The Saeculum Decoded
A Blog by Neil Howe
Mar 202012

I ended the last posting with a portentious remark about how a 4T is defined by a growing desire for order—and how Millennials will play a key role in securing that order.

With that in mind, take a look at the new recruiting campaign now being launched by the US Marine Corps.  The tag line: “Toward the Sound of Chaos.”  The new campaign is explicitly designed to be Millennial friendly.  Listen to these lines from their press release:

“Our survival, status and reputation as an elite force are dependent on our connection with the American people, and specifically with today’s youth–the millennial generation.”

“This campaign represents an opportunity to share who the Marines truly are–tough warriors, but also leaders in service and altruism–two of the core values of the millennial generation.”

Based on extensive recent research, the USMC “found that today’s millennial generation is more politically, culturally and socially diverse than previous generations. Historically, youth have viewed military service as a way to improve personally while serving the country. However, today’s youth want to be ‘part of something bigger,’ to help others in need.”

OK, enough preamble.  Now take a look at the top of their ad reel:

Go to this site to view the USMC’s whole new line of “episode” spots.  There’s definitely a new vibe here.  Millennial themes?  These soldiers don’t merely fight and win battles, they champion Good against Evil, wrest order out of chaos, and solve giant global problems.  These videos don’t show one-on-one gladiatorial combat (so popular in the famous Marine ads run for Gen-Xers in the 1990s).  Rather, they show vast teams working in unison.  Ties to past traditions (again, hidden in the ‘90s ads) are now celebrated.  Needless personal risks, once bragged about, are now shunned.  The warrior ethos is under a short leash; the democratic ethos–safeguarding the ordinary civilian–is now paramount.

I could go on and on here.  As some of you know, LifeCourse has consulted for just about every branch of the military since the late 1990s.  We were the ones who first advised the Marines to start co-marketing to parents… and developing a strong relationship with the recruits’ families.  We wrote a “Recruiting Millennials” handbook for the US Army in 2001, which was distributed to 6,000 recruiting officers.  Our doctrines have percolated through USAREC and TRADOC.  By now, I think that just about every recruiting, training, and retention specialist in any of the armed services is pretty much saturated in Millennial doctrine.

One nice result, dreamed up by McCann several years ago, was the wonderful parent-friendly Army slogan: “You made them strong, we’ll make them Army strong.”  More recently, the US Navy came up with a Millennial-friendly Bigger Cause slogan, which the Marines are in some way echoing: “America’s Navy.  A Global Force for Good.”

For decades, going back as far as the 1950s (with the Silent) and certainly since the birth of the all-volunteer armed forces in the early 1970s (the early attempts to connect with Boomers were disastrous!), the successes and failures of recruiting campaigns have revealed, year by year, something about the psychographic of whichever birth cohort is hitting their late teens/early 20s.

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