Brand: U.S. Army
Link: Click Here – this link is to Ad-Rag which requires a small fee to view ads
Target: Teens looking for career and character
A probationary fireman sits in a ladder truck as it races to a fire. His fire chief says to him “We’re a pretty tight group here. That doesn’t happen overnight. People have to learn that they can count on you. Know what I mean?” The spot cuts to a flashback of the young fireman during his U.S. Army training as he rappels down a wall and bonds with his Army team. “Yes Sir, I do,” he replies to the captain. The spot cuts to a black screen as a voiceover says “Get Strength for Now, Strength for Later. Learn more at GoArmy.com.” The “Strength for Now. Strength For Later,” slogan is displayed on the screen followed by the Army logo, website (www.goarmy.com) and “Army of One” tagline.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: ThirdWay conducts marketing training for the U.S. Army. However this is the first Army commercial to be reviewed by the ThirdWay Advertising Blog and the Army was not consulted and did not participate in any manner in this advertising blog entry.]
Ad Age reported today that the Army will be abandoning the “Army of One” slogan and this spot is a very good place to see what the future might look like for US Army advertising. The “Army of One” slogan reflected important insights into the mind of the Army recruit but failed to connect with many career soldiers. We think “Strength for Now. Strength for Later,” would address the major issues with “Army of One” without losing its core benefits.
The campaign preceding “Army of One” was “Be All You Can Be,” and it became a cultural icon as one of the most memorable taglines in advertising history. In one key area, though, the campaign failed to address a key need of recruits. Unlike the Marines, Navy or Air Force, the Army has always suffered from the perception of vast size and being the lowest common denominator within the U.S. Military. The Marines successfully positioned themselves as the elite service branch (although the Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces, Rangers, Pathfinders, Delta Force and Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers might disagree), the Airforce is the best place to learn technology (even though all of the services will give twenty year olds primary responsibility for operating and maintaining multi-million dollar weapons systems) and the Navy positions itself as the safer alternative to ground-based service.
Amidst all of that specialization, the Army was left as the generalist, and “Be All You Can Be” showed all of the different things that a prospective recruit might learn in the Army. The problem with that campaign is that it did not link back directly enough to the end benefit of service with the Army. It also did not make the Army seem any less large or intimidating or make the recruit feel like he or she might make a difference inside this vast machine as an individual.
“Army of One” was intended to show the recruit that an individual can make a difference. This is a good insight and addressed one of the core issues for the Army with recruiting. But it ran against the grain of tradition at the Army where generations of officers, enlisted men and nco’s have learned to think and act as a team. Even though “Army of One” was never intended as an anti-team message, it struck many as a departure from the team ethic of the army.
This spot works brilliantly because it delivers the basic strength of “Be All You Can Be,” while focusing on the end benefit of US Army service to the potential recruit. Here’s what works by the numbers:
- Realism - This spot shows an average Army recruit a future that he can easily imagine – as a firefighter. The future as a dedicated public servant commanding respect is aspirational but not at all unrealistic for the average recruit.
- Clear Brand Positioning – “Strength for Now, Strength for Later,” gives the recruit a clear idea of the benefit of joining the Army. Not only will she build skills and confidence immediately, these life lessons will be of tremendous value later after she has left the Army.
- Avoids Dual Traps of Anonymity and Hyper-Individualism - this spot threads the needle between depicting the Army as a completely individual exercise (Army of One) and as a challenging but overly diverse and anonymous institution (Be All You Can Be) where the individual gets lost. The focus on one young man during and after the Army – but in team situations – shows us how a team strengthens the individual.
- Great Branding – In this :30 second spot, we have to wait less than ten seconds to see and feel the Army brand. The best sign that this is a great spot is that it really would not work for the Air Force, Navy or Marines. All of the elements of the spot, from the fire truck to the shots of Army training have been carefully selected to reinforce the Army message.
- Engaging Visuals – This spot grabs your attention with a high-stress situation – a young man going to his first fire. It makes us think that he is nervous and has no experience to bring to this challenge. Then the flashback to the Army training suddenly makes us realize that he will bring more to this challenge – and his team – than they expect. The combination of crisp visuals and this strong storyline keeps the influencer (parents, guidance counselors, ministers, etc.) as engaged with this spot as teenagers will be.
In the middle of an unpopular war, a difficult agency review and lots of adverse publicity about recruiting practices, the Army and Leo Burnett have created an excellent spot that does a good job of making the case for service to those people who would actually benefit from it.
As with any large institution, the greatest danger for the Army is lack of focus. Finding their legs with a strong spot like this should encourage them build this into a disciplined campaign and avoid drifting off in numerous other directions as can often happen. The new tagline works but what works even more is the laser-sharp focus on the real end benefit of Army service to the potential recruit and to the community.
Branding Bottom Line:
The Army hits back and reminds us why everyone looks good in a uniform.