Why the Army sees the answer to its recruitment problem in experiential marketing

LONDON - The Army is banking on interactive marketing to bring in the recruits it needs.

The British Army's recruitment strategy has taken a new turn, with its embrace of interactive and experiential marketing methods. This fresh approach is embodied in its ‘Start Thinking Soldier' (STS) campaign, and high-tech Army Show Rooms that allow potential recruits to immerse themselves in the reality of what it is like to be a soldier.

Similar methods have been employed by the US armed forces for some time. The Army Experience Center, for example, which opened last year in Philadelphia, allows children over the age of 13 to try out Humvee and Apache simulators. According to insiders, members of the British Army witnessed such approaches at first hand on a recent visit Stateside, and were impressed. Experiences in this mould are now available in the Show Rooms.

The British Army acknowledges that it keeps an eye on the recruitment tactics adopted by other forces, but says it must ensure that its approach is suitable for a UK audience. Colin Cook, marketing director for the Army, says: ‘STS and the Army Show Rooms do not attempt to re-enact warfare. They simply offer the opportunity to find out more about the kind of skills that would be useful for a career in the Army.' He adds that he wants everyone from the age of ‘nine to 90' to visit the Show Rooms, located in London's Dalston and Hounslow.

Meanwhile, the STS TV ad prompts viewers to access further content online. ‘The online experience and level of personal interaction is above and beyond anything the Army has ever done before,' says Cook. ‘In past campaigns, you may have gone online to see the end of an ad, for example. But with STS, arriving online marks the beginning of your personal journey.'

Kate Coleman is an account director at Publicis Modem, the agency that created the online platform for STS. She says that although the campaign does not feature explicitly violent images, it creates a truthful picture for users because it is based on real situations. ‘It's an element of "try before you buy" in a way, and we want people to get an idea of what it's like being a soldier,' she says. ‘Throughout the site there are links to appropriate roles, jobs and an online chat forum where you can talk to real soldiers.'

The campaign has not gone without its share of controversy and the Show Rooms in particular have attracted the attention of anti-war protest groups. ‘There's a point of view that says for young people, [the Army] is a career choice,' says Jim Prior, chief executive of branding agency The Partners. ‘You could argue that by being set up in deprived areas, it offers greater opportunity for the people living there. But the reality is that people get killed, and war will always cloud people's opinion of the marketing.'

While the Army has started to adopt some of the techniques used in the US, it is unlikely that the more gung-ho tactics employed across the Atlantic will make a similar transition. These include the American Army National Guard's sponsorship of World Wrestling Entertainment's premier annual event, WrestleMania.

However, the Army continues to face significant challenges in reaching the 15,000 new soldiers it needs to enlist each year. It has consistently failed to meet this target, a situation compli­cated by the UK's involvement in major operations, in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army clearly hopes that the introduction of these new experiential methods and the current review of its recruitment advertising account will help it to address these difficulties.



Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


Branding guru Wally Olins dies aged 83
Duracell short film captures epic Transatlantic voyage
ASH runs Tinder experiment to show smokers are less desirable to opposite sex
British Airways teams up with Gerry Cottle Jnr for summer of rooftop film screenings
Arklu says 'girls can be superheroes too' with doll design competition
Coke enters squash market with Oasis Mighty Drops
Virgin Galactic signs up Land Rover as space flight sponsor
Motorola marketer Andrew Morley departs as Google gears up for sale to Lenovo
US Airways apologises after tweeting obscene image at a customer
Mumsnet admits users' emails and passwords accessed via Heartbleed bug
Thetrainline.com backs 'rubbish' mobile app with TV ad
Powerade launches global World Cup campaign
Burberry's flagship Shanghai store facade responds to weather changes
Subway considers taking fast food to fast lane with F1 sponsorship
Ikea splurges 'grey' Belgium with colour
Grim outlook for Tesco boss Philip Clarke ahead of expected profits fall
Thomson to create first crowd-sourced wedding decided by Facebook fans
Currency wars meets origami in Alpari FX trading ad campaign
Amazon rumoured to launch 3D smartphone in September
Facebook to allow European users to store and transfer money on site, claims report
Unilever pilots multi-brand advertising with YouTube beauty channel
Lego, Coca-Cola, Net-a-Porter, Bitcoin and AOL: the digitally creative brands
Dove tries to tell women their beauty is innate through placebo patches
Wonga faces social media storm after forcing Twitter to remove satirical material
Spotify tells the stories of relationships with music
Skype contrasts real stories with 'saccharine' style of Google and Apple
Top 100 UK advertisers: BSkyB increases lead as P&G, BT and Unilever reduce adspend
Viral Review: One Direction perfume 'prankvert' should have been a bigger hit
German beer brand Warsteiner tells drinkers to 'do it right'
SSE signs 10 year deal to sponsor Wembley Arena