“He looks a little bit like the Grim Reaper,” said Ms. Smythe. “Compare him to the Dalai Lama. Technically, he’s a Supreme Leader too, right? But he’s always smiling, laughing, having a great time. And his outfits are much cheerier.”
“We suggested that Mr. Khamenei try a kind of cornflower blue robe with a vermillion sash, to get the white in his beard to really pop,” said Serge Torres, Ms. Smythe’s assistant. “He wasn’t so into it.”
Cromwell Kurtz executives say that they have not heard from Mr. Ahmadinejad’s administration ever since the project collapsed, but they remain optimistic that the contract will eventually be renewed.