Military Advertising Techniques

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The military is considered to be the largest employer in the United States. Between active military duty and the military reserves there are more than 2.6 million soldiers serving the country. Military advertising is responsible for helping recruit many of those men and women, but what makes them so effective?

Promise of Education

One of the main reasons military advertisements are so effective is because they claim to be able to help pay for your college education. Education is becoming more and more important in the world today. It is becoming increasingly difficult to get a “good job” without a college education anymore. The problem is that post-secondary education is very expensive. Some people just plain cannot afford to pay tuition. In their advertisements, the military mentions multiple ways they can help pay for your college education. The first way is through the ROTC program. The Navy, Army, and Air Force have ROTC programs. The Army has the AROTC, the Air Force has the AFROTC, and the Navy has the NRTOC. ROTC stands for Reserve Officer Training Corps. The way the ROTC works, is the military will pay for SOME of your education. Usually they help through scholarships if you decide to take this route. The problem with the ROTC, that most people do not realize, is that you commit to joining the military once you have completed your college education. The time you are committed to serve varies depending upon the degree you were pursuing. A general degree, such as education, would land you a minimum of four years in the branch of which your ROTC program was affiliated. For more advanced degrees that take a bit longer to obtain, such as aviation, you will owe the military a minimum of eight years. Another way the military will help you pay for your education is by attending military schools. The military has a number of academies that will help you pay for your education. The most common are the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy; however, there are five military academies in the nation. The remaining three are the Military Academy at Westpoint, the Merchant Marine Academy, and the Coast Guard Academy. The Coast Guard and Merchant Marine Academy are part of the Department of Defense, and the Naval, Air Force, and Military Academy are part of the Department of Defense. The Naval Academy caters to those who wish to join the Marines or the Navy after their education. The Air Force Academy caters to those who wish to join the Air Force. Again, by taking this route you are obligated to join the military after you graduate. The final way that the military will help you pay for your education is through Off-Duty Education Pay. The way this option works is the military will FULLY pay for your education in return for your service in the military. You enlist in a branch prior to attending a higher education institution, and in return for your service the military pays for your tuition. By taking this route, you are granted a certain amount of time every year to attend courses and obtain your degree. Military advertising may not tell you all the details about paying for your education, but they give you a rough idea of what is to come. By taking this approach, the military successfully recruits high school students and college students.

Consumer Appeal

Another reason that military advertisements are so effective is beacuse they appeal to a large cariety of consumers. One of the reasons that some advertisements fail is the fact that they focus on one specific group of consumers. As a consumer watching that commercial or viewing that advertisement, you immediately block it out or change the channel if it does not interst you. Military advertisements show you that there is a job in the military for all types of people. The first idea that the advertisements make clear is the fact that no matter what occupation you would like to pursue, the military has something for you. Whether you want to be a doctor who stays in the safety of a military base or a soldier fighting on the front lines, you can do it in the military. The military accomplishes this task by interviewing a wide variety of soldiers. The basic setup of the military branches are broken down into two categories - officers and enlisted. To be an officer you have a college degree. Officers are usually the ones in the military who are engineers or doctors, but officers are also the ones in positions of power. Enlisted, although some enlisted soldiers do have degress, are usually the ones fighting or engaging in battle. Most of the special operations groups in the military are enlisted soldiers. The few that allow officers are much more competitive. In order to illustrate this point to the consumer, the advertisement will itnerview at least one officer and at least one enlisted. By using this approach the advertisements effectively communicate the fact that no matter who you are and what you want to do in life, you can do it in the military.

Travel Anywhere!

Another aspect of military advertisements that make them so effective is thaat they promote the idea that you can operate anywhere in the world. Some people associate the military with always being stationed outside of the United States. This is assumption is completely wrong. Not only does every branch of the military operate domestically and internationally, but there is also an entire branch of the military devoted to operation nationally - The National Guard. Military advertisements make this idea clear by showing video clips from all of the world. By showing videos of different countries, they draw people in who want to visit those countries. Think about the study abroad program at your local college or university. Show the student pictures of beautiful countries they could study at for a semester, and you have them lining up to enroll in the program. The effect is the same for the consumer watching the advertisement. By showing the consumer pictures of the places they can be stationed in the military, you have them lining up to enlist.

Emotional Responses

external image twin-towers.jpegAdditionally, military advertisements are so compelling because they appeal to the emotions of the consumer. The attack on the Twin Towers and the disaster in Haiti are perfect examples of military advertisements using the emotions of the consumer as a recruiting technique. There are numerous advertisements showing how the military is helping the crisis in Haiti. These advertisements usually begin by showing horrible pictures of starving families and demolished houses. This instantly makes the consumer feel sorry for the families that the disaster affected. This makes the consumer want to take action and help. Then the advertisement transitions into showing how people in the military are helping. It shows there are numerous ways to get involved, whether it is an enlisted man rescuing a civilian from underneath rubble, or an officer treating a wounded victim. This again caters to the fact that even if you cannot rappel out of a helicopter you can help in some other. This approach to advertising uses sadness as a trigger to enlist in the military. The attack on the Twin Towers has a similar effect but uses a different emotion - anger. Showing the footage of the attack over and over again angers most americans, and the military knows that. After an attack of that degree, you will have people lining up in the recruiteres office ready to enlist just to get revenge. Is that a good reason to enlist? Maybe, maybe not, but the military knows that it works, so they continue to use emotions as a recruiting tactic.


  1. Air Force Blue Tube. "America's Airmen In Today's Fight." United States Air Force. 26 February 2010.
  2. Air Force Blue Tube. "Crisis Haiti - The U.S. Air Force Responds." United States Air Force. 26 February 2010.
  3. United States Air Force ROTC. "Service Commitment." United States Air Force Reserve Offier Training Corps. 26 February 2010.
  4. United States Army. "Army ROTC." United States Army. 26 February 2010.
  5. United States Navy. "So Others May Live." United States Navy. 26 February 2010.
  6. United States Navy. "Qualifications and Commitment." United States Navy. 26 February 2010. http://www,