3 Things You Need to Know About Marketing to the Military

A market with more than $1 trillion in spending power

The U.S. military is one of the largest consumer segments in America, but many brands don’t have a strategy in place to connect with service members and their supporters.

Millions of military personnel and their families are digitally native and regularly shop online. They also earn over a third more on average than the typical American family. Targeting your offerings to those in the military is not only good business, but when done correctly, it can provide helpful services, products and benefits to those who serve our country.

When not executed properly, however, a military strategy could damage your brand. So, before you begin marketing your brand to the military, consider these three tips:

1. Be authentic

You should want to work with the military and their families because it’s the right thing to do, not just because of the market opportunity. Before launching a campaign targeting military personnel, ask yourself questions like: Does your work benefit the service member? Are you genuinely interested in serving those who serve? How does your brand message tie in with your actions?

The military community can be incredibly loyal but can also be vocal when they see companies being inauthentic in motivation or action.

2. Know your audience 

Beware of misusing military terminology or images—the mistake won’t go unnoticed and could destroy trust in your brand. It is incorrect to call someone serving in the Navy a soldier, for example.

If you use stock photography, check that the images don’t have service members in uniforms that are out of regulation. Even large agencies working for branches of the military have been known to make these errors. The posts in question usually end up being removed after a torrent of negative comments.

Brands sometimes use the Department of Defense’s open-source imagery in their campaigns, but they fail to edit them for compliance. Not doing things like adding the correct disclaimer or removing a service member’s nameplate can lead to an embarrassing letter from military legal teams.

3. Beware of branch specific traits

Everyone serving in the military is not the same. They have shared values and virtues, but active-duty military, guardsmen, reservists, veterans and their families encompass more than 30 million people from different backgrounds across the country. Although they have discretionary income, good vacation policies and education benefits, these all change by rank and time in service.

The vernacular and traditions also change by the branch of service. The Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard have variations in slang and customs. Used correctly, these are your secret weapon as they prove that you’ve taken the time to research and understand the community. If your organization has a team of veterans from each branch, make sure they are reviewing any content. If not, you may want to seek out a military consultant.

After crafting your campaigns, your team should focus on channels that can effectively deliver your message to each segment at the appropriate time. You don’t want to waste your ad dollars on digital marketing, for example, while your audience is off-the-grid in training or deployed.

We’ve put together a guide to help you learn more about this market.  Download Sandboxx’s Essential Guide to Marketing to the Military.

Shane McCarthy is CMO of Sandboxx, a platform that supports over a million U.S. service members and their supporters throughout their military journey via content, technology and products enabling the military ecosystem to thrive. He has also briefed and advised numerous military recruiting commands.