Army Wants Hispanics to Be All They Can Be, Too

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The U.S. Army is sending reinforcements to the front lines in its battle for more recruits as the military branch launches its first direct mail piece targeting young Hispanic men. The mailer will be a bilingual effort designed to appeal to Hispanics between the ages of 17 and 21 as well as their parents.

"Hispanics have always been a part of our audience, but we've never specifically targeted them with direct mail," said Major Michelle Martin-Hing, chief of direct marketing at the U.S. Army recruiting command, Fort Knox, KY. "The Hispanic mailing is something we've wanted to do for a while. We felt that it was important enough - even with the budgetary constraints that we've been operating under - that it was something worth trying."

Hispanics make up only 7 percent of the Army's ranks, Martin-Hing said, while they make up 14 percent of the general population in the Army's target age group.

The mailing, scheduled to drop March 22, will hit 400,000 Hispanic households, about 65 percent of which were found through self-reported data. The rest are households with Spanish surnames.

The direct mail piece joins a host of other Hispanic marketing efforts, including TV, radio, print and Internet advertising. The campaign could be one of the last efforts created for the Army by Young & Rubicam Inc., New York. Earlier this month, the Army announced its plans to put its advertising account under review.

The piece varies from what the Army traditionally sends out in the 25 or so mailings it does each year.

Martin-Hing said the Army usually mails 9-inch-by-5-inch self-mailers, but it's using a magazine-style format for this campaign that she hopes will "stand out from the clutter." The mailing also will include a test cell of a smaller version of the piece that retains the magazine style in a 9-by-5 format.

Although the target group for the campaign tends to be fluent in English, the mailer will contain the same messages in English and Spanish so recipients can share the piece with their parents or other family decision makers who might prefer to read Spanish. The mailer, which had not received final approval at press time, will display the same messages on facing pages, one page in English and the other in Spanish. The messages will be the same ones the Army usually promotes to its general audience: that it's a way for young people to take control of their future and derive both tangible benefits, like money for college, and intangible benefits, like self-confidence and leadership skills.

The mailer is targeting Hispanic men rather than women, Martin-Hing said, because there are fewer jobs available for women and because Hispanic women tend to initiate contact with recruiters on their own. The piece includes three response mechanisms: a toll-free number, a Web-site address and a business reply card.

Although this will be the Army's first direct mail campaign targeting Hispanics, it has conducted ethnic mailings in the past. Last year, it mailed to Native American tribal leaders "to let them know about the opportunities available to their youth," Martin-Hing said.

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