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Producing Defense Content? Be Sure to Be All That You Can Be!

By Jeremy Brilliant, Managing Partner


If you haven’t seen the U.S. Army’s series of recruiting videos from earlier this year, stop what you’re doing and take a look. They are amazing. Jonathan Majors, famous for his acting roles in Ant-Man and the Wasp, Devotion, Creed III, among others, narrates as he walks viewers through history; the Revolutionary War, the trenches of Europe during WWI, storming of the beach at Normandy, helping in the aftermath of a natural disaster (yes, the Army pulled the ads after Major was charged with misdemeanor battery, but let’s focus on the content and important message).

The cinematography is beautiful. It’s perfectly choreographed. The script is spot on. It’s everything you’d expect from an ad campaign that tops $100 million. The U.S. Army, like other service branches, is working hard to fix a recruiting deficit that started during COVID. The campaign dubbed, “Overcoming Obstacles” is as much about the individual soldier as it is the Army itself.

While it’s a big dollar amount, it’s pretty easy to justify spending millions to inspire young people to enlist. After all, without attracting new soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines, our armed forces wouldn’t exist. With global threats like China and Russia in the headlines daily, few would argue against the need for a strong military--critical for our existence as a nation.

However, great marketing shouldn’t stop with recruiting. Modern marketing-communications, or marcom, is non-stop for both internal and external audiences. And while the “Overcoming Obstacles” campaign may be Emmy Award-worthy, defense-related content produced both in the DoD and by industry is highly inconsistent; sometimes it’s compelling, but all too often it’s a drab collection of words and images.

That can change and it won’t cost millions of dollars. We simply need to adjust our mindset.

What makes the Army’s latest campaign so compelling? It’s not just about conveying information. The “why” is front and center. The videos make you want to jump out of your seat and serve your country.

That’s the reaction we need people to have while watching that 57-slide PowerPoint presentation you prepared. Or while they’re reading a blog post about a new capability. Or watching a video about new technology.

So, what can we all do to create compelling content? The “why” is key. Whether it’s a technical paper, social media post or internal presentation, it’s important to go back to the basics, and keep the audience in mind:

1) Brevity is your friend. How many of those 57 slides do you really need? Remember that Microsoft study that indicated humans have a shorter attention span than goldfish? Keep it brief. Keep it simple. Get to the point.

2) Make it compelling. This should be simple. If everything we do is about outpacing our adversaries, our very existence as a democratic, free nation depends on our actions. Whether we’re firing shots in battle or crafting a piece of content, keep the mission top of mind.

3) Create a drumbeat of content. Any marketer will tell you that you need to produce consistent content. People are more distracted than ever and it’s important to keep your brand relevant.

4) Tell a story. You don’t need to be telling a story to tell a story if you know what I mean. Even a simple presentation can have a beginning, middle and end. Turn the mundane into interesting by personalizing and adding context. People pay more attention to interesting stories.

5) Video is king. If I were taking my own advice, this blog would be a video. Nearly 90% of businesses use video to increase sales because it’s so effective. Creating video is cheaper than ever—free using a smartphone like this promotion video and, even professionally produced videos are relatively low-cost like this one we produced on behalf of the NavalX Midwest Tech Bridge.

Better, more compelling content leads to better engagement and conversion. It’s true in sales and marketing, which is why the Army is pulling out all the stops for recruiting.

Yes, Be All That You Can Be is a 40-year-old slogan, but just like the ads, with some polish and a simple, compelling, consistent, well-told story, it can change hearts and minds and lead to great things.


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