The reduction in advertising expenditures coincided with a period of drawdown in the scale of the military. Thus, planners may have merely questioned the need to continue to advertise. The propensity to enlist has not increased despite a percent increase in advertising over the seven-year period from to This suggests that the elasticity of advertising may be low; however, a more material question to ask is about the message strategies employed in military advertising and their effectiveness in promoting propensity.
Rather than focusing on market expansion, or primary demand, it appears military advertising has continued to concentrate on selective demand individual Service advertising within the declining positive propensity groups. The traditional approach to the selection of a message strategy is to identify a customer need that is important and widely held and then to stress a product or brand attribute that is responsive to that customer need. It is desirable that the selected attribute be unique to the advertised brand Overholser and Kline, Army advertising is particularly noteworthy in this regard because it is the most likely of the military Service advertising to be seen by the youth population.
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For example, during the five-year period from to , advertising for the Army constituted 45 percent of all military advertising in the United States. The message strategies in Army advertising have generally focused on how military service can provide youth with job skills, college credits, and money to pursue education following military service Eighmey, , material considerations for youth making comparisons among specific military Services selective demand as well as for youth making choices among military service, civilian employment, and further education primary demand. These package-oriented considerations do not involve attributes that are unique to military service or to primary demand.
That is, few messages focus on the aspects of military service that are unique, such as the higher level of public service associated with duty to country. A review of the content of current advertising for the Army indicates the apparent audience to be youth who are dissatisfied with their current circumstances and who would welcome a challenge to become something. Data from the DoD on the effectiveness of individual or joint Service advertising campaigns was not available.
Recently produced television and web commercials present basic training as a kind of a quest with stages of accomplishment, such as marksmanship, teamwork, and live fire situations. The inclusion of references to web site goarmy. The strength of the Army advertising appears to be in its appeal to restless youth who want something more. However, that may not be sufficient. Within the message content of Army advertising, there is little that addresses either selective demand, the aspects of the Army that differentiate it from the other Services, or primary demand, the broader issues of the virtues of duty to country, service to others, heroism, and self-sacrifice for freedom and the benefit of others.
A review of the current content of advertising for the Air Force indicates the apparent audience to be intrigued with engines, technology, and speed. These are not restless youth; they have self-assurance. Success in basic training is a given. Like Army advertising messages, the Air Force offers youth a transforming experience.
However, the offer of a transformation is pitched at a higher level. A review of the content of current advertising for the Navy indicates the apparent audience to be youth who may perceive their present circumstances to be ordinary and are seeking to escape.
Navy advertising responds to this group of youth by showing dramatic action visuals of Navy ships, equipment, and people. The advertising promises that life in the Navy will be anything but dull. A review of copies of television advertising provided to the committee by the DoD in the spring of for the Marine Corps indicates a specific focus on an audience of youth possessing high propensity for military service.
Marine advertising stresses the importance of noble virtues and the value of people who never fail to defend those virtues. The television commercials speak of honor, courage, commitment, and pride. The message emphasizes that there will always be a need for people who can live up to these values.
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The potential for emotional response to this advertising is strong. For example, one current television commercial opens with a view of the earth at its most innocent, from outer space. Views of the earth transform themselves into the globe and anchor symbol in which the anchor can be appreciated as protecting the earth.
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At the completion of the commercial, the Marine symbol stands alone against the blue background of the uniform. This commercial continues a tradition of exceedingly well-crafted and powerful advertising for the Marines. The advertising strategies of the Army, the Air Force, and the Navy appear to be somewhat coordinated in their appeal to youth with differing personal circumstances.
Military Experience and Success
Army advertising promises the acquisition of a variety of professional directions and provides reassurance about making it through basic training. Air Force advertising promises the opportunity to work with sophisticated aircraft. Navy advertising promises adventure and accelerated education and experience.
However, the advertising for none of these Services focus on what could be called the primary demand for service in the military. Only the advertising for the Marines consistently addresses the noble virtues that can be associated with all military service. The capability of Marine advertising to generate interest in military service is reflected in the comment of an Army recruiter who was interviewed as a part of this project. The recruiter spoke of the impact of Marine advertising on the youth he approached and stated that his recruiting problems might be lessened if DoD invested more resources in advertising for the Marines.
The youth population is a primary audience for many sellers of products and public information campaigns concerning such issues as the decision to use cigarettes or drugs and sexual activity. The lessons learned from these areas generally demonstrate the importance of well-selected message strategies, rather than communication styles such as testimonials or demonstrations, or the use of attention-getting video techniques, popular music, etc.
It is important that advertising have a contemporary look or approach in the eyes of the target market, but the underlying strength of the advertising comes from the use of message strategies based on the differentiating and audience-relevant qualities of the product itself. For example, the soft drink Mountain Dew continues to develop its market acceptance with imaginative advertising directed to the youth population.
But whatever the fresh approach to storytelling employed in the advertising, the underlying message strategy remains focused on a product that delivers a highly energizing combination of product ingredients. An effective message strategy is the key ingredient in successful advertising. In this volume, our focus is on the selection of effective message strategies rather than on an evaluation of various communication styles.
Until very recently the YATS provided a means of examining the relationships between propensity to enlist and youth perceptions of the benefits of military service. Question in the YATS survey was an open-ended item concerning the main reasons to join the military. Tabulation of the first responses to this question given by each respondent can reveal the top-of-mind reasons for enlisting in the military. This is a common means of detecting whether there is correspondence between the content of advertising campaigns and the product-related perceptions reported by the audience for the advertising.
About 60 percent of the survey respondents gave answers related to the career preparation benefits of the kinds depicted in recent advertising. Pay for education led the responses, with Development of work skills followed at About 25 percent of the respondents gave answers associated with the more immediate benefits realized by military service. Of these, duty to country led the responses with 8. Moreover, duty to country and national defense are benefits that are unique to military service and therefore distinguish military service from other career alternatives.
These survey results suggest the career advancement, or means-end, message that typifies military advertising is top-of-mind for about 60 percent of the youth ages 16 to Nevertheless, despite a relative lack of reinforcement in mass communication, about 25 percent of youth respond with value-oriented answers that are presumably uniquely associated with military service.
About 25 different areas of youth values were examined in the YATS survey. These included such considerations as the importance of money for education, preparation for a career, learning trade-related skills, learning about information technology, duty to country, and personal freedom. Three of these values sample the areas associated with 1 the package orientation, 2 the product attributes that can be unique to military service, and 3 the barriers to enlistment.
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Figure shows the relative importance, among youth in grades 10 to 12, of these three benefits for each of the four levels of propensity commonly used in YATS and other propensity surveys. Among these three critical benefits, the importance of duty to country shows the greatest difference across the four levels of propensity 0. Youth in the four propensity groups see career preparation and personal freedom as similarly important, and the lower importance of duty to country differentiates the youth in the negative propensity groups.
For each of the previously mentioned 25 values, YATS survey participants were also asked whether joining the military would provide them with the specific benefit. Of the three benefits shown in the figure, personal freedom is least associated with military service. Moreover, the negative propensity groups show the lowest endorsement levels for all three of the benefits. The patterns shown in Figures and suggest the roles that the three key values may play as youth consider the decision to enlist in the military.
As this report makes clear, there is a need to reinforce the importance of such values as well as their association with military service. Indeed, the discussion in Chapter 7 pointed to a consistent erosion in the extent to which values such as doing something for the country are associated with the military. FIGURE Likelihood of military service providing three value items by propensity group for youth in grades 10 to Duty to country is the value seen by high school youth as most associated with military service.
But duty to country is also the least important of the three values to those in the negative propensity groups. The lower level of youth support for the value of duty to country among youth with negative propensity suggests there is a need to provide American youth with more information on the importance of duty to country.
As mentioned earlier, the noble virtues of military service are emphasized only in Marine advertising, and there are questions about the extent to which these virtues are taught or reinforced elsewhere in society. This situation suggests declining trends in propensity to enlist might be abated. Personal freedom is a strongly held value among youth in all four propensity groups, and it is least associated with military service.
This suggests the possibility of exploring advertising strategies designed to focus on issues related to personal freedom. For example, perhaps a connection can be made between freedoms enjoyed by youth and the willingness of youth to protect the society that makes them free. This suggests that the recent military advertising message strategies focused on the career advantages gained through military service may not have been as effective as might be desired. For example, the review of current military advertising indicated that Army, Air Force, and Navy advertising generates leads by focusing on three different types of interests held by youth.
This advertising, or portions of these advertising campaigns, might be strengthened by including more specific information on how military experience translates to career success following military service. Currently, information concerning military service is largely conveyed to youth in a Service-specific manner. As discussed previously, military advertising has largely utilized Service-specific message strategies that promote the individual Services.
The practice of focusing informational programs on the advantages of individual Services, rather than the shared virtues of military service stimulation of primary demand originated prior to the initiation of the All-Volunteer Force. This approach ignores current issues regarding the size of the youth population and its interest in military service. Each Service has well-structured, formal processes in place for recruiting that rely on a sales force of active-duty, uniformed, enlisted personnel to recruit youth who have not previously served in the military.
For purposes of this chapter, we consider only the process leading to an active component, non-prior-service enlistment contract. We are therefore not addressing the process for Reserve or National Guard recruiting. Neither are we concerned with the process for bringing back onto active duty those veterans who have previously left a Service, but who now wish to again join that Service or enlist in another Service.
This recruiting sales force is supported by a management structure that provides policy guidance, advertising and promotion support, training, and other administrative support. Recruiters are distributed across the country according to Service-specific needs. Within a Service, each recruiter has an exclusive geographic zone usually defined in terms of specific high schools and the areas those schools serve.
For example, a specific active-component, nonprior-service Army recruiter is assigned responsibility for all youth attending a specific high school and for the geographic area where those youth live.