The year 2023 might feel a little like 1983 for the soldiers and civilians of the Army Enterprise Marketing Office as they work to reboot the service’s classic “be all you can be” slogan to launch in March amid a historic recruiting shortfall that heightens the stakes.
That’s not lost on Maj. Gen. Alex Fink, the Army Reserve officer who leads the Chicago-based office. He told Stars & Stripes (who first reported the reboot) that the Army is “not returning to ‘Be all you can be’ for nostalgia or old times’ sake or because we think retro is trendy and cool. We’re really reinventing it to reposition the Army and to inspire the next generation soldiers.”
Whether the Army wants to channel it or not, the nostalgia will be there. Trade magazine Advertising Age rated the slogan the 18th best of its “top one hundred campaigns of the 20th Century,” according to an Army Historical Foundation article.
In August, Fink told Army Times that the work to recast the Army’s marketing brand began before the COVID-19 pandemic.
While some of the office’s smaller campaigns were criticized by conservative commentators, the general argued that they provided a foundation of data that informed the “be all you can be” pivot. According to Stars & Stripes, the slogan massively outperformed other ideas studied via test audiences.
“You couldn’t just start from ground zero and say, ‘Hey, let’s just do a brand refresh on the Army,’ with no route, no real repetitions under your belt,” he told Army Times. “We have those repetitions now. And I think we’re in a really good place, and I think it’s the right time.”
Military Times staff reporter Jonathan Lehrfeld contributed reporting to this article.
Davis Winkie covers the Army for Military Times. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill, and served five years in the Army Guard. His investigations earned the Society of Professional Journalists' 2023 Sunshine Award and consecutive Military Reporters and Editors honors, among others. Davis was also a 2022 Livingston Awards finalist.