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US Army - soldiers on
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  US Army - soldiers on
US Army
soldiers on
by Abram Sauer
June 23, 2008

They want you. Actually, they need you. And they are increasing their marketing budget and escalating efforts to make sure they get you. Or your friend. They are the United States Army. They are strong and they have a website they want you to look at.

To meet its recruiting goals, the Army has been upping its offers, including up to US$ 40,000 toward a house or business and other “incentives” (like letting enlistees have sex). But at the end of the day, an all-volunteer army needs to make sure it isn’t an all-mercenary army; the best recruits are drawn to the brand, not the bucks.

The idea that “marketing strategy” is needed to promote service in the United States Army probably gets a lot of disapproving head shaking and what’s-the-world-coming-to sighs from older, senior soldiers. It is not that the armed forces haven’t always had to market themselves to people who would rather not have a gun as part of their office supplies; but to use the terms “marketing” and “brand strategy,” well, those are the tactics used to sell… tampons. Yet, “selling” service is the reality and the Army is using the marketing mix just as any product would. Of course part of its outreach includes the Web.

The United States Army has two primary websites: and is the official homepage of the Unites States Army and largely serves those who rise and sleep under the blanket the Army provides. Because of this it is largely functional and not designed for “branding” as much as doing the day-to-day heavy lifting that any huge organization’s internally-focused website might. In the corporate world such a site would usually not be public. is the Army’s “customer” facing online presence. addresses the new visitor largely as almost any product’s website might, with a rousing video that ends with the oldest marketing device in the book: The testimonial (i.e., “Don’t take our word for it. Have a listen to one of our happy customers.”)’s goals are twofold: 1) Provide the information that visitors may be looking for, while 2) selling them on the idea of service. It is a safe bet that anyone who finds his or her way to the site probably has at least a fleeting interest. But an interest in what? The site does an admirable job of trying to address the larger possibilities across its top nav, addressing parents, benefits, careers, and “Soldier Life.” At first glance the sheer number of similar looking buttons do create a little bit of an eye fit; this goes away once one realizes how these buttons are organized. The “Contact the Army” section is prominent. Not prominent enough, however, is grouping of the “Army TV” section.

US Army - soldiers on From a design perspective, effectively communicates a military “feel” without overdoing it and getting in the way of the information.

Also, the site’s use of a right side navigation bar is a twist that pays off, setting it apart from most sites. It is curious that, given visitors’ well established look-left-first bias, more sites don’t use the opportunity to hit there with their strongest message and then allow eyes to wander to the right.

And kudos to Goarmy for not replaying the welcome video when a visitor returns to the homepage. While this seems like it should be a no-brainer, in practice it (sadly) is not.

One has to believe that the Army’s website is meant to work in concert with the rest of its marketing efforts—including in-person recruiters, TV ads, that veteran uncle who thinks it would be a great idea—to create an overall brand of which a guy, or gal, would want to be a part.

But overall, branding the Army is perversely paradoxical and, for those tasked with the task, full of frustrating little switchbacks. Take for instance the fact that during recent major conflicts (Vietnam, Iraq) public opinion of individuals who are in the Army soared to incredible heights, while during the exact same time period, opinion of the Army as an organization—and, consequently, the desire to join said Army—tanked. To state the obvious: The very times the Army needs to create an incredibly strong brand to attract recruits are the very times it has the most difficulty creating a strong brand. In this respect, when addressing the Army’s quandary, one might employ some specific military terminology, FUBAR.


Abram D. Sauer has written about brands and branding trends since 2001. Visit for more of his work on branding and product placement.

*Due to the constantly changing environment of websites, some reviews may no longer reflect the current website for this brand.
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US Army - soldiers on
 I recently wrote a blog about the Army brand. As an Army vet, I am very interested in seeing the Army achieve it's goals, but the "new" marketing campaign is more of the small old stuff. All the benefits without the realism of truly serving. It has been said that if you don't brand yourself, then someone else will, and to a large extent, this is what has happened to the US Army.

If I were in charge of building the Army brand, I would do what a lot of B-List celebrities are doing, start a "reality" show. While these shows are far from reality, it provides a great way to show the real aspects of the military, and truly gives people a sense that the military is not with-holding some big secret.

Branding the military will extent beyond revamping the website, or having a cool commericial. It will be more about making people rethinking everything they think they already know about the US Army. 
James Seay - June 24, 2008
 You should take a look at the Army National Guard's recruiting website. is a very different brand message and the Army National Guard is well above its recruiting goals. 
- June 24, 2008
 James: Your point about "brand yourself or somebody else will" could not be more pertinent for the US Army as it is a perfect example of how no single entity "owns" a brand (even though many brand owners think they do). It is a living thing hyper-sensitive to a large range of input. And that TV idea is actually probably the best idea I've heard in a long time. THat should happen. 
Abram, Sauer, Brandchannel - June 24, 2008
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