Last October the Army changed its slogan from “An Army of One” to “Army Strong,” spending millions of dollars to create and promote the new recruitment campaign.
In its battle to win the hearts and minds of recruiting-age Americans, the Army is replacing its main ad slogan — “An Army of One” — with one it hopes will pack more punch: “Army Strong.”
The new approach, the fruit of a $200 million-a-year contract with a major advertising agency, was announced Monday by Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey. He said “Army Strong” will be the centerpiece of a multimedia ad campaign to be launched Nov. 9, timed to coincide with Veterans Day weekend.
Army officials acknowledge that recruiting during wartime is difficult, particularly with the Iraq war grinding on far longer than Bush administration officials expected and U.S. troops dying in battle almost every day.
“There’s no question that we want to have a marketing boost right now, it’s important to us,” said Lt. Gen. Robert L. Van Antwerp, who oversees the recruiting effort as commander of U.S. Army Accessions Command.
An anonymous psychological operations specialist at Fort Bragg told the Fayetteville Observer, “Army Strong is a weak attempt to recruit,” said a psychological operations specialist from Fort Bragg who asked that his name not be used. “‘An Army of One’ was bad and ‘Army Strong’ is just as bad. They spent too much money on it, money that could have been spent on people who are already being strong.”
In a January 29 story, the USA Today took a closer look at the Army’s latest marketing efforts (I added in the links):
Details on the tactics it’s using:
•Story-telling streaming video. Goarmy.com/strong now has video profiles of 10 soldiers. Users can click on the soldiers’ images, which include a Blackhawk pilot and a sniper, to hear his or her personal story.
•Interactive MySpace.com profile. The profile has emotional “Army Strong” themed videos, photos that show real overseas soldiers, and a button to download the Army’s online video game, America’s Army.
•Revving up one-on-one recruiting. Interested recruits can send instant messages to virtual recruiter “Sgt. Star,” who has built-in answers to frequently asked questions. The Army also has chat rooms with real recruiters.
There are also marketing messages targeted to “influencers” such as parents or school counselors. Parents, in particular, “can be the barrier” to recruitment, says Markus.
“A kid will get to a recruiting station, and they’ll go home, and a parent will say, ‘over my dead body,’ because of the state of things,” he says. “We had to educate them about the kind of strength their child is going to attain when they become a soldier in the U.S. Army.”
While Markus acknowledges, “It’s not a popular war,” the ads were “liked a lot” or “liked somewhat” by more than half of those polled for USA TODAY’s weekly Ad Track survey. However, the 17% who liked the ads a lot fell under the Ad Track survey average for that response, which is 21%.
“I don’t think you can deny what’s going on in the world,” says Markus. “The only way to deal with that is to be as truthful as possible.”
Both spokesmen for the Army quoted in these articles claimed that despite the massive spending on marketing, military recruiters are still upfront about the harsh reality of military service. Lt. Gen. Van Antwerp, who oversees the Army’s recuiting efforts, told the AP in the first article referred to above that “every recruiter will tell you, there is a very strong likelihood that you’re going to deploy.” That’s funny because barely a month after the Army introduced the new slogan, some undercover work by ABC-7 in New York found that a sample of military recruiters, across the board, were being anything but honest with students posing as potential recruits.
It appears some Army recruiters are willing to say just about anything to reel-in a new soldier.
Student: “Will I be going to war?”
Recruiter: “I would say your chances would be slim to none …”
We sent students undercover to ten Army recruiting offices throughout the Tri-State area.
Recruiter: “We almost welcome being shot at because it helps us identify where they are shooting from …”
Some recruiters were up front about the dangers of enlisting.
Stamford recruiter: “Every job in the Army does include combat. Plain and simple.”
But nearly half of the recruiters who talked to our undercover students compared everyday risks here at home to being in Iraq.
Elizabeth recruiter: “I like Subway sandwiches and salads. I watched the news yesterday, a guy got killed at Subway.”
Patchogue recruiter: “You have a 10-times greater chance of dying out here on the roads than you do dying in Iraq.”
Mt. Vernon recruiter: “I’d rather be hit by a car instead of getting hit by a bomb, what’s the difference. Your not living, your dead. That sucker is gone it’s a wrap.”
The article goes on to list even more ridiculous quotes from military recruiters.
Texans for Peace has launched http://armywrong.net as a counter to the new slogan. There are parts of the site that don’t appear to be finished, but it looks like a good resource for counter-recruiters. While it may not be the product of millions of dollars of marketing research, it does highlight a different side of the Army:
ArmyWrong is a new front in an escalating insurgency to counter the $200 million per year the Army spends on campaigns squarely aimed at the youth of America–packed with images of power and hyped across the full media spectrum.
This nationwide effort, led by Texans for Peace, battles growing militarism while also pointing out how today’s military-industrial complex “perverts the ideals of Democracy, Freedom, Justice and Liberty,” says Charlie Jackson, ArmyWrong creator.
In the tradition of Vietnam-era satire, ArmyWrong turns military slogans on their face. “There’s Wrong and There’s Army Wrong” is the motto of the new campaign. The project’s website and materials heap payloads of satire and humor on military issues ranging from daily army life to the lack of volunteers from neoconservative groups.
But make no mistake, counter-recruiting efforts like ArmyWrrong are hoping to do something more serious … obstruct the creeping militarism of America and war policies by encouraging youth to find other forms of service.
“There’s strong and then there’s Army Strong. The strength to do good today.
The strength to do well tomorrow. There is nothing on this green earth that
is stronger than the U.S. Army,” the Army’s new slogan announces.
“Wrong”, say faith communities, schools and educators, active and retired military, and peace organizations. There are many things stronger they remind Americans; trust, integrity, kindness, friendship, and love, to name but a few. These groups, working together, will be using ArmyWrong to take command of high ground dialogues with the nation’s youth and their families.
What do you think about the Army’s slogan? How should counter-recruiters respond? Comments are welcome.