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The military and especially the Army have seen a dramatic increase in ROTC ranks as the fall semester is underway. In the current economic climate, the generous scholarship program is getting a second look by potential cadets. The Army is going through an organizational shift and needs to fill junior officer ranks as they are beginning to rely on a fast-moving, technology- savvy combat brigades. This is a change from a model that combined several units and needed fewer officers. Multiple sources report that the ROTC shift is a combination of the economic climate as well as individuals wanting a higher calling and finding that in the military. An article in the New York Times quotes a Norwich (one of the country’s oldest military colleges) official on why students choose the ROTC path.
ROTC scholarships traditionally attract high school students who want to follow in family footsteps or serve their country during a time of war. But in a time of economic uncertainty, the government scholarships are a big draw.
It is necessary to take a further look at the above statement. Less and less youth are growing up with parents serving, in turn lessening the family connection to the military. Youth that are growing up in non-military areas (places that don’t have a strong military presence through bases) don’t have a strong connection to the military and are generally lacking influencers that showcase the military as a viable career option. This holds especially true for the college bound youth, who the ROTC program would attract. Growing up in a culture that isn’t necessarily embracing the military, youth have a very limited view of the opportunities the military can offer. There are not many places that organically introduce the military to a demographic that is lacking exposure; one of the only places to turn to is military marketing efforts that serve as the gateway of information. Take a look at my earlier post that discusses some of the current marketing efforts and a potential problem with marketing communication mix that relies heavily on traditional advertising. http://bit.ly/QEvst
Although the military is enjoying filling the ROTC ranks this year, it shouldn’t be assumed that this is a growing trend quite yet. This is the time to re-think the marketing mix plan and delve into what is working currently and what to do about the future generation that will prove to be one of the toughest to recruit. While the military is enjoying obtaining the necessary recruits, it is the perfect time to enhance the recruiting strategy for tougher times ahead. Be on the look out for my next post that will discuss options that can be explored in preparation for continued recruiting success.