In recent years, Army recruitment has hit a new low as “Generation Z” shows less interest in military enlistment.
Gen Z is defined as the generation after Millennials, and are often still confused with Millennials. Born 1995 and onward, Gen Z makes up over 25% of the population — larger than both Baby Boomer and Millennial numbers, and with larger spending power, too. By 2020 they will account for one-third of Americans.
It’s not entirely surprising that the Army has a harder time recruiting Gen Z’ers (also known as Post-Millennials, the iGeneration, Founders, Plurals or the Homeland Generation). For one, back in October 2018 Gen. Stephen Townsend informed the public that it had been “two or three years” since the Army had released a new commercial.
Since then, though, the “Warriors Wanted” campaign has gone into full effect. It included a major increase in social media advertising, spurred by the Army missing its annual recruitment goal by over 6,000 soldiers. And it’s a much-needed change.
Marketing to Gen Z
This AdWeek article explains the differences between marketing to Millennials and Gen Z. The tried-and-true method of television advertising is far less likely to work on teens and young adults, who get most of their information from devices like smartphones and tablets. Using multiple platforms to thoroughly research products and organizations, Gen Z might just be the hardest demographic to market to.
While video media is still effective, Gen Z’ers clock an all-time-low 8-second attention span (as compared to Millennials’ 12 seconds of watch time). Coupled with higher factors of childhood obesity and record-low unemployment rates, the Army has its work cut out in attracting younger service members.
Only about 30% of 17-24 year olds meet the Army’s requirements, and only 1 in 8 express a desire to serve.
The Army is fighting back, though. In addition to increasing their presence in more progressive cities across the U.S., they’re also tackling social media in new ways; using various platforms (such as Instagram, Snapchat and Twitch), launching 6-second video ads, and using humor targeted at the “iGeneration.”
Army Recruiting Command even started an e-sports (electronic sports) gaming team, made up of service members and aimed at recruiting gamers through popular, military-themed video games like “Call of Duty.”
“Looking at modern times, where do young men and women go when they’re not in school?” 1st Sgt. Glenn Grabbs, who is heading up the functional fitness team, told Army Times. “It’s a big section of the population that goes into some sort of e-gaming interest.”
Corroborating 1st Sgt. Grabbs is this blog, that claims gaming is “the key” to Gen Z.
Why Are Less Young People Joining the Military?
Recruiters must be faced with these facts:
- As a whole, Gen Z values individualism and diversity over united service
- They are starting to work at younger ages, and contribute $44 billion to the U.S. economy
- In an all-volunteer force, they don’t want to join a military at war
Another issue with Gen Z recruitment is their perception of the military. The younger generation tends to view military service as strict, unwelcoming to minorities and overtly dangerous. Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, head of the Army Recruiting Command, is trying to change their minds.
“It’s not just about being in the infantry or the armory or combat roles. Across the board we’ve got combat photography, we’ve got medical, engineering, cyber, IT,” Muth said to NPR. “There’s a lot of different ways to serve.”
Besides new advertising, the Army is using free school as incentive for young people to join up.
Saving tens of thousands of dollars on college isn’t a raw deal, but it’s also not the quick cash that Gen Z’ers might expect. This is remedied, however, by attractive signing bonuses upon enlistment. The average signing bonus is $12,000.
The Pentagon’s goal is to increase the Army to 500,000 active soldiers by 2024. Despite pouring $200 million more into recruitment efforts, they missed the mark in 2018. What the Army really needs, and what they’re trying to achieve, is an updated approach to get the attention of the new generation; only time will tell if it will be successful.