According to the U.S. Census, there are more than 18 million veterans in the United States. But this group is not monolithic, encompassing veterans from WWII through to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, more than 1.6 million veterans are under the age of 34. Veterans are also racially diverse and enter the civilian world with different levels of education and income. It is important when marketing to this varied group to be authentic, agile and accurate.
Military marketing specialist Tom Aiello, advises “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.”
Who Are Veterans?
In order to effectively optimize a campaign that will reach veterans, understanding the fundamentals of who veterans are, how the demographic is changing and which retail and commerce sectors they are most responsive to is essential.
- The majority of veterans served after 1990 in the Gulf War Era. This is approximately 7 million veterans.
- Veterans are a changing demographic. Most veterans are men, but according to findings by Pew Research, the number of female veterans is “projected to increase, from around 1.9 million in 2016 to 2.2 million in 2045.”
- By 2040, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) projects minorities will make up 35.7 percent of all living veterans, up from approximately 24% currently.
- A Nielsen report Beyond The Uniform: A Look At Today’s Veteran Consumers found veterans are more likely to respond to TV and print than the average population, but they match non-veteran consumers in use of social and mobile apps.
- 6% of money spent by veterans goes to military stores, where veterans receive promotions and discounts. Opportunities for non-military grocery stores marketing to veterans could lie in targeting veteran consumers whose shopping habits are impacted by household factors, like children.
- Veterans spend more at stores and take more shopping trips than the average American shopper. Categories where veterans out-shop non-veterans include: vitamins, office and school supplies, coffee and oral hygiene.
Veterans Respond To Content Marketing Because It Offers Connections With Other Veterans
Content marketing can be effective with veterans, particularly when it includes veteran-to-veteran contact, like through social media. “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.” said Aiello, adding that video, images and stories resonant with veteran consumers.
Veterans Are Using Digital Platforms For Career Search And Educational Needs
Although military recruitment still relies heavily on television, and veterans are “23% more likely to be heavy viewers of television and 12% more likely to be heavy readers of newspapers than the average U.S. adult,” according to the Nielsen report, there is evidence that veterans use digital platforms for “search engines, career/job seeker sites, video content, sports, banking and national news.” Targeted, multichannel marketing strategies, especially in these channels specifically, could reach veterans if effectively deployed.
Getting It Right When Creating Marketing Campaigns Targeted At Veterans Is Critical To Reaching This Demographic
Veterans and military personnel are understandably proud of their service, and they often spent many years adhering to the rules and regulations of the military. When creating a campaign directed at veterans or featuring veterans, getting the details right is very important. “The military is a culture where there is a right and wrong way to do stuff, and that’s down to how your hair is cut and how your boots are laced,” said Carlos Madden, Product Manager at RallyPoint, a digital platform for the military. “Often ads and marketing content feature someone in a military uniform, but the uniform doesn’t look realistic. The person looks disheveled, and rank is all wrong. People in the military are generally very proud of their military service, so when you’re trying to launch a military-friendly ad, take the time to get it right.” Nielsen found that commercials from Navy Federal Credit Union, USAA and the U.S. Navy are consistently effective with veteran audiences, clocking a 56% ad memorability rating.
Marketers May Find Success With Veteran Consumers By Using Multiplatform Strategies And Not Approaching Veterans As A Monolith
The Nielsen report concluded that marketers, brands and advertisers looking to make meaningful inroads with “informed, active and civically engaged consumers must create culturally relevant messaging that conveys an understanding of the differences in veterans’ backgrounds while also taking into account the experiences that unite veterans in their post-active duty lives.” Through marketing that projects an authentic understanding of veteran lives, targeted multichannel and multiplatform strategies that reach veterans within media they regularly consume and campaigns that recognize the diversity and character of veterans, marketers can reach and engage this coveted group of consumers.