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Who would have thought it? The FBI has just revealed an espionage coup. In a global sting operation, they have grabbed over 800 criminals in 17 countries,  ranging from Sweden to Australia to the USA ,along with $50 M in cash and bitcoin, and tons of drugs disguised as bananas, pineapples and tuna, and thwarted over 100 murder plots.

How did they do it? A fantastic marketing ploy.

First, they spotted a gap in the market for super-encrypted cellphones used by international  criminal organizations, after FBI operatives shut down the market leader, Phantom Secure. They funded the development of a new product, a phone with a messaging app disguised as a calculator, all other functions disabled

Then, and most impressively, the FBI built the hottest selling and most trusted communications brand for international criminals.

They identified and exploited a unique competitive brand advantage. Competitors were just selling hardware and apps. The FBI product was set up to allow agents to listen in on customer conversations in real time.  And they did. Not only did they gather vital intelligence, they did their own brand research. They paid attention  to users wants, needs and desires, and identified which messages resonated most with them.

This turned into a highly sophisticated  brand campaign. It included:

A cool name, Anom, suggesting ‘anomaly, meaning unique, different, or avant-garde

A slick website,  with videos and graphics rather like Apple’s.

A premium price  point: $1700 for a 6 month’s subscription

New versions of the product, to give users what the FBI heard its customers wanted, such as smaller phones.

The FBI even got into influencer marketing, employing a network of ‘crime influencer’, experts on super-encrypted phones, to push the product.

More unscrupulous means to drive market share, included the indictment of the leaders of Sky Global, one of Anom’s chief competitors. The objective was ‘to drive Sky Global’s customer base towards Anom, “an FBI official said.

It worked. The FBI sold 12,000 phones to around 300 international crime syndicated. And, astonishingly, they created brand trust. Their customers trusted the security of the devices so much, they often didn’t bother to lay out their plans in code, but talked openly about drop off points, drug shipments and killings. The FBI intercepted over 27 million messages

Now that the cat is out of the bag,  the FBI are continuing to display their marketing prowess, with an extensive PR campaign. This may go a long way in restoring the FBI’s own brand reputation,  tarnished since the time of Nixon, and made much worse recently as a result of  Comey’s investigation into Hilary Clinton’s emails, and the Trump’s violent Twitter attacks on them for investigating him.

The security services badly need to reinvent their brands, to attract young operatives. The FBI has taken the leadership position on this

And, if you are tempted, the Anom URL is now up for sale. It could be yours for a mere $63,999.

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