By Tom Aiello
Content marketing is an effective element of every Military Veteran targeted campaign because it activates through owned and paid media channels like social media. Advertisers are best served by taking a mission-authentic approach paired with a deep knowledge of the military and veteran niche market. This authenticity gives them the ability to build deeper, more culturally relevant human relationships with their audience. Specifically, Veterans relate to one another through shared hardship. This deep connection is brought to the surface most effectively through stories of real people rather than the typical large media corporation’s use of paid talent. Given this insight, it is no wonder that Military-targeted content marketing continues to rise while traditional media against the same audience is struggling to find its footing in this fast-changing content landscape.
As we approach Military content marketing we follow guidelines to ensure better outcomes. Here are some validated strategies to make content more effective in today’s Veteran market, along with tips for what you can do now to enhance your brand’s content marketing efforts to Veterans.
1. Don’t Treat Military and Veteran Markets Like One Monolithic Group
While it can be useful to look at a population holistically, changing attitudes and purchase behaviors requires a narrower lens. Take one look at the oldest living Veteran (age 112/ Richard Overton) and the youngest active servicemember (age 17) and you will see they are at very different points of their lives, and from very different social backgrounds.
2. It’s Not About YOU
As social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram shift to a “paid” vs. “organic” strategy for brand content, brands can still enjoy organic success. To achieve this, brands need to stop talking to the Military community about themselves. Instead share stories that impact and resonate in the target military communities (remember shared hardship and stories about real people here).
3. Think…Lifestyle over Product
Military Veterans are not just buying a product or service. Their purchases often and directly relate to the lifestyle they, have chosen. A concrete example of this can be seen through the unprecedented success of Grunt Style, which has quickly become a Military/Veteran cult favorite brand. The brand loyalty and social following this company has created can be directly attributed to effective military content marketing.
4. Video IS Content
Those great “how-to” videos and tutorials are considered rich content opportunities, with video ranking among the highest in terms of best content you can create for the Military and Veteran communities. Create these videos in the context of the Veteran journey and it gets sticky very quickly. Think of ways to incorporate video into your site and social media networks. When promoting a new product or service, create a quick Military-themed video “how-to” or “tutorial” to add to your site and/or social networks.
5. Yes, Images Are Content TOO!
Don't skimp on the images you use. Pay attention to the images you choose and make sure they truly reflect the Military community. Most stock Military Veteran images are overused and/or not authentic. However, most members of the Military and their Families are taught to pay attention to the details. Therefore, absence of a uniform patch or graphics that are “out of regulation” can cause a backlash of social heckling that is not the objective we seek. Look for images in real life that get key details right (haircuts, uniforms, etc.). If you do not know what right looks like, reach out to someone with Military experience who can review content (both video and image) prior to launch.
6. More on Content and Not a Specific Delivery…
We see many advertisers buying “LIKE” campaigns without any idea what value this media purchase brings to their overall marketing plan. If you do not know what you are going to do with the information you receive from paid campaigns, there is no need in collecting it from a Veteran or engaging yet.. Because relationships between a brand and a Veteran are important, do not start one until you have a very clear plan on how you intend to maintain it.
7. Let Veterans Connect
Give Veterans the opportunity to connect via your channels and your content. In addition to adding social media elements, give Vets the opportunity to post their own content to your channels, such as a shared successes or life hacks. This type of content is considered high quality in these markets, because Veterans tend to trust each other more than an organization.
8. Inspire Veterans
Veterans love to see other Veterans succeed. Share stories of other Vets that will inspire and empower all Veterans to live their very best lives and stay involved in the Military and Veteran communities that were so impactful to them. This was the insight the creators of March on Vets applied so well, and it is further exemplified by the Military and Veteran engagement success enjoyed by the Spartan Games and other fitness brands like Get RX’d and Rogue Fitness.
9. Plan for Spontaneity
For those younger members of the Military and Veteran communities (#Millennials), going to the store typically happens when there’s an immediate need. Unlike their parents who make lists and plan the weekly trip to the grocery store, they shop pretty much only when they need something. Four out of five of them will make no shopping list whatsoever — not on paper, not on their phone — and will therefore tend to wander around the store looking for cues about what to shop for. For specific categories that they actually enjoy shopping for, they will spend only a few minutes before making their purchase decision. For the mundane stuff, it is just a matter of seconds before they have moved on to the next item or category. This fast-paced style trip means that in-store navigational cues can be quite useful, not to mention marketing that is able to prompt a different need-state than they originally intended to fill.
10. Be Honest About the Role Digital Really Plays
Veterans are more digitally savvy than non-Veterans. Computers and, in many instances, mobile devices, have been and always will be a part of their lives due to combat deployments and geographic family separations. However, when it comes to shopping for CPG products, mobile and digital play a surprisingly small role in the path to purchase. When it comes to shopping in store, however, this certainly isn’t the case as they look for peer reviews and influencer opinions on purchases.
Yes, when it comes to marketing, content is king. When it comes to marketing to Military Veterans, content is the King of Battle. Marketers and brands that spend the time to build quality relationships with Veterans will have them for a lifetime— but if you ignore them today, you can be sure they’ll ignore you tomorrow.
MARCH Marketing provides best-in-class military and veteran expertise to inform strategy, marketing, and services to commercial, government, and non-profit clients. With offices in Chicago, the agency is one of few that provide these type of world-class marketing and consulting services, and the only with deep expertise into the military and veteran audience. When it comes to strategy and communications to military and veterans, MARCH is the agency to call. For more information, visit us at www.marchcorp.com.