First piece of what will be a recurring theme, “The Army Brand”. Over the next few installments, I will discuss some of the things that do a disservice, in my opinion, to the Army brand, and some interesting ideas to improve it.
The United States Army, hands down, is the world’s best military. The Soldiers who stand poised to meet, engage and destroy enemies of the United States, anytime, anywhere, are second to none.
This powerful, professional force is manned by volunteers. The Army amazingly still attracts thousands of men and women every year despite some of the worse commercials of all the armed forces.
Thirty six years ago, and before, we didn’t need commercials (I’m not old enough to remember if there were). If the numbers got too bad, the draft board would find a few “able-bodied males” to join the team. Times changed and the draft was ended. All military service was on a volunteer basis.
The first wave of post-draft commercials and slogans were pretty good, I still remember the slogan (who doesn’t ?)
BE ALL YOU CAN BE
(Surprisingly, the Army still has that 800-USA-ARMY number! Wow.)
These commercials, although corny now, were just as good as:
“AIM HIGH” (Air Force)
“THE FEW. THE PROUD” (Marines)
“ITS AN ADVENTURE” / “FULL SPEED AHEAD” (Navy)
Then somewhere along the way. The Marine Corps got much better at commercials and the Army… Well, it was peace time I guess.
(Really long clip, but just a small sample of the many awesome and inspiring commercials by and for the Corps. I mean, after seeing this, even I wanted to… join the Marines… think about joining… Never mind.)
The Corps’ “The few. The proud.” was a winner (It’s funny to thing that the branch with the smallest number had the best recruitment product) . Meanwhile, the rest of the branches played around with many other slogans; “Get an edge on life” , “An Army of one”, “Set Sail”, “Nothing come close”, “Cross over into the blue”, “Do something amazing”, “If someone made a movie about your life…” yada yada ya. The last round of slogans are considerably better. The Air Force has “We’ve been waiting.”, The Navy has “Accelerate your life”, and the Army has “Army Strong”.
The “Army Strong” theme, unveiled in November 2006 (after ten months and almost $200 million worth of research and development) was created by McCann Worldgroup, the ad agency that created MasterCard’s popular “Priceless” campaign. “Army Strong” replaced “An Army of One” which was the Army’s slogan from January 2001. It is meant to convey the idea that if you join the Army you will gain physical and emotional strength, as well as strength of character and purpose. The McCann contract is reportedly valued in excess of $1 billion over five years.
There has to be something said for defining a theme, and sticking with it. The Corps has had the same slogan for at least 35 years. The time the Army spent redefining itself, and finding a new slogan to match was time wasted. The time and money spent on focus groups and consultants to find what appealed to the widest audience, could have been spent making the current commercial theme better. We lost some theme recognition as well, “Be all you can be” worked for as long as it did. What was really wrong with it? Let’s not make the same mistakes with “Army Strong”. It is an easily understood, and easily recognized slogan, that supports a new, more universally applicable and appealing theme. If we are to sell the Army brand, a good commercial helps.