(MILITARY TIMES) The Navy’s new recruiting slogan, “America’s Navy: A global force for good,” was designed from the outset to motivate existing sailors as much as to entice young people to enlist.
But according to reactions by Navy Times readers in the week since the slogan was made public, that plan isn’t working.
“Holy cow! This is getting really stupid. Why do we need to change our slogan again? I don’t think it describes the Navy at all,” said Machinist’s Mate 1st Class (SS/SW) Michael Dayton, stationed at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bangor, Wash.
Navy Times received 56 e-mails from readers, and all but six disliked the slogan.
Their reasons were many. Several sailors said they worried the new slogan was wrong for the Navy’s reputation as a combat force.
“This bumper-sticker jingle would look good on a flower-toting cart, but when an [aircraft carrier] that displaces over 100,000 tons pulls up off your coast, generally the thought is, ‘Oh crap, the U.S. Navy is here,’” said Information Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Joshua Forman, of the 2nd Fleet Military Intelligence Operations Center.
Others said they didn’t like what they saw as the Navy using too preachy a sales pitch.
“I think the new Navy slogan is utterly ridiculous,” said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (FMF) Gabriel Michaels, attached to 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, in Camp Dwyer, Afghanistan. “It evokes feelings of moral superiority and control — which is not something we are or need — and completely brushes aside the fact that we are a vastly technologically superior Navy when compared to others.”
Some people disliked the slogan for practical reasons: “This is not ‘America’s Navy.’ It is the United States Navy … America encompasses two continents. The United States is located in just one. Tell them to get it right,” said retired Lt. Cmdr. Bill Jones.
Other people disliked it because it sounded too over the top: “It sounds like a catchphrase for a bunch of superheroes,” said Chief Aviation Machinist’s Mate (AW) Randy Whitney, just one of the sailors who invoked the 1970s cartoon classic “Super Friends.”
“Do they plan on moving all the Navy’s Pentagon offices to the Hall of Justice?” Whitney asked.
To be sure, two sailors did say unequivocally that they liked the change.
Operations Specialist 3rd Class Daniel Leaks, of Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility Virginia Capes, Va., said he appreciated the slogan’s focus on the Navy’s service all over the world.
“I believe that the new slogan is a brilliant idea that represents the Navy as a family and fighting for one goal, and that goal is protecting our United States,” he said.
Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Gary Adams, an individual augmentee serving with the Army’s 705th Military Police Battalion in Camp Taji, Iraq, also liked how the new campaign reflected what the Navy does today.
“I think it is right on the spot,” Adams said. “We are outside the box more than any other branch in these times.”
RISKS AND REWARDS
Capt. Phil Altizer, Navy Recruiting Command’s head of advertising, acknowledged to Navy Times that “A global force for good” was an unusual campaign. The Navy and its advertising vendor, Campbell-Ewald, deliberately built a recruiting pitch not based on potential recruits’ self interest — join the Navy, get money for college — but on their sense of service, he said.
“It’s absolutely a risk — every time you invest in something like that, it’s a risk,” Altizer said. “The reward is not even fully evident to us, but if we do this right and well, the benefits are going to be just huge.”
Campbell-Ewald, which has been the Navy’s main advertising agency since 2000, was awarded its third five-year contract in May, worth as much as $800 million, partly on the strength of its “A global force for good” re-branding concept. The company and Recruiting Command have enough evidence that convinces them today’s young people will respond to an appeal to a higher purpose, Altizer said.
“That call to service — that does resonate powerfully with millennials,” he said, referring to the generation born in the 1980s and 1990s, for whom computers and the Internet have always been around.
“We need to … let people know the Navy is a much more than a lot of folks who go out there and stomp bad guys — although we do that,” Altizer said. “You’ve got the ability to dial up from a hard power-focused message, all the way down to the soft power.”
That’s why footage of sailors delivering humanitarian supplies and a glamour shot of the hospital ship Mercy form big parts of the Navy’s first TV spot using the new slogan, which Recruiting Command is launching to coincide with the Navy’s birthday Oct. 13.
Another element in the commercial is footage of World War II-era sailors fighting in the Pacific, which Altizer said was to link the Navy’s heritage to today’s service — critical, he said, given that ever-fewer veterans are available to do that in person.
“I joined the Navy when I was 18 on a ROTC scholarship at [Virginia Military Institute], but I already knew from age 5 what I was gonna do because my dad was in the Navy and my mother was a Navy nurse,” he said. “That huge footprint of people that can tell sea stories from World War II is dying off rapidly — the people with Navy experience, who influence young people to make the Navy a career, is shrinking rapidly.”
Which is why, Altizer said, Recruiting Command intends “A global force for good” as much for an internal audience as an external one — to motivate regular sailors, as well as recruiters, to sell the Navy.
“‘Accelerate your life’ was never designed to energize sailors, veterans, influencers and stakeholders about naval service,” he said. “‘Global force for good’ is a failure if it does not do that,” he said. “It must do that.”
SLOGANS FOR THE FLEET
1996-2001: “Let the journey begin”
2001-2009: “Accelerate your life”
2009: “America’s Navy: A global force for good”