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This past Monday was a historic day for military recruiting. US Army unveiled its “Officership Campaign,” an advertising campaign aimed to recruit officers, aka a higher level recruit. This is the first time any military branch is targeting a specific sector over a mass media vehicle. US Army’s recruiting efforts have been exceeding requirements, but it turns out they have become a bit bottom heavy and short of officers to lead the new recruits.
LTG Benjamin Freakley says, “It is a different era, and it requires a different kind of thinker.” The campaign focuses on showcasing past US Army officers that are now CEOs or leaders in their respective fields. The campaign will be running on MTV, BET, ESPN, FOX , Discovery Channel and a few more. The big question is if this move will change the way recruiting is done in the future.
This is the first time that a specialized campaign is going on and word is that more are planned for Reserve Recruiting, Cadet Command, and Special Missions like Army Band, Special Forces and Medical Recruiting.
Significance of Specialized Recruiting:
US Army has finally realized that there is no cookie-cutter one for all experience about becoming a US Army soldier. It is an individualized experience for each potential recruit with different motivations and goals in mind. Although US Army has met its recruiting goals for the past three years, the standards have dropped. 83% of 2008 new recruits hold high school diplomas, missing Army’s 90% mark for the third straight year in a row.
There is something very special and sacred about serving ones country and the marketing effort behind it should be mirroring that. The Army Strong campaign does a fantastic job of evoking the type of emotions that will drive potential recruits to want more information. Although the campaign does fine work, is tv advertising really a way to individualize the Army experience? If the US Army is trying to gain a higher quality recruit for the officers program or a specialized program will they find that audience even watching tv, or better yet, responding to advertisements? The 17-24 demo, that the US Army is trying to reach is extremely marketing saavy and the fickle Gen Y is looking for something more out of every experience they embark on. These are the people looking for “greater meaning” in their lives and the moment they feel you are selling something to them in a traditional sense they are turned off. Although this new campaign is deemed “multi-media” bulk of the marketing dollars are still going towards advertising.
US Army is having a big push towards social media and they are recognizing that youth is spending a lot of time in this space and they want a presence where the youth are. These are positive steps towards individualizing the Army experience because social media allows for that through the ability to cater to different segments at a lesser cost than traditional means. LTG Benjamin Freakley says, “If you think about it [officer recruiting] as a brand or product management, we have this product within our brand that gets no notoriety.” Although he is specifically speaking about the officer sector, this holds true for most of the other 150+ US Army careers or pathways that go unnoticed. Your typical prospective recruit still thinks of the US Army and in many other instances other branches from a combat perspective and even that is seen through a very narrow lens. I believe that is a true obstacle in military and especially Army recruiting that often times branches don’t think about brand management or particular branding. Military recruiting is also its own breed of marketing and shouldn’t compare itself to typical consumer advertising. Even though there are always lessons to be learned, it is much different selling a life path and a career than a product. Focusing more on non-traditional means and less on advertising will allow the US Army as well as the other branches to concentrate on the specific type of individuals. Non-Traditional will allow the US Army to have higher selection standards, and share experiences that can’t be replicated via 30 second television spot.
Advertising will always have a place in military recruiting because it is the over-arching brand message and that is something that cannot be ignored. The mere numbers it reaches is also a fact that can’t be ignored. However, Gen Y and future generations are born into a different world and require a different type of targeting, a much more specialized and individual means of reaching out to them that can best be done through the supporting or supplemental marketing disciplines such as digital, event, mobile, etc. It is a very big step that US Army and the other branches are starting to use social media and are becoming more aware of being relevant to its target market. With a careful and correct marketing communications mix, the desired message will reach the prospective recruits. Past marketing campaigns were criticized for only “throwing signing bonuses” at potential recruits. It is refreshing to see an approach that is designed to appeal to the hearts and minds of today’s desired demographic. Although great strides are being made, it is my hope that the marketing communication mix will be re-evaluated and that a story emerges that talks about US Army recruiting that is not focused only on a tv spot.
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