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Retiring ‘An Army of One’

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KAI RYSSDAL: You’ve seen the ads on cable and elsewhere. An Army of One. Recruiting for the Army can be tough even during peacetime. When people are shooting at you it becomes a losing proposition.

Last year, the Army missed its manpower goals by the widest mark in 20 years. So the Pentagon upped its signing bonuses, lowered its standards for some test scores and boosted the number of recruiters. It worked. The Army made its goal this year.

And next year, recruiters will have another weapon at their disposal. A little Madison Avenue-style advertising. Marketplace’s Hillary Wicai has that story.

HILLARY WICAI: For 20 years it was all about “Be All You Can Be.” That gave way to “An Army of One.” But that was just confusing.

LOREN THOMPSON:“The old slogan ‘An Army of One’ was sort of an oxymoron.”

Defense analyst Loren Thompson calls the new slogan — “Army Strong”— a vast improvement. The Army unveiled the new catchphrase today, complete with heroic music. Thompson says recruiters need the help.

THOMPSON: The average recruiter is bringing in exactly one recruit per month: 7,000 recruiters to bring in 80,000 people a year. That’s not a great performance. That tells you how hard the marketing job is. And it tells you why a really punchy slogan might make a difference.”

Good marketing doesn’t come cheap. Those two little words — “Army Strong”— are the first fruit of a campaign whose potential value could reach a billion dollars over five years.

That campaign includes slogan development, TV ads, even sponsorship of a NASCAR team. The new campaign hits airwaves Veteran’s Day weekend.

In Washington, I’m Hillary Wicai for Marketplace.

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