Military Marketing Campaigns: Don’t Risk Leaving A Bad Impression

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The photo selected has the copyright information on it and I pulled it from a simple web search. This is an example of incorrect uniform for a female and I’m picking on it because I see it used a lot by big corporations when reaching to females (I’ll explain why at the end of this article).

If you are reading this, you probably already know the “military market” is hot right now, but from what I have seen, big business and big agencies are still missing the mark — especially in the media category — even more so when it comes to women. I’ve got a post coming tomorrow regarding stock imagery, but for now, here are some things to consider when launching your next military-focused campaign.

Here’s a scenario: You are the VP of Marketing or President of CompanyX, and everyone on your team agrees that now is a great time to launch a program, service or awareness campaign for “the troops” and you have the green light to move forward. This scenario assumes you will be raising awareness about your brand, giving back to a cause and engaging with the military market. What should you consider?

First – consider if you really need to do a full-blown campaign. Even if your team is saying “LET’S DO IT”, take a step back and weigh your existing business model with the costs/benefits of a military-specific campaign. When I was working with a large magazine client, we found that they offered so much for free to their readers that a military-specific initiative really wasn’t necessary. They loved the military and were happy to feature military content written by veterans, so that is how they reached the military niche. This could be the case for your company as well.

Consider creative approaches, and the following

Potential Advantages

  • Your team feels great about giving back;
  • Tax write offs if you give a charitable donation;
  • Military get supported in a unique way;
  • If you can achieve buy-in from military thought leaders, you can see your campaign go viral;
  • And great PR.

Considerations

  • Are you listening to military veterans on your team, if any?
  • Does your marketing/PR agency have veterans on their team who KNOW what to look for and do in this market (some veterans are not familiar with all branches of service or do not work in the marketing field)?
  • What charity do you select? Choosing a charity partner that is generally not popular in the military community can be harmful. There are some who look fantastic to the public eye, but within military circles are known to be less charitable than they claim to be. Hiring someone who knows the market and the chatter is crucial to showing you know and care about what you are doing;
  • Improper depiction of service members through photography, video or mixed media campaigns (every branch of service is different);
  • Calling veterans and service members by the wrong name: Soldier is not a generic term for all. Each branch has a different name: Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, Seaman, and Coasties, also known as “troops”;
  • Cost of executing poorly. For example, going onto bases is not always the optimal way to go for event-driven campaigns, but sometimes it is all you need and knowing the appropriate group of people is key;
  • Depicting veterans in a derogatory manner (I actually saw a marketing agency use a photo of a guy in plain clothes with a “high and tight” haircut chugging beer as a military member. Lots of people drink beer, don’t make us all look like we have substance abuse issues. If your content is about substance abuse in the military, then okay it makes sense);
  • And improper use of military jargon.

The stock photo shown above depicts a female in an Army uniform and she has a ponytail. Unless the regulations change, this is not according to AR 670-1 (Army Regulation for uniforms worn by Soldiers). If you want excellent imagery examples, look at examples on http://dvidshub.net. DVIDS is the DoD repository for military media and it’s all under creative commons. I would use it for researching the proper wear of uniforms, or buy some proper images from my personal favorite stock military media library: http://militaryphoto.com.

The military community is a great group of passionate, patriotic people who I feel lucky to be a part of, and their families who support them are just as extraordinary. Just like any other niche (real estate, legal, healthcare, etc.), it is important to have someone on your team who understands marketing and the specific niche you are involved in. Get to know the military through research, or ask for help, and good luck on your next campaign.

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