Military Marketing Techniques For the Next Generation

In a soft economy, military recruiters abandon the hard sell
Minneapolis Star Tribune 

MANKATO, Minnesota — More than eight years into fighting two wars, the U.S. military finds itself in an odd but enviable position: All four military branches and all six Reserve components reached their recruiting targets, both in quality and quantity, for the first time in the history of the all-volunteer force. 

Eschewing the cold call and hard sell for what it calls the “soft lead,” the military is employing the latest in marketing techniques to secure the newest generation of recruits, who are plucked from an increasingly select pool of applicants. In a turnaround from as little as five years ago, Armed Forces enlistment requirements have never been higher. 
“There’s an awful lot of good kids out there who are coming out of high school with no job prospects or are having trouble affording college or don’t see college is the route for them. That’s the prime recruiting market,” said William Strickland, a retired Air Force colonel who commanded recruiting in the western United States. Strickland was part of a committee for the National Research Council that studied military recruitment and marketing in 2002. 
For a glimpse at prime recruiting territory for this new military, take a look at Mankato. In the past two years, the Mankato area has had 143 recruits sign on the dotted line to join the various branches of the military, with the Minnesota National Guard by far the leader. Last year, the Guard boasted a 60 percent share of the military recruitment market. 
In Mankato, the recruiting effort has included things such as trucking in climbing walls at high schools after proms to sponsoring tournaments when the latest version of the combat video game “Call of Duty” comes out. Knocking down conventional wisdom, it is also in places such as Mankato where potential recruits are more likely to meet the increasingly demanding standards the military puts on its enlistees. 

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