By Steve Lambert, USARECDecember 12, 2013
FORT KNOX, Ky. (Dec. 12, 2013) -- Can a brand be healthy? Of course. Like people, brands can be too lean or too obese.
On the lean side, Wrigley gum's Doublemint product comes to mind. This product has been off television for years, but it's still one of the top gum brands in the country; I still remember the old Doublemint twins ads.
Wrigley has also diversified its brand into several other popular product lines that you probably didn't know were Wrigley products (Altoids, Orbit, Skittles and Starburst, to name a few). Its worldwide status, available in over 140 countries, comes from the longevity of the brand, not from its media presence. The brand will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year.
On the obsese side, Starbucks comes to mind. Considerably younger, only 42 years old, Starbucks worldwide outlets provides a presence that is almost unavoidable. I have seen several locations in New York City where the coffee company is building a new store across the street from another Starbucks; really?
But Starbucks has expanded its brand to be much more than just coffee. Like the Army's PaYS program, Starbucks has partnered with dozens of national organizations, from those that do community service to those that operate sustainable food labs, to help expand their brand beyond retail. Their 'inside' management strategy pitches that they want Starbucks to be the third place in their customers' lives, surpassed only by work and home.
Their brand strength comes from a dominance of the coffee giant's physical presence of its 18,000 stores worldwide, much like the Army brand with stations/centers across the country. Because of their strong physical presence, the Starbucks brand continues to grow in the industry category of restaurants, which has basically flatlined.
So would you consider those brands healthy? In fact brand health is not solely about media weight or physical presence, it refers to how relevant, well-known and consistent your brand is to your consumers.
So with that criteria, where does the Army brand fall?
On the 'consistency' scale, the Army also should score fairly high. Thanks to our brand style guide, everything from print ads, to radio and television, is consistent in both its messaging and its visual form. This is where not deviating from the brand gives us good karma in this arena.
Like Starbucks, our prospects can expect a uniform user experience across any of our media channels which helps to reinforce the core messaging. With the exception of some of our 'dueling logos' such as the enterprise Army star brand versus subbrands like components and core brands, which hurt our consistency score, the Army brand user experience is fairly consistent.
On the 'well-known' front, from a brand perspective, the Army clearly is a universally known brand. Now the core values or user expectation of the brand might vary based on personal experiences, but unless you're living in a cave, you are aware of the Army brand.
But the last measurement of good brand health, 'relevancy' is where the Army seems to be missing the mark.
While those of us who have experienced the brand first hand for most of our adult lives would give the Army high marks for relevancy, the same cannot be said for our prospects. The Army brand continues to suffer from a perception of being low tech and dangerous. Despite multiple national marketing campaigns to reinforce the brand's relevance, we continue to remain the third choice for military service with our prospects.
While the Army owns the concept of 'protectors of the nation', the Air Force continues to own technology, and the Navy continues to own adventure. The same studies have revealed that even our 'strong' tagline is often more associated with the Marines than the Army.
The most recent Joint Advertising, Marketing, Research and Studies (JAMRS) study, the 2013 Prior Service Survey, even revealed that on the Reserve side, prospects feel that the pay and benefits would not be worth the commitment and would interfere with their current pursuits.
Current efforts are underway to find a core value that we can essentially own, but in the interim, those of us in trenches need to continue to preach the relevancy that we personally know is true through our personal Army success stories.