Why The Navy Abandoned Its Latest Slogan In 2009, the U.S. Navy debuted a new recruiting slogan: "America's Navy: A Global Force for Good." Just about everybody hated it. Ronald Krebs, a University of Minnesota political scientist, tells NPR's Arun Rath why the slogan failed.
NPR logo

Why The Navy Abandoned Its Latest Slogan

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/414239773/414239774" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Why The Navy Abandoned Its Latest Slogan

Why The Navy Abandoned Its Latest Slogan

Why The Navy Abandoned Its Latest Slogan

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/414239773/414239774" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

In 2009, the U.S. Navy debuted a new recruiting slogan: "America's Navy: A Global Force for Good." Just about everybody hated it. Ronald Krebs, a University of Minnesota political scientist, tells NPR's Arun Rath why the slogan failed.

ARUN RATH, HOST:

In 2009, the U.S. Navy debuted a new slogan.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: America's Navy - a global force for good.

RATH: Well, just about everybody hated it - sailors and veterans, and the top brass weren't happy either. The Navy has dropped that slogan along with the advertising agency it's been using for 15 years. I spoke with Ron Krebs, political science professor at the University of Minnesota who studies military messaging, and asked him just what was so wrong with the Navy's old slogan?

RONALD KREBS: What's unusual about the Navy's slogan - a global force for good - is that it really emphasized the cosmopolitan mission of the Navy rather than, really, the first part of that slogan, which is America's Navy, that it serves the United States, serves the national interest. In that sense, the slogan really didn't capture the reason that folks want to serve in the military and what it is that the average American believes that the military is doing for them, and that is protecting the homeland, protecting hearth and home.

RATH: You think that a recruitment slogan is about more than just recruitment.

KREBS: The slogans themselves are not going to be the major drivers of recruitment. It's one thing for the service to say be all that you can be, an army of one - about what it is that being in the Army can do for you.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: There's strong, and then there's Army strong.

KREBS: That set of slogans is a part of the Army - very different from the Marines.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: The few, the proud, the Marines.

KREBS: The Marines are entirely about the sense of duty and obligation and that sense of elitism. The Marines are a much smaller service. They can afford to be elitist in a way that especially the Army and, to some extent, the Navy cannot.

RATH: So Ron, if all of these other factors - if there are a variety of other factors that drive recruitment way more than the slogans, is the Navy or any of the other branches for that matter, are they just wasting money on these ads? Are they kind of pointless?

KREBS: They do contribute to a general perception of a brand. And for the Marines, for the Army, for the Navy, for the Air Force, brand is important. And it matters a great deal at the margins. But the margins are, of course, where it matters whether you hit your numbers or you don't.

RATH: So the Navy has hired a new ad agency to come up with a slogan. Do you have any good ideas yourself or any advice you'd give them?

KREBS: (Laughter) Most people most of the time care certainly more about their own people than they do about the global citizen. So the Navy wants to bring us back to the collective, back to values, back toward that sense of obligation. And I suspect that whatever the new advertising campaign looks like, it's going to have those two components at its core.

RATH: Ron Krebs is a professor of political science at the University of Minnesota. Ron, thanks very much.

KREBS: Arun, it's been a pleasure. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IN THE NAVY")

VILLAGE PEOPLE: (Singing) In the Navy, yes, you can sail the seven seas. In the Navy, yes, you can put your mind at ease. In the Navy, come on now people, make a stand in the Navy.

Copyright © 2015 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.