Thursday, January 04, 2007

USAF Message

As I've discussed before, there's been a major push among the Air Force leadership to get the USAF's message to the public. They started this in house, encouraging Airmen to embrace that role, either through not being afraid to educate those less knowledgeable about the contributions the Air Force makes to the national defense, or by something as simple as actually calling each other "Airmen." Now the leadership have taken the show on the road, contemplating ways to improve our "strategic communications."

This is nothing new, as the Air Force has always had something of an identity crisis. It's the most junior of the services, and it has always striven for ways to distance itself from the shadows of the other services. It accomplished this goal in its heyday in the '50s, with intercontinental bombing being the linchpin of national defense, but has fallen since then to be the force everyone takes for granted. It underwent a brief resurgence in the early nineties, after kicking the crap out of what was a well-equipped Iraqi military, but made it look so easy everyone took it for granted. Now it's only a news story when the USAF fails to deliver supplies on time, or screws up a CAS mission (one of the tens it performs every hour of every day.)

As I said in my previous post, this is all about money. Too many people in this country take the USAF for granted; their only real view of the Air Force is flashy fighter jets and other stuff that has no (in their eyes) real world application to our current conflicts. Because of this, our political masters are able to get away with gutting the force.

How to recitfy the situation? It's obvious the senior leadership is taking a marketing approach to the entire deal, even going so far as to discuss the Air Force "brand." The Do Something Amazing website is a good start, as it helps show under-reported sides of the Air Force. Unfortunately, the only TV spots I've seen from this campaign are ones that feature the stereotypical sides of the Air Force: the Thunderbirds and launching rockets. Putting stuff on the internet is good for recruiting, but it doesn't help the public face of the service much. TV ads are really where you're going to get that brand recognition.

This brings me to my suggestion for a partial solution. It's obviously not the only part, and it is probably a rather small portion. However, I think the "Do Something Amazing" campaign faces a larger issue. The USAF is a military organization. We wear uniforms, we have a military culture, we are prepared to face death on a regular basis in the service of our country. If this is true, why the hell is our advertising slogan "Do Something Amazing"? The slogan seems more appropriate for a university or a sports team, not a military service whose primary mission is blowing stuff up and killing people.

I'm going to take a quick pause and offer up five military ads for comparison:

1) USMC "Semper Fi"

2) USMC "Pride of the Nation"

3) USA "Army Strong"

4) USAF "Our People"

5) USAF "Lullaby"

Now, you tell me which of those ads fired up your martial side and got you thinking something along the lines of "wow, that's a really dedicated, professional group of people...I'm glad we have hard-asses like them out on the line to defend us"?

If the USAF wants to be taken seriously as a military service, it needs to start by taking itself seriously. If it wants people to start respecting the sacrifices its personnel are making, it needs to start respecting itself. It needs to identify with its roots, not try and rebrand itself to chase after the flavor of the week according to some marketing guru. We're currently celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the USAF and the 100th Anniversary of the Airman. Let's take advantage of that and come up with an ad similar to the USMC's "Pride of the Nation." We've got 100 years of history to draw on, I think we can do something that will highlight the independence, importance, and relevance of the USAF.

Of course, I'm going to contradict everything I just said with this last video, but we're discussing USAF ad campaigns, and I never miss a chance to post this video...