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Definition

charm offensive

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

A charm offensive is an intense and carefully plotted campaign to win over someone who may not be favorably disposed toward the campaigner. The target might be unaware of the campaigner, indifferent to them or even disapproving. Elements of a charm offensive can include friendliness, flattery, appealing to shared values and interests, giving gifts, showing off and attempting unobtrusive persuasion.  

As the term implies, a charm offensive is designed to be pleasant to the target but so focused that it could be considered an attack. Another implication is calculation, and possibly insincerity. Charm offensives are often part of public relations campaigns. The concept is closely related to the surprise and delight marketing strategy.

A few examples of charm offensives in the media: 

  •  In October 2017, the Financial Times reported that Facebook had launched a charm offensive to improve its relationship with African-American members of Congress in the wake of revelations that the site’s dark posts had supported the creation of racist content.
  • In response to competition from Wal-Mart, Amazon was said to be launching a charm offensive to woo online retailers with a free meet-and-greet event in New York, where attendees could network, talk to Amazon executives and attend seminars.
  • In popular culture, one of the most commonly referenced charm offensives was Tom Cruise's wooing of his then-fiancé and now ex-wife, Katie Holmes. Cruise's campaign culminated in his appearance on Oprah, where he leapt up on the couch and started jumping up and down in apparent excitement about his new love.  

The first appearance of charm offensive in print was in 1956, in the Fresno Bee Republican

War is no longer just around the corner. [General Alfred M.] Gruenther warned, though, that after the "launching of the Russian charm offensive, there is a danger of the democracies relaxing their vigilance." 

This was last updated in October 2017

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