Tuesday, June 17, 2008
AN ARMY OF FUN - New York Post
June 15, 2008 -- We're going to Army World!
In August, the military plans to open its first Army Experience Center, a combination recruiting center/video arcade/retail store to promote serving your country.
Rumored to becoming to Times Square, it'll be like the Disney Store, except with guns and camouflage.
The 14,500-square-foot center will be a multimedia extrava ganza with high-tech gadgetry, including flight simulators and life-size soldier video games.
That person greeting you at the door? That's an actual Army officer.
While the Army will sell a small amount of merchandise at the venue, the focus is on building "brand experiences" that give poten tial recruits a taste of military service.
Last summer, the Army appointed its first official chief marketing officer, Edward Walters, a 38-year-old West Point grad armed with an MBA and a marketing stint at Kraft Foods.
Walters said the Army store is a prototype for a new kind of recruitment office and is the latest example of the military's increasing use of marketing tools to attract the next generation of soldiers.
"We're moving away from normal recruiting offices and desks to places where men and women can experience military service," he said.
"We've been doing that with innovative techniques like interaction with real soldiers and high-tech virtual experiences."
The Army already holds elaborate marketing events around the country to entice potential recruits. For instance, mobile Army Strong Zones offer rock-climbing walls and weapons demonstrations. It also has started to use Facebook and MySpace, as well as online gaming and cellphone messages.
In 2006, the Army tapped ad agency McCann Erickson to craft a $200 million ad campaign with the "Army Strong" tagline.
"Traditional marketing has been challenging," Walters said. "When you're just focused on TV and the Web, it's hard to get the full message out there."
The Army barely exceeded its overall goal of adding 80,000 soldiers last year, and only after relaxing standards, such as allowing recruits who lacked high-school diplomas.