The “Army strong” marketing theme introduced in 2006 keeps on getting stronger – and more social. The above video, voiced by actor Gary Sinise, highlights "leadership" by playing up the army uniform as a “symbol of strength,” and suggests, “Try it on at goarmy.com.”
Additional spots in the US Army's new campaign highlight the themes of education and opportunity. But the campaign goes beyond traditional TV advertising, as the US military's marketers, ever tilling for new recruits, are taking their campaign to Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and YouTube.
“We’re working hard to increase our social media…we fully recognize that young people TiVo over commercials or are multitasking on their smartphones when the commercials come on,” commented Lt. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, commander of the Army Accessions Command (which oversees recruitment) to the New York Times.
With summer movies ramping up, and the army’s target demo (men and women ages 17 to 24) flocking to theaters to stay cool and entertained, the Army has its first sponsorship deal with Hollywood in X-Men: First Class, to be released June 3 from 20th Century Fox.
Accordingly, the US Army's Facebook page invites users to “view exclusive content from the upcoming movie” and a commercial that likens the experience to being an X-man.
“Ordinary people come in the Army and do extraordinary things every day,” said Freakley, adding the caveat, “Soldiering is real. ‘X-Men’ is for Hollywood.”
“There’s a lot of ways to talk about the kind of strength we mean when we say ‘Army strong.’ The human truth is, we all react when we see a soldier wearing a uniform,” said Craig Marcus, EVP and executive creative director, McCann Erickson Worldwide, of Universal McCann's involvement as one of seven agencies working with the US Army.
A hurdle for social media integration in Army life: “in the first three weeks of basic training, we take away your smartphone. You don’t even get mail from home,” comments General Freakley, adding that his new recruits “are novices at using Twitter,” with just about 3,030 Twitter users on the command’s account at @GoArmy, and 74,270 users at the main account @USArmy.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, meeting the uniform in person has not panned out. Two years ago, the UK Army opened showrooms in Hackney, Hounslow and Maidstone, equipped with virtual tanks and participatory battlefield simulations, as a key element in their recruitment strategy.
Traffic was slow, and criticism fast, decrying the showrooms as marginalizing real life in the military. The Hackney showroom is now closed, with a sign directing people to a traditional local recruiting centre.
“We are not pulling away from the concept of young people 'touching the green' [meeting serving personnel]; it's a question of the way in which we do it. We will look at how we take it forward,” noted British Army marketing director Colin Cook to Marketing magazine.