Military experts said Wednesday that the Army’s new branding campaign was not focused on social justice or diversity as it tries to overcome a historic drop-off in recruitment.
Experts and lawmakers fear that the service’s willingness to accept identity politics may turn off conservative families. These families have been the military’s largest recruiter base and could worsen the service’s recruitment woes in fiscal 2022. Experts in military readiness said that the rebranding effort, which was years in the making, aimed to highlight the Army’s role as a defense and innovation partner throughout American history, and encourage soldiers to challenge their limits, could help the Army reach its ambitious recruitment goals for 2023.
Thomas Spoehr, director at the Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense, stated to the DCNF that he believes the new brand and commercial will appeal more to young people’s desire for being part of something bigger than themselves. “I believe that this is the right approach.”
Task and Purpose reports that the Army has been criticised for its branding which embraces left-leaning values. A 2021 advertisement scheme highlighted the many types of people who can join the service and highlighted a family with the same gender.
The Center for Military Readiness president Elaine Donnelly told the DCNF that left-wing trends in military education and personnel policies, including emphasizing inclusion for LGBTQ+ servicemembers and doubling down on outreach and mentoring minority communities, teaching CRT, and giving pronoun advice to military academies at the military academies, could lead to conservative, often white families believing they are “not welcome or appreciated” in the military.
“Parents and Army veterans that are ‘influencers” aren’t recommending military service to their next generation. She added this as the Army was starting to realize that it may not be able to meet its 2022 recruiting goals.
However, the new brand has not yet highlighted the identity or background of future soldiers, or any systemic disadvantages they may have faced. Two commercials that were unveiled Wednesday featured an ethnically diverse cast. The word diversity was not mentioned at an Army event, which was referring to the wide range of career options available in the Army.
“The Army’s identity-based advertising has proved to be a failure in recruiting. This is why they are shifting away. “… The Army and all branches need to be focused on appealing to all Americans regardless of their political beliefs and background,” Republican Indiana Rep. Jim Banks said to the DCNF. He chairs the subcommittee for military personnel on the House Armed Services Committee.
According to Army Secretary Christine Wormuth and Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville, the campaign brings back the slogan “be all that you can be” which was used for marketing and recruitment efforts between 1981 and 2001. It also speaks to the potential for personal and professional development available in the Army, said Sgt. Maj. Michael Grinston. It also means that the Army’s five-pointed star logo will be removed from the box.
The rebranding includes two new, 90-second ads that guide viewers through the history and missions of the U.S. Army. These ads highlight the themes of “overcoming obstacles” as well as pushing for the future with new technologies that improve civilian lives and serve the nation’s defence.
Spoehr stated that “you could say the new brand “non-woke” as it completely lacks any suggestion that the Army cares about any particular demographic.”
“The new ad’s images of history ring true, but I do hope that woke Critical Race Theory activists (CRT), don’t ruin what could have been progress in reconnecting traditional families who see America a great nation, not a racist one,” Donnelly said to the DCNF.
Army Times was told by Col. John Horning who is responsible for marketing strategy and marketing for the Army Enterprise Marketing Office that two previous marketing campaigns using the latest branding scheme seem to have alienated some target audiences.
Horning explained to the outlet that the “What’s Your Warrior?” ad series was launched in 2019. It was intended to show the many career options available in the Army. However, the series’ belligerent tone turned off some potential audiences. Some conservative viewers were critical of The Calling, an animated-style video series that was released in 2021.
Horning stated that even with The Calling, there was a prospect audience who identified completely with it. However, Army Times is well aware of the fact that it struck a nerve. “Some people didn’t understand what we were trying, and it became distracting.”
One video from the series showed Emma, a future recruit, attending a wedding for her two inspiring and loving mothers.
Task and Purpose reported that the Army wanted the ads to appeal to Gen Z audiences and offer relatable scenarios to help the growing recruiting pool. Detractors hurled a torrent of criticism at the videos, claiming that they represented an “emasculated” and “woke” military.
According to Donnelly, the ads “forgot” that the primary market for Army recruitment is young men from traditional families looking for a challenge. This colossal error was partly responsible for last year’s recruitment crisis.
According to Wormuth, the Army fell short of its 2022 recruiting goals of 60,000 new members. Wormuth stated that to make up for this, Wormuth set a “stretch target” for 2023, which is 65,000 recruits.
Wormuth, who spoke Wednesday at the event, explained that the Army had accelerated the launch of the new branding campaign to aid in recruiting for 2023. She explained that the new campaign took $117 million to launch and was the result of extensive research, which included focus groups with key stakeholders. Leaders are optimistic that a data-driven approach to marketing will produce results.
According to GOP lawmakers, the U.S. requires an Army that is capable and hard-hitting and can defeat enemy aggression. Not one that values inclusion over competence, or lowers standards in order to accommodate more self-described identities.
The service conducted a survey of Americans aged 16 to 28 to discover why they were not choosing to serve in the military, as well as the reasons for their recruitment slowdown. Grinston, the Army’s top enlisted leader, spoke to Congress Thursday.
He said that Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives (DEI), do not hurt recruitment.
According to Maj. Gen. Alex Fink, Army head of marketing, “They don’t see the Army as being in touch the modern, everyday culture they’re used too,” Fink said to The Associated Press about the results of the survey.
Moreover, the propensity to serve is at its lowest level in 15 years. Grinston stated that only 9% of young people express a desire to join the Army. Of those, 23% have legal, academic, and physical qualifications. This is a drop of 29% from 29%.
The Army increased its messaging regarding benefits and career opportunities for soldiers in 2022 and 2023. It offered bonuses in the thousands of dollar for successful referrals, and promised new recruits willingness to ship out within 45 day of enlistment. The Army invested in vacation, health care, and education support, while appealing to lawmakers to provide funding for housing and child care.
It plans to increase the number of prospects who are willing to participate in pre-enlistment programs offering supplemental training and tutoring for those who do not meet the Army’s requirements.
Spoehr stated that none of these efforts seemed to have made a difference in recruiting.
Spoehr stated to the DCNF that he believes the Army (and other services) is realizing that recruitment messages that stress benefits and compensation are not working.
According to Gen. McConville, 84% of all new recruits are from military families.
“So, we’re becoming an American military family business. He said Wednesday that he wanted to become an American family business.
McConville stated, “We need every child in this country. We need every parent in the country to know that success is possible through the United States military.”