Hunter is the CEO of Xpedition, an award-winning agency and TV production company with clients at Google, McKinsey & Co., HGTV and YouTube.
With Veterans Day right around the corner on November 11, many brands are planning to show their appreciation for the millions of people who have served in the United States Armed Forces. But in order to create a truly impactful Veterans Day campaign, marketers must focus on saluting those who serve rather than promoting their own products.
Here are six things to keep in mind when planning a Veterans Day campaign.
On November 11, 1919, the U.S. commemorated the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Today, the 11th of November (now known as Veterans Day) is recognized as a day to pay tribute to all of America’s veterans. But with the United States increasingly divided along party lines, even the most benign Veterans Day ad can become politically charged.
When mapping out the creative brief for your campaign, remember that Veterans Day should transcend political ideologies. Veterans Day is about honoring the service and sacrifice of America’s veterans, not about making political statements or sharing personal opinions.
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Avoid anything that might be considered partisan or controversial and instead highlight those who have served our country. By keeping these individuals at the center of your campaign, you can create something that truly honors their bravery.
Veterans Day content often focuses on combat veterans, but the reality is that this represents only a fraction of the U.S. military. While it’s important to honor those who have served our nation in active combat, it’s equally important to recognize all of the other people who make up the military, including cooks, chaplains and medics.
Make sure your campaign is paying homage to all who have served in the military. For example, instead of relying on imagery of pilots flying military aircraft, include photos or videos of military members working at desk jobs. Think about how your campaign can also encompass the partners and families of military members, who face their own challenges when their loved ones are deployed but don’t often get the same recognition.
Focus On Diversity
According to the Pew Research Center, the U.S. military is now much more racially and ethnically diverse than in previous generations. Women account for roughly 15% of active-duty personnel (and more women are serving as ranking officers than ever before). Minorities make up 40% of active duty military members, and LGBTQ+ individuals represent 6.1% of people in the U.S. military.
To create an accurate campaign, it’s essential to realistically depict the individuals who are in the military. By using diverse imagery, you will showcase what today’s military is truly like and help current and former military members alike see themselves in your ad.
Showcase Real Veterans
When we created an animated Vet Job Search Tool video for Google, we listened to the insights of veterans and featured the voice talent of a former staff sergeant in the U.S. Army. This enabled us to bring real experiences and perspectives to life in the finished product.
To ensure that your campaign resonates with veterans, consider hiring military members to work on the project or serve as consultants. They can help you craft the messaging, make sure you’re using the right terminology and create a campaign that will connect.
Pay Attention To The Details
The military is a vast community with its own culture and standardized practices. Because most civilians don’t know all these ins and outs, they often use military imagery that looks fine to the untrained eye but completely wrong to anyone who has served in the military.
If you’re working on a Veterans Day campaign, it’s essential to take the time necessary to get everything right. Military training drills in each new member the importance of paying attention to the details, and you have to take the same care in the details with your marketing.
Ensure that the images you’re using are realistic (this includes making sure that you’re using the right types of uniforms and accurate ranks). By paying special attention to the details, you can avoid alienating your audience and create something that truly respects and represents the military.
Remember That It’s Not About You
It’s easy to spot inauthenticity, so make sure you’re thanking veterans, not promoting your brand. If you offer discounts for military members, clearly note that since service members may not be aware of them. You might also want to consider working with or donating to nonprofits such as the Wounded Warrior Project or Transgender American Veterans Association to provide support to the veteran community. And spend some time thinking about ways your company can provide support for service members year-round, not just on Veterans Day.
Although civilian marketers will never fully understand what it’s like to serve in the military, we can commit to investing the time and resources necessary to produce campaigns that truly honor our veterans’ sacrifice and courage.
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Author: Hunter Johnson, Forbes Councils Member