Defense Department Launches Branding Effort

It has been a long way from Uncle Sam and "I Want You" posters for the Department of Defense. In the midst of one of the Armed Services most popular periods, the department this week launched a new positioning and branding campaign.

The new campaign uses print and TV to position the armed services as a positive experience to potential recruits but more importantly, to the influencers of potential recruits. It is meant to reconnect adults with positive civilian values that can be gleaned from a stint in the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines. It will do that via profiles of people who benefited from that experience and went on to productive lives.

"We're doing a good job getting the kids involved," says George Rogers, EVP at Mullen which placed and designed the campaign. "The disconnect happens with the parents. This program should focus on the parents and other influencers. You know, the parents of today's youth are the Vietnam generation. They support the military but they don't think it's for their kids. There's a real reluctance to advocate this choice."

The new campaign will not aim to change that by driving recruits. It is strictly a branding effort and will be measured by a change in attitudes and awareness among the target audience. According to Rogers, the individual services will retain recruitment responsibility. Those individual service efforts were increased during the buildup to the Iraqi war and also saw a bump in effectiveness.

Print advertisements will not be placed in the predictable places, says Rogers. To get to the parental target audience, expect to see the campaign in Time, Newsweek, People and Sports Illustrated. It features veterans from the various military branches. Each ad focuses on the qualities the individual gained as a member of the armed services - 'qualities including total unwavering commitment, perseverance, and sense of self and community.' Veterans featured in the campaign include: Chad Hennings, a former NFL Dallas Cowboy who served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force and continues to serve in the U.S. Air Force Reserves; James Romero, a hat-fitter and former Corporal with the U.S. Marine Corps; Dr. Jay Grossman a dentist and former U.S. Navy Lieutenant; and Mark "Ranger" Jones, a former Master Sergeant with the U.S. Army Rangers who is now Founder and CEO of a security-consulting firm.

Another component of the campaign is a major redesign of the website - a place where adults can learn more about the value of military service and the many opportunities and career fields available. This site features video interviews of selected campaign spokespeople. In short clips, these veterans tell their own stories of their decision to join the military and the impact it has had on their life. This site also contains useful tools and links to help answer many questions parents, counselors, teachers, coaches, and the youth they influence may have.

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