After years of trial and error and millions spent on focus groups, the Navy thinks it has a slogan that will resonate with the American public.
At the Dec. 9 Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, the service will roll out its new tagline, “Forged by the Sea.”
The tagline has been under development since 2016 by the marketing agency Young Rubicam, which surveyed the Navy’s youngest sailors, as well as veterans and “key influencers” to come up with a message that would capture the essence of the service.
The 17-to-21-year-old focus group, known as Generation Z or Centennials, was a top priority for the Navy in developing its new tagline.
“The Navy is now recruiting young men and women of the Centennial Generation, who have different goals, expectations and information-gathering habits than their Millennial predecessors,” said Rear Adm. Pete Garvin, commander of Navy recruiting command, in a statement.
“As such, the Navy recognized the necessity to develop a new marketing campaign and media strategy that more effectively reach, educate and inspire the best-and-brightest prospective recruits,” he said.
The slogan’s elaborate rollout Saturday will include a one-minute ad spot on CBS during the game that takes viewers on a fast-paced tour of the Navy’s operational capabilities, from a nuclear submarine to a fighter launch from an aircraft carrier and into space, with a shot of an M4-QC Triton surveillance drone.
“From the depths to the stars,” text at the end of the ad flashes. “Forged by the sea.”
The Navy is also launching a number of social media initiatives near game time, including augmented reality filters on the Navy Recruiting Command Facebook page to allow users to play around with the new tagline, and a Facebook Live show hosted by two officers who attended the Naval Academy, according to a news release.
Following the game, according to the release, a camera team will hit the street to interview sailors about the new tagline and then share their reactions on social media.
For the Navy, which abandoned its previous slogan, “A Global Force For Good,” in late 2014 because it was so unpopular, there’s a lot riding on the new tagline.
In May 2015, the service inked a $457.5 million contract with Young Rubicam for Navy recruiting advertising and marketing slogans, to include the new tagline.
According to the release, work on the new campaign began in spring 2016 and involved an aggressive effort to research the emerging Centennial generation. This research initiative involved trips to visit current and former sailors and study of the career goals and mindsets of Centennials, including what they thought of the Navy.
“What we found was that there was nearly 100 percent awareness of the Navy, but zero percent understanding of the Navy’s full mission, reach and influence,” Ken Dowling, head of the Navy Partnership and managing director at Young and Rubicam Memphis, said in a statement.
“Centennials saw the Navy’s purpose as one dimensional and strongly tied to defense and combat,” he said. “The things that set the Navy apart from other branches of the military weren’t well-defined, and there was limited awareness of the wide range of career opportunities the Navy offers.”
The “forged” tagline handily beat out five other slogan options in focus groups, officials said, although the Navy did not publicly release the other slogan candidates. In a statement, Garvin acknowledged the Navy’s struggle to encapsulate its mission and meaning in a pithy phrase.
“Over the years, we have changed our tagline several times to capture everything our great Navy represents in just a few simple words,” he said. “After much research and creative development, we emerged with a deep understanding of our organization’s purpose and potential — all of which tie back to the sea. For more than 200 years, our sailors have been tested and shaped by the sea. Our new tagline perfectly captures the transformative impact the Navy and the sea has on our sailors.”
The previous motto, “A Global Force For Good,” hung around for five years after its 2009 debut, even though it never became popular in the rank and file. Ahead of the 2014 Army-Navy game, Cmdr. Chris Servello, then-spokesman for the chief of naval personnel, told Navy Times the slogan simply didn’t capture all that the Navy stood for, though he nonetheless called the campaign built around the tagline successful.
There was some discussion in 2013 about promoting “Semper Fortis” — always strong or always courageous — as the Navy’s tagline, echoing the Marine Corps‘ “Semper Fidelis” motto and the Coast Guard‘s “Semper Paratus.” However, this effort never gained steam.
The renewed effort to resonate with the youngest recruitable sailors comes as the Navy, like the other services, faces new recruiting challenges. With a stronger economy, fewer young people are seeking out military service, and some service branches are struggling to meet recruiting goals.
In a Monday address at a U.S. Naval Institute event, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said the Marine Corps and the Navy are doing alright in recruiting, but acknowledged that the services might be challenged if the recruiting goal were increased.
“If we had a surge right now, there might be some problems,” he said.