Army reboots 1980s “Be All You Can Be” slogan to try to boost recruitment
The U.S. Army is rebooting its ’80s-era slogan “Be All You Can Be” in a new rebranding campaign, as part of an effort to turn around the service’s most dismal recruiting environment in decades.
The Army unveiled the rebrand Wednesday in two clips featuring the actor Jonathan Majors.
Majors speaks to the camera as he walks through different Army scenes from the past into the present, and then both clips end with “Be All You Can Be” in yellow text on-screen.
The campaign was initially scheduled for August, but the Army moved it up, hoping it will help boost this year’s recruiting.
Last year, the Army fell about 25% short of its recruiting goals in what its leaders call the most challenging recruiting environment since the all-volunteer force began. Army leaders have attributed the shortfall in part to the lack of knowledge among young Americans about the Army and the avenues it opens.
Majors was chosen for the campaign largely because of his resonance with Gen Z , according to the head of Army enterprise marking, Major General Alex Fink.
Majors recently starred in big-budget movies like “Creed III,” “Devotion,” and Marvel Universe’s “Ant Man and Wasp: Quantimania.” He also comes from a family of veterans – his father served in the Air Force, and his grandfathers were in the Army and the Navy.
“Something that has moved me forward is the imagination and the bravery of my grandfather that instilled in me this idea that I could do whatever it is I wanted to,” said Majors, who attended the unveiling.
Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth said the Army invested $117 million in the campaign. The ads will start appearing at the 2023 NCAA March Madness tournament, and a second phase of the campaign will be unveiled later this year.
The trailer the Army released Monday for the new campaign pays homage to the 1980s and 1990s by ending with a brief slowed-down version of the music – but not the lyrics – used in the original ads. Those ads aired from 1981 to 2001 and included a short, upbeat jingle with the tagline “be all that you can be.”
According to the Army Historical Foundation, when the original campaign was first launched, some veterans were shocked to watch the Army advertise military service with the type of jingles used to sell toothpaste, but the brand campaign proved successful. Advertising Age listed it as one of the top ad campaigns of the century.
During what was largely a peacetime campaign, one of the original “Be All You Can Be” ads showed a soldier explaining to his parents (who are on a landline phone) how the computer “talks” to the printer. The narrator says, “And the computer training you get is yours forever,” before showing the number to call to enlist in the Army.
Each of the three senior leaders at the unveiling event – Wormuth, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville, and Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston – spoke about the impact the slogan had on them where they were young.
“I graduated from West Point in 1981, and the Army just premiered a new commercial with a tagline of ‘Be All You Can Be,'” McConville said. “1981 — and that idea has stuck with me for over 40 years.”
The Army retired the “Be All You Can Be” brand campaign in January 2001 and a few weeks later launched a new slogan, “An Army of One.” Since then, the Army has tried slogans such as “Army Strong” and “What’s Your Warrior?” to influence young Americans to join the service.
Fink, the head of Army enterprise marketing, told Stars and Stripes in December that the new “Be All You Can Be” campaign, if done well, could last 15 to 20 years, similar to the original’s run.