One Tin Slogan
New Army campaign isn't all that it could be
After 20 years, the Army is dropping its famous recruiting slogan, "Be all you can be." Guess which of the following is the new slogan: a) One man, one Army; b) An Army of one; c) Your Army thinks you're the one; d) One place for you is the Army; e) Hey, we have only one Army!
The answer, of course, is b.
"An Army of one" is an odd contradiction in terms, and it may be too mystifying to make anyone dash to the nearest enlistment center. But the Army has a problem. It missed its recruiting goals in three of the past six years and barely met them in the other three.
The economic boom is a factor, draining off many potential recruits. But the real difficulty is the mind-set of the 18-to-24-year-olds targeted for enlistment ads. They think of soldiers as "nameless, faceless people in green uniforms crawling through mud," said an Army PR man. The Army churned up a lot of research on young adults by the Rand Corp., Yankelovich Partners Inc., and McKinsey & Co. On the basis of the findings, many of them already well known, the Army apparently concluded that the current generation of young people is so individualistic, so resistant to authority and rules, that it has to market military life as the natural home of the freewheeling, unfettered spirit.
Soldiers have to follow orders and work for group cohesion. They also have to risk getting shot at from time to time. Selling this to the young as the freedom of the independent self is no easy task. But the research was sobering. Even "Be all you can be"--a me-generation slogan entirely about self-actualization--was widely perceived as too authoritarian. "Kids don't like it," said Ray DeThorne of Leo Burnett, the ad agency that produced the "Army of One" campaign. "They say it's the voice of their parents telling them what to do."
No orders, no guns. J. Walker Smith of Yankelovich says: "The problem is, how do you attract people who want to be free agents?" By selling a sort of implied and ambiguous free-agency within the Army. Research shows that young adults want to feel connected and they want to be part of something bigger than themselves. But they don't want to yield their freedom. So authority figures are absent from the ads. Officers and orders apparently don't exist. Instead, young soldiers talk about how independent and strong the Army makes them feel.
In one of the first TV ads, a soldier is seen running alone through a vast desert. "I am an army of one," he says. "Even though there are 1,045,690 soldiers just like me, I am my own force. . . . The might of the U.S. Army doesn't lie in numbers; it lies in me." In another spot, an "imagery group station operator" is presented as a sort of independent contractor, making his own decisions about dispatching Apache helicopters on the spot. A future one will feature a lone Hispanic American soldier helping a child after an earthquake in a Latin American nation.