Army National Guard Recruitment Marketing: A 20-Year Legacy
The Army National Guard, America’s first military (est. 1636), serves both the federal and hometown mission. While Guard Soldiers can be on the front lines of conflict, they can also serve part-time and have a full-time civilian life. And it’s the civilian careers and experiences that the Guard credits as a key strength in its force.
For nearly 20 years, iostudio has been tasked by the Guard for recruitment marketing to capture and convey their brand story, to educate the American public, and to empower its Soldiers and their families.
The Guard needed Soldiers, so they enlisted us.
Less than 1 percent of Americans enter military service. The Guard’s mission to generate more prospective applicants must be accomplished twofold. They aim to reach people who want a way to create a better life for themselves but don’t think the military is an option. Secondly, they reach for people who are already considering the military with a message that conveys what the Guard has to offer.
Ultimately, iostudio’s recruitment marketing goal was to reintroduce the Guard as a relevant and accessible service—a task delivered annually by iostudio since 2003.
Infallible insights come from being one with your client.
iostudio has been deeply rooted in recruitment marketing, both internal and external, for the Guard since the agency’s inception. This proximity has built an incomparable knowledgebase of recruiting and retention propensities, seasonality, trends, and audience profiles. This information is used to create prospect profiles that are updated throughout the year with micro and macro views of engagement data. The data helps to inform campaigns, website content and Lead processing efforts for maximum conversion.
iostudio, a Secretary of Defense ESGR Freedom Award recipient, foundationally has a close-to-home perspective on military service.
“More than two dozen of our employees are military Veterans. Our own President served in the ARNG for 17 years. And we’re a small business, so that’s a large percentage of our team. It impacts everything about our culture and strategy. Everyone here is part of the military family,” says Keith Kawasaki, Vice President at iostudio. “So when it comes to connecting with the emotional high ground of service while staying grounded in the tactical steps of empowering the Army National Guard’s audience, iostudio is the only team that can deliver with the depth of understanding and talent—and heart—to really get it right.”
GX delivered engaging and award-winning content.
For more than 12 years, iostudio delivered the most awarded military magazine of its time (garnering more than 60 national and international recognitions), GX: The Guard Experience®. As a retention marketing tool, GX brought the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness model into immediately actionable and engaging narratives in each issue. Learn more about how we engaged our audience with GX magazine.
Similarly, iostudio delivered a series of publications to build and strengthen the Guard force (and the perception of the Guard brand) to include the family-focused Foundations magazine, the teen-focused Hooah! magazine, recruiting catalogs and the award-winning Why We Serve coffee table book. Why We Serve is over 300 pages of rich Guard history told through the personal stories and frontline photos of Soldiers.
A holistic approach to the brand leads to smarter work.
On the digital and video front, iostudio’s team has produced hundreds of videos each year to support recruitment marketing efforts and populate the digital brand hubs of NationalGuard.com (architected by iostudio) and Guard social media. iostudio, in partnership with LMO, launched the Guard’s social media presence in 2009, crafting and informing the public’s understanding of the Guard at an exponential level. iostudio pioneered the space, providing 24/7 managed services and guiding the recruiting force on how to use social media in their recruiting efforts.
By also managing the Guard’s contact center (1-800-Go-Guard), we are the first contact of potential recruits all the way to the Recruiter handoff and everything in between. This puts us in a particularly strong position to deliver an impactful brand message that remains consistent through every touchpoint.
When we introduced our 2015 brand campaign, millennials were being told that the American dream was dead and they no longer had a chance to achieve what generations before them did. But because of the Guard’s unique capabilities and benefits, we positioned the Guard to this generation as “The Keepers of the Dream.” Not only is the Guard protecting our way of life, it’s also a vehicle to achieving their American dream. “The Keepers of the Dream” video ran everywhere from social feeds to NFL stadiums.
The Guard offers what today’s younger generation wants more than anything: a Legacy.
In 2019, we began sketching out the next evolution of the Guard story: “Take On Your Legacy,” an integrated digital recruitment marketing campaign. In support of Fors Marsh Group, iostudio built the holistic “Take On Your Legacy” brand campaign for the Army National Guard, directed to the people who want to be a part of something bigger and the ones who want to leave a legacy.
The Gen Z target’s mindset is more mainstream than that of military-first recruits. Today’s young generations want to make an impact on their world, their communities and their neighborhoods. They want to stand for something. They want to build a life, create a new path for themselves and leave a legacy.
However, to today’s younger generations, the world feels like it’s in chaos, like there’s so much wrong that it’s impossible to start fixing it. Everywhere they look, people are talking about standing for something, but in reality, most people are all talk.
The “Take On Your Legacy” campaign has a powerful and lasting message that conveys the Guard as a way to actually stand up for something, protect your community and defend your homeland. Everyone’s legacy is already out there, waiting on them to grasp it, and the Guard is the place to start. And most importantly, it’s a way to achieve what you want out of life: a college education, job opportunities and a better future for you and your family.
Audiences who engage with iostudio’s “Take On Your Legacy” content are 3x as likely to become a recruiting Lead.
iostudio creates a new ‘Legacy’ as the next chapter of America’s first military.
We began with a consistent, powerful and emotional brand platform that flows down through every channel we control in the recruiting life cycle, from initial contact to Recruiter handoff.
From there, we created a landing page experience that houses multimedia content highlighting real Soldiers in the Guard who are taking on their legacies right now.
The landing page experience includes the flagship video, an anthemic production film spanning multiple states and representing a cross-section of service areas, along with four individual stories showing the strength and pride that comes with being a Guard Soldier: to live a civilian life while still protecting your community and country.
It’s also home to interviews with real Guard Soldiers, discussing the circumstances that led them to the Guard and the path they’ve chosen for building their legacy.
We supported the experience with social and email campaigns that humanize and demystify the Guard. It’s not content you usually associate with military branches, as it dives much deeper into the Soldiers’ lives and shows not only what the Guard is about, but the amazing opportunities the Guard offers.
Content and assets were also built to support the individual states and Guard Recruiters.
“Our team’s dedication, creative talent and diverse perspectives—having worked with Fortune 500 brands and federal agencies—put a project like this perfectly in our wheelhouse,” shares Matt Mason, the Legacy campaign’s Creative Director. “And it’s anything but work for us. To get the chance to flex our creative muscles for a client like the Army National Guard—that changes people’s lives and impacts our world in such a positive way—it’s an honor.”
Success is not defined by likes but by recruiting Leads.
In less than one month, recruiting Leads from NationalGuard.com increased by a sizable percentage compared to previous months. Audience members who engage with “Take On Your Legacy” content are 3x as likely to become a recruiting Lead based on interactions with the Legacy content and action taken.