A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

ISIL: Branding, Leadership Culture and Lethal Attraction


Drawing from a team with diverse academic expertise, this study examines ISIL from the organizational strategy literature, organizational psychology literature, and marketing/branding literature using unclassified primary and secondary sources.A two-part framework was applied to provide the organizational profile of ISIL. First, an industry analysis was conducted with first-level affiliated groups of al-Qa’ida Central (AQC). Specifically, a Porter’s Five Forces framework was applied to evaluate potential opportunities and threats to global jihadist violent extremist organizations (VEOs). This “industry analysis” provided an outline of relevant pressures in the global jihad “industry” as well as salient opportunities and threats.

Second, researchers conducted an internal strategic analysis of ISIL to identify what resources and capabilities ISIL controls (either internally or through strategic alliances) to develop and deliver its services to sympathizers and current members. The project's specific report focused on the human and organizational resources and capabilities leveraged by ISIL, rather than surveying the population they try to influence.

Finally, researchers conducted a VRIO (Value, Rare, Imitable, Organization) analysis to to evaluate the competitive implications of the resources and capabilities controlled by ISIL, specifically, the likelihood of ISIL.

Publication Information

Full Citation:

Ligon, Gina S., Mackenzie Harms, John Crowe, Leif Lundmark, and Pete Simi. “The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant: Branding, Leadership Culture and Lethal Attraction,” Final Report prepared for the Department of Homeland Science and Technology Directorate’s Office of University Programs. College Park, MD: START, 2014.

START Author(s):