How the Army’s new recruiting effort targets Gen Z
With the pool of qualified recruits shrinking, a new Army marketing campaign debuted on Veterans Day to target younger cohorts — known as Generation Z — and focus beyond traditional combat roles.
To do this, the Army is asking 17-to-24-year-olds one question: What's Your Warrior?
The query is at the heart of the new strategy, and is designed to introduce young adults — who may know nothing about the military — to the diverse opportunities on tap through Army service, said Brig. Gen. Alex Fink, chief of Army Enterprise Marketing.
Over the next year, 150 Army career fields — along with eight broad specialty areas — will be interlinked through digital, broadcast, and print outlets, Fink explained, and show why all branches are vital to the Army's overall mission.
The ads, designed to be hyper-targeted and highly-engaging, he said, will give modern youth an idea of how their unique identities can be applied to the total-force.
What's Your Warrior is the Army's latest marketing strategy, aimed at 17-to-24-year-olds, known as Generation Z, by looking beyond traditional combat roles and sharing the wide-array of diverse opportunities available through Army service.
So, instead of traditional ads with soldiers kicking in doors or jumping out of helicopters, What's Your Warrior pivots toward the wide-array of military occupational specialties that don't necessarily engage on the frontlines — like bio-chemists or cyber-operators.
The campaign will unfold throughout the year with new, compelling, and real-soldier stories meant for "thumb-stopping experiences," Fink explained, regarding mobile platforms.
And, with so many unique Army career-fields to choose from, Fink believes the force offers something to match all the distinctive skillsets needed from future soldiers.
One of the vignettes featured is Capt. Erika Alvarado, a mission element leader for the Army Reserve's Cyber Protection Team, where she is on the frontlines of today's cyber warfare.
Another example is 2nd Lt. Hatem Smadi, a helicopter pilot who provides air support to infantrymen, engineers, and other branches to secure the skies.
A U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jerry Saslav)
Their stories — along with others — will tell the Army mission more abundantly, something previous marketing strategies "didn't do the best job of," Fink admitted.
"Young adults already know the ground combat role we play. We need to surprise them with the breadth and depth of specialties in the Army," Fink said. "This campaign is different than anything the Army has done in the past — or any other service — in terms of look and feel."
The backbone of the new push isn't just showing the multitude of unique Army branches — such as Alvarado's and Smadi's stories. It goes beyond that, he said, and is meant to show how individual branches come together as one team to become something greater than themselves -- a sentiment their research says Gen Z is looking for.
"Team" is also the key-subject of chapter one. An initial advertisement, unveiled as a poster prior to Veterans Day, depicts a team of soldiers from five career tracks — a microbiologist, a signal soldier, an aviator, a cyber-operator, and a ground combat troop — all grouped together.
"By focusing on the range of opportunities available, What's Your Warrior presents a more complete view of Army service by accentuating one key truth — teams are exponentially stronger when diverse talents join forces," Fink said.
Roughly five months after the team in chapter one, chapter two will be unveiled and focus on identity, he said. At this checkpoint, soldier's personal stories will be shared through 30-60 ad spots, online videos, banner ads and other formats to tell their story.
U.S. Army recruits practice patrol tactics while marching during U.S. Army basic training.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller)
"We know today's young men and women want more than just a job. They desire a powerful sense of identity, and to be part of something larger than themselves," said Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy. "What's Your Warrior highlights the many ways today's youth can apply their unique skills and talents to the most powerful team on Earth."
The campaign will be the first major push for the Army's marketing force since they moved from their previous headquarters near the Pentagon to Chicago — in an effort to be near industry talent, Fink said.
Although not quite settled in, the force's marketing team started their move to the "Windy City" over the fall. Since then, they have led the charge on a variety of advertisements and commercials, both in preparation of What's Your Warrior, and other ongoing efforts.
At the Chicago-based location, the office makeup is roughly 60% uniformed service and 40% civilian employees, Fink said.
Chicago is also one of 22 cities tapped by Army leaders as part of the "Army Marketing and Recruiting Pilot Program." The micro-recruiting push — focusing on large cities with traditionally lower recruiting numbers — has utilized data analytics, and been able to tailor messaging for potential recruits based on what's popular in their location, sometimes down to the street they live on, Fink said.
How "What's Your Warrior" will target those cities — and others — remains to be seen.
That said, Fink believes the new campaign will speak to today's youth on their terms, in their language, and in a never-before-seen view of Army service and show how their skillsets are needed to form the most powerful team in the world: the U.S. Army.
This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.