Army Marketing - inputs and impacts - two years in the making

By Maj. Aaron StarkSeptember 2, 2021

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Two years ago, the Army leadership identified the need for and established, the Army Enterprise Marketing Office (AEMO) an enterprise-level strategic marketing organization. We sought to create a cutting-edge marketing organization for the Army, including using a novel hiring process to attract and hire the best marketing talent from across the Army.

Looking back on the two years since AEMO’s founding, it is remarkable to reflect on those first few planning meetings with the Assistant Secretary of the Army, to now see what the organization has accomplished in such a short period of time. It has been a monumental effort that was only possible by assembling such a talented team to innovate and create a marketing organization and structure comparable to successful Fortune 500 companies.

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AEMO’s success can be characterized on three levels: Key Inputs, Key Outputs, and most importantly, Impact on making the Army an irresistible career choice for America's most talented. From writing and implementing a new marketing strategy to improving data processes to crafting better creative work to optimizing marketing delivery channels - AEMO has driven Army-level impact, helping the Army find talented future Soldiers to lead our nation’s Army.

Key Inputs

Key inputs are the building blocks needed to establish AEMO, our marketing procedures, and how we would make a difference using marketing capabilities. A few key inputs include:

·      Publishing a new marketing strategy, (also called the Army Marketing Implementation Plan), which radically alters how the Army approaches marketing. Our marketing strategy flips the historical paradigm of Army service. The traditional Army approach to marketing has been “join the Army and we’ll turn you into a Soldier;” our new approach uses a line of products approach where the Army seeks to match an individual’s talents with skill gaps of the Army. To implement this strategy, AEMO created a vibrant campaign What’s Your Warrior? which connects with the current generation of recruits and emphasizes their individual contributions to the team and the Army’s mission across our line of professions.

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·      Rewriting Army Regulation 601-208, which is the Army's formal regulatory document that introduces new business operations procedures Army Enterprise Marketing and unifies marketing efforts through a Total Army approach. We also added a new publication, Army Pamphlet 601-208, which explains operational procedures including defining how to measure Return on Investment (ROI) and the Regional Marketing System. Both offer a novel approach and place the Army alongside industry leaders implementing similar innovative approaches to marketing. These publications direct what and how to measure marketing performance at all levels.

·      Implementing data attribution systems that integrate various efforts across all marketing platforms to improve data collection and marketing attribution. These systems created the conditions to improve ROI accountability, increase efficiency, and identify ineffective portions of our marketing funnel. It also moved AEMO towards a culture of testing, where the Army now has the capability to use A/B testing on paid search and paid social platforms, which has already resulted in the reallocation of marketing funds based on initial results. Data have also enabled refined channel strategies that improve the customer journey, resulting in significant improvements to marketing lead quality and recruiting contract conversions.

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·      AEMO’s most innovative initiative is the creation of the Regional Marketing System. This system creates five regional marketing offices across the United States to bridge the gap between national and local marketing. It will give AEMO the ability to focus regionally where it can make much more impactful connections with consumers and have marketing content and channel systems that are significantly more agile, providing timely and relevant content. The regional system is designed to improve the resonance and relevance of the Army’s message with diverse areas of America. The regional concept naturally creates conditions for more inclusive marketing by acknowledging that certain factors shape the lens through which people see and interpret the world around them. This concept is driven by recent academic research focused on regional cultures and regional personalities. This approach is critical in an era when marketing must be increasingly mutually participatory. The first office will open this winter in Los Angeles.

·      Lastly, AEMO has hired the best talent from across the Army and civilian sectors. AEMO has a combination of Department of the Army Civilian employees and Army officers. To develop marketing, we created a highly selective Army officer career field (known as Functional Area 58) to allow these select few officers to focus on marketing for the rest of their time in the Army. We designed a talent-based competitive selection process that uses a case study analysis, creative resume exercise, and formal + double-blind interviews. This competitive process has elicited over 650 applicants, of which only 50 were hired, with 82% having in-residence graduate degrees from top-ranked programs.

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Key Outputs

AEMO’s new systems have resulted in many measurable outputs that contribute to the overall impact on the Army's ability to attract talented future Soldiers. Some highlights include:

·      New channel innovations, such as the Contact Center on where chat and call lead volume has grown by 152% Year-over-Year. AEMO’s research shows that people across the country vary in how they learn about the Army. The Contact Center is an example of allowing people who are completely unfamiliar with the Army to learn about service options in new ways through new channels. This approach also allows the prospect to remain in control of the customer journey, which is increasingly demanded by consumers. It is a new way to approach the traditional recruiting model and has resulted in a lead-to-recruiting contract conversion rate of 20:1, a 100% improvement over other legacy marketing channels.

·      National and Regional Marketing Mix Modeling (MMM) systems allow AEMO to identify marketing performance contributors at a regional level and adjust the marketing approach within diverse regions of the country. These advanced models work in tandem with the Regional Marketing System to ensure effective marketing that drives ROI. It also opens opportunities for testing to improve performance or shift future funding across regions.

·      Career Match Tool 2.0 was launched on in November 2020. It leverages advanced technology to pair an individual’s interests with Army career options. It is the natural extension of our Line of Professions marketing approach. The tool has been a major success, with 22% of all website-driven-leads coming from the Career Match Tool.

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·      Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO) has increased the rate of prospects contacting a recruiter for an appointment by 5%, a significant increase for a critical step in the accessions funnel.

What does it all mean? The impact on Army recruiting:

AEMO has created significant and impactful results. “Every member of AEMO involved in implementing our new strategy and procedures has had a direct impact on these results,” said Maj. Gen. Alex Fink, the Army’s chief marketing officer. “These results are the product of all of us building a new organization using a new strategy, processes, and implementing marketing expertise across the enterprise.” AEMO’s most notable Army-wide impacts include:

·      Increasing marketing attributable Army contracts by 104%. Marketing attributable contracts now account for almost 30% of the Army’s total enlisted Active-Duty contracts.

·      Improving the marketing Leads-to-Contract conversion rate by 110%. This is on glide path to reach 160% improvement by the end of FY22.

·      On track to decrease marketing cost-per-contract by 30%, a projected performance improvement worth $60.2M in FY21 alone.

·      Improved marketing lead quality by reducing total leads by 21% while increasing total marketing attributable contracts by 104%.

“I’m really proud of what the AEMO team has achieved for the Army,” said Fink. “We are on a trajectory for this to continue to improve significantly in the coming years.” While AEMO has accomplished significant marketing gains for the Army during its first two years, it is just getting started.

Article by Major Aaron Stark. He is the Director of the Army Enterprise Marketing & Behavioral Economics Program. Additionally, he oversees the Marketing Research Cell located at West Point. He helped design and launch Army Enterprise Marketing.