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Sellling the U.S. Army - $2 Billion Price Tag

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Since the draft was abolished in the 1970’s the U.S. Military has had a voluntary enlistment policy and the price tag is over $2 billion a year.

In 1999, U.S. Army recruitment numbers hit their lowest point in thirty years. In response, Congress called for "aggressive, innovative experiments" to find new soldiers, and the Defense Department jacked up recruitment budgets to $2.2 billion a year. Though not a new concept, the U.S. Army, if it was to remain a voluntary army, had to focus on selling itself to the youth of America.

Some countries, like China, have a fail proof, low budget marketing plan. You Exist, You Enlist. Period. End of story. In keeping with the principles of freedom that the United States was founded upon, the U.S. Military has adopted the theology that a voluntary military would attract more qualified members who enlisted because it was their choice. The desired result being a strong, highly qualified military with high morale. Like any entity selling this idea would require a marketing plan.

At the start of World War 1 when modern advertising was in its infancy the youth of Britain were called to arms with this famous poster.

Historically the military has always used the media to attract recruits. Mass media such as television, radio, magazines, billboards and circulars marked a major leap in advertising. Perhaps the biggest leap was the advent of the World Wide Web and email in the 1990’s. Using the Internet you can reach an untold number of people all over the world in split second timing. The introduction of the Blog takes the Internet one step further and turns Mass Media into the Media of the Masses. Not only is the corporate world capitalizing on this venue, the Military is using it too.

Traditionally, advertising slogans are an important part of any corporate identity. The Army has always used slogans and posters to promote itself. At the start of World War 1 when modern advertising was in its infancy the youth of Britain were called to arms with this famous poster .

The artist, James Montgomery Flagg, used himself as a model for this illustration which was used on World War I recruitment posters and revived during World War II. This poster has been described as the best known of any era.

The Vietnam era took a toll on military morale. The U.S. abolished the draft and a voluntary enlistment policy was adopted. With the advent of this new voluntary enlistment policy came the need for a new Army and a new marketing plan.

As part of this "face lift" the U.S. Army adopted the slogan, “Be All That You Can Be.” The Army used this slogan for 20 years but when they fell short of recruiting goals in the late 1990’s the Army had to once again reconsider its marketing strategy.

During this period the U.S. Navy raised the marketing bar whey they hired renowned director Spike Lee to craft a handful of ads, and then launched its “Accelerate Your Life” ad campaign which resulted in new recruits scrambling to join the Navy.

The U.S. Army stepped up to the plate and developed the popular America's Army Game, one of a number of new initiatives designed to help the military reach America's youth. The game consists of two parts: "Soldiers: Empower Yourself," a role-playing segment that instills Army "values," and the more violent (read: entertaining) "Operations: Defend Freedom," a first-person combat simulator where players engage in virtual warfare over the Internet. The Army also published a flashy web site where potential recruits could fine information about enlistment bonuses, video clips dramatizing the challenging-yet-rewarding adventure of basic training and dozens of diverse soldier profiles. A major purpose of America's Army is to drive players to this multimedia recruitment center.

America's Army and the new recruiting website are not isolated efforts, but part of a much larger overhaul of recruiting strategy. After the Army missed its quotas by over 6,000 enlistees in 1999, private-sector specialists were brought in to form the Army Marketing Brand Group. Leo Burnett, a top advertising agency that has also worked with McDonald's and Coca-Cola, developed a new Army advertising campaign that debuted in January 2001. The two-decades-old "Be All You Can Be" slogan was dropped in favor of "An Army of One," which aims to promote the dubious notion that the Army is a place where individualism can flourish.

The new slogan and a new logo were integrated into dozens of marketing initiatives: Electronic kiosks sprung up in shopping malls, advertisements aired in prime-time television slots and movie theaters, and billboards were displayed prominently in major cities. A fleet of Army marketing vehicles began to bring the message to schools and communities across the country. The Cinema Van, a touring multimedia theater that seats up to forty, showed films ranging from Combat Arms: Are you Tough Enough? to Service to Country, a patriotic number on military history. The Adventure Van, meanwhile, offered the chance to sit in a real Cobra helicopter cockpit and fire a state-of-the-art M16 weapons simulator.

In a recent Army.com poll, 62% of respondents preferred the Slogan "Be All That You Can Be" over "An Army Of One".

For the first time since 1997 the Army hit its goal of 120,000 active and reserve recruits — a target it didn't miss until now. The U.S. Army missed its recruiting goal in April of this year (2005), marking the third consecutive month deficit.

The Department of Defense had planned to award the U.S. Army marketing account in December 2004. For undisclosed reasons they delayed the award for six months. In April, 2005 the U.S. Army dealt a powerful blow to six advertising agencies that were bidding on the Army account. These agencies had invested hundreds of thousands of dollars bidding on the contract and now the Army has decided to start the process over and agencies will have to re-bid on the contract.

For the time being the official slogan for the U.S. Army is “An Army Of One.” Who knows, maybe the Army will take an entirely new approach to advertising, combining some old, tried and true methods with some new, cutting edge strategies. The Army is undergoing reorganization on every level and it is clear that their marketing strategy will have to meat the tremendous challenge of selling the U.S. Army to the citizens of the United States.

Originally published as the cover for the July 6, 1916, issue of Leslie's Weekly with the title "What Are You Doing for Preparedness?" this portrait of "Uncle Sam" went on to become--according to its creator, James Montgomery Flagg--"the most famous poster in the world." Over four million copies were printed between 1917 and 1918, as the United States entered World War I and began sending troops and matériel into war zones.
American Tresures Exibition of the Library of Congress

 

Wake Up America

James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960)
With the storm of war brewing behind her, a personification of America sleeps. She wears a Phrygian cap, a symbol of liberty since Roman times. This poster tells all of America to wake up and do their part for the war effort.

Flagg (1877-1960) contributed forty-six works to support the war effort. He was a member of the first Civilian Preparedness Committee organized in New York in 1917 and chaired by Grosvenor Clarkson. He also served as a member of Charles Dana Gibson's Committee of Pictorial Publicity, which was organized under the federal government's Committee on Public Information, headed by George Creel.

Because of its overwhelming popularity, the image was later adapted for use in World War II. Upon presenting President Franklin Delano Roosevelt a copy of the poster, Flagg remarked that he had been his own model for Uncle Sam to save the modeling fee. Roosevelt was impressed and replied: "I congratulate you on your resourcefulness in saving model hire. Your method suggests Yankee forebears."

Uncle Sam is one of the most popular personifications of the United States. However, the term Uncle Sam. James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960) "Uncle Sam" is of somewhat obscure derivation. Historical sources attribute the name to a meat packer who supplied meat to the army during the War of 1812--Samuel (Uncle Sam) Wilson (1766-1854). "Uncle Sam" Wilson was a man of great fairness, reliability, and honesty, who was devoted to his country--qualities now associated with "our" Uygian cap, a symbol of liberty since Roman times. This poster tells all of America to wake up and do their part for the war effort.
American Tresures Exhibition of the Library of Congress


The Yanks Are Coming
June Bauer,
music and lyrics
Judsonia, Arkansas: Bauer Company
Copyright deposit, 1918

Europe in mid-1914 until the last doughboy returned home, Americans copyrighted more than 35,000 World War I patriotic songs, military marches, love ballads, and protest songs. More than half were written by women who usually collaborated as lyricist with a male composer. Lyrics ranged from rallying cries and praises of bravery to pleas for pacifism and celebrations of peace. George M. Cohan, considered the father of American musical comedy, was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor in 1941 for his patriotic, 1917 standard "Over There." New tunes were in constant demand by a public who bought sheet music, piano rolls, and the newly-popular phonograph records.
American Treasures Exhibition of the Library of Congress



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