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Refuel Agency’s Tips for Creating Powerful Veterans Day Ads


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Editor’s Note: The military community is demographically diverse and has $1.2 trillion in spending power, making it a high value consumer tribe for any brand. In the article below, we invited Liz Carmo with Refuel Agency—one of our preferred partners— to share her expertise in how brands can engage the military with campaigns that are authentic and effective.  

For additional marketing resources, see:

How to Create Veterans Day Ads That Stand Out

With Veterans Day 2020 right around the corner, many brands are beginning to strategize their Veterans Day marketing campaigns to the military community.

Veterans Day is a great opportunity to reach and connect with the 42 millions members of the military community. But first, you need to understand who the military community is, how to authentically communicate with them, and how to effectively reach them with your Veterans Day ads.

After working with the military community for over 30 years, it’s safe to say that we understand this special audience and how to execute an ad campaign that truly resonates. Here are our top tips on what to say on Veterans Day and how to execute an ad campaign that stands out.

What Veterans Day is About

The origins of Veterans Day date back to the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when World War I came to a formal end. Thus, Veterans Day is honored every year on November 11.

Veterans Day today is a day to offer goodwill and gratitude to those who are currently serving our country, as well as those who have served in the past. Veterans Day celebrates and honors those who selflessly served our great country as members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

It’s important to understand the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day (check out this post for a more detailed explanation). While Memorial Day is a somber remembrance of lives lost in service, Veterans Day celebrates the end of WWI, and so it’s appropriate to say, “Happy Veterans Day”.

Many brands take the opportunity on Veterans Day to show their appreciation to the military community. So let’s learn how to effectively do that.

Read next: Marketing to the Military: Starting with Appreciation

Beware of Stereotypes

For example, many people assume that all military veterans were combat veterans. This leads to military advertisements alienating the military community with a narrow portrayal of the military community and experience.

In reality, the military community is essentially its own society, composed of many different professionals, from nurses to pastors to cooks. These members of the military community are not often well-represented, but they are a vital part of your military target audience.

It’s also important to remember that the military is not a homogenous group of people — on the contrary, the military community is more diverse than it has ever been. According to Refuel’s Military Explorer Series™, 17% of active duty and 20% of guard/reserve military are women. And since 2010, the military community has become 20% more multicultural.

Challenge your assumptions about the military in order to avoid Veterans Day ads that fail to resonate with the diverse military community.

Check your Stock Images

The selection of your stock images is another area where knowledge of the military community will help you immensely.

The military community is one in which there is a right and wrong way to do virtually everything — from haircuts to uniforms. Unfortunately, most stock images fail to accurately represent military regulations.

So when you’re creating your Veterans Day social media posts, it’s usually safe to use generic images with an American flag or images featuring silhouettes. If your brand is actively involved with the military community, hires veterans, or is executing cause campaigns to benefit the military, you can speak to these initiatives in your marketing strategy.

Actions Speak Louder than Words

Saying that you support the troops and expressing gratitude is good, but showing your support and appreciation by way of your actions is an even better way to expand your military reach.

There are many ways to actively support the military. Donate to a veterans organization, highlight your veteran hiring program, or execute a cause marketing campaign to benefit the military community. Demonstrating the ways that your brand actively supports the military community is personal, and will make a genuine impact.

A great example of a cause marketing campaign for the military community is Budweiser’s 2018 “Service Never Stops” campaign. Budweiser raised funds with their sales from the Freedom Reserve Red Lager and donated them to Folds of Honor, an organization dedicated to supporting military families.

Offer Exclusive Offers to Veterans, Active Duty Military, and their Families

A great way to show your appreciation to the military community is to provide exclusive offers and discounts to service members on Veterans Day. Findings from Refuel’s Military Explorer Series™ show that military discounts are a top motivator for brand loyalty.

Many brands offer specific products for free on Veterans Day. For example, Dunkin Donuts offers a free Veterans Day donut to servicemembers on November 11, and Planet Fitness offers a free workout.

Other brands choose to offer an overall discount. For example, Bed Bath & Beyond is offering 25% off of their entire store.
For more ideas, here’s a list of all the brands that have announced their 2020 Veterans Day discounts.

Advertise On-Base

One of the biggest challenges brands run into when creating their Veterans Day campaigns is that there is often a significant knowledge gap between marketers and the military community. This can lead to military marketing campaigns that come off as self-serving, misrepresent the military community, and ultimately fall flat.

As a marketer, you know that stereotypes are never a good marketing strategy for many reasons, and can lead to alienating or offending your target audience. Challenge the military stereotypes that you might carry with you.

Military Stat 93
Military Base Ad

Once you’ve nailed down your campaign’s creative, the next step is to ensure that you’re reaching the military audience effectively. And one of the most effective ways to reach the military audience is through on-base advertising.

Findings from Refuel’s Military Explorer Series™ show that members of the military community trust on-base advertising. Surveys found that they feel a sense of connection to brands that advertise on-base, and are more likely to recommend products they’ve seen advertised on-base.

Additionally, the military community takes action once they see an out-of-home advertisement on-base. Findings show that 93% of active duty military either visited a website, researched a product, or bought the product after they had seen an on-base advertisement for that product.

Advertising on-base and utilizing military print advertising is the most powerful way to reach the military audience.