Marketing is all about the audience and, therefore, has to change with the audience and with the times. This is the case with all great marketing and I have particularly noticed this with the British Army recruitment adverts. Although The Army is something so steeped in tradition and history, it still needs to adapt and stay current when advertising.
The British Army recruitment adverts are notoriously poignant. I’m going to talk about the British Army ads from solely a marketing, generational and psychological perspective.
By looking at the ads from a few years back we can see the change. They've focussed on the “action, excitement and adventure” of army life, with emphasis on being “under pressure, under any circumstances”.
The emphasis on high-pressure situations, action and explosives may have resonated with previous generations. But with the term ‘generation snowflake’ being coined to describe young adults of the 2010s, army adverts have now toned down the aggression and focussed on core values to attract recruits. With 2016 seeing British Army instructors being told to “tone down the swearing” in fear that it will discourage the young people of today from signing up, the apparently 'thin-skinned' young adults now need a different approach.
(Image from Army Reserve TV Ad 2015)
The 2017 Army recruitment campaign was the answer to this, with the strap line, “This is belonging”, brings to life the unique camaraderie Army life has to offer. Creative agency, Karmarama, based the campaign on findings form qualitative interviews, quantitative research and data analysis. All of this data revealed a key powerful emotional driver that attracted people to The Army beyond skills and adventure- The human need to belong.
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, we are motivated by only the most basic human needs of food, water and safety, until we seek the next most basic need; a sense of belonging. This is what the 2017 campaign latched on to; with millennials in mind.
The army adverts are aimed at young Millennials and Generation Z. These young adults are hyper-connected, spending 6 hours a week on social media. Simon Sinek’s interview on millennials that went viral, highlights that regardless of young people being constantly connected with one another, the connection isn’t real. Simon defines the generation as one that will find it extremely hard to find fulfilment and purpose, as the generation already admits they find it hard to form deep meaningful relationships.
This age group also admit that the friendships they do have are superficial, they know they can’t rely on their friends and that their friends will “cancel on them if something better comes along”. Millennials therefore crave true belonging and relationships. They value inclusion, purpose and the ability to make a difference. Whether they take action to achieve this is another thing.
The 2017 Army campaign has used previous data and the consideration of what will appeal to this generation in their “This Is Belonging” campaign. In a huge juxtaposition of previous years weaponry-filled, action-packed recruiting efforts, this year the adverts are focused on the down-time of war. The ads give you a look into the part of war that is talked about less, the still, reflective and apparently safe part. The adverts show soldiers laughing with one another, cleaning their guns in silence together, and singing “The Time of my life” while on patrol. This focus on safety, inclusion and acceptance will resonate with millennials who have experienced increased divorce rates, lack of meaningful relationships and a more fragmented family life. I realise that the camaraderie of the Armed Forces the has always been present but maybe the positioning of it resonates even more so now?
A look into the future
With the Generation Z or pivotal generation becoming more spoken about will there be a different focus in marketing? This generation value hard work and individualism and will be marketed to accordingly. Will Army recruitment move with this? Warfare itself has changed significantly playing a big part in recruitment advertising. But should recruitment for the forces be tailored to generational values or be more forthcoming in the way that it is portrayed? – as war.
I personally, really like The Army ads, so much so that I applied for the reserves at the start of this year- so they are definitely doing something right!
15th January Addition
Last week saw the release of another Army recruitment campaign. With the huge recruitment slump The Army have gone even further to appeal to the young people of today. In a huge jump to a highly inclusive, reassuring and sensitive campaign- The Army have done as predicted to keep up with current generational attitudes.
In response to the substantial backlash, slamming the ads as "unappealing", "soft" and even "disastrous", army Sergeant Major Glenn Haughton said: “All should bear in mind that although the campaign is perhaps not to personal taste, it is aimed at a different generation. Results matter.”
I would agree with that statement but also think that people join the Army to serve, fight and deter and asking "Can I be emotional in The Army?" may give off an impression that is almost damaging.
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