Social Technology Promotes Army, Spurs Recruitment


Greg Swan, a 2003 journalism graduate of Drake University here in Des Moines, enthralled an audience at his alma mater this fall by recounting how his firm is sticking to the oldest, time-tested principle of marketing with military precision. And that’s an apt reference, because Swan’s agency has won numerous awards for its work with the U.S. Army.

Anyone who attended Swan’s presentation should have been impressed with how he and his agency have developed digital storytelling platforms to reach the Army’s target audiences at different touch points.

These platforms, such as Army Strong Stories, have increased the Army’s digital and social media presence. Plus they have fostered interaction between soldier bloggers and potential recruits. That’s especially important because the Army needs to interact with one million prospects each year to meet recruitment goals, says Swan, vice president of digital strategy at Weber Shandwick in Minneapolis.

The awards were won by using the most advanced social media to promote one of marketing’s most reliable best practices: Don’t sell a product; sell a feeling.

Less-than-successful marketers would try to promote the Army as a product. They’d emphasize its advantages of a career with guaranteed employment, free: clothing, room, board and medical care. But instead Swan’s team engaged social media regarding the Army’s visceral attractions: the pride and loyalty you feel when you join with other soldiers in the noble cause of defending America, and the respect Americans have for the military post-9-11.

Swan’s team skillfully advanced this strategy by leveraging the most influential force in history—social technology—to magnify and broadcast this feeling to its target audiences: young men and women who are potential Army recruits, and those who guide their life decisions, including parents, educators and spiritual advisers, as well as social media influencers.

Amazingly, Army Allows Unmoderated Social Network

Soldiers are encouraged to blog, post to Facebook and tweet—unmoderated, the Army says—about their terrific experiences serving our country. Dissension is rare not only because of the service’s culture of camaraderie but also the principle, effectively explained by psychologist Dr. Robert B. Cialdini, who notes that people tend to reinforce the notion that their decisions are good ones. And someone who volunteers for the Army really, really wants to be a soldier.

Of course not every client has the built-in advantage of self-perpetuating, powerful, positive feelings. But the success of this Army campaign is a case study of how we can and should use today’s constantly evolving social technology to magnify best practices. By making effective use of technology, it can be easier than ever to create the promise of the satisfaction and happiness that come from using our clients’ product or service.

SA Applies Emotive Factor for Clients

SA, for example, carefully considered the emotional factors involved when developing a spot for St. Jude Hospice™ that distinguishes it as a place where love and healing flow and where care is provided with compassion and a personal touch.

We utilized in-house story-telling animation, an original score, lyrics and vocals, to sensitively tell St. Jude’s story. The lyrics, set to a simple and memorable original melody, focus on easing pain and caring loved ones. Images of the Tree of Life and other iconic elements, such as a dove and comforting hands, illustrate the journey of transformation. The client reports that this emotion-packed brand image is resonating in the marketplace and generating new business leads.

What have you done lately to sell a feeling instead of a client’s product or service?

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