Reaching The Military: Do Magazines Work?

I work with universities, non-profits, employers, and brands, and I'm often asked on the best ways to reach the military audience. Most advertisers assume that military demographics and on-the-go lifestyle make magazines a poor way to connect with the military audience. However, there's no problem with the military audience and print, but there is a challenge with advertiser perception of military magazines.

With the effort to stay atop the latest innovations in digital marketing, many advertisers are overlooking media channels that still have great efficacy. When we look deeper at print media in the military community, it starts to make sense in the context of an overall campaign. However, close attention must be paid to select the right military print vehicles and deploying them as part of an integrated campaign.

Integrated Marketing Still Works
Somewhere along the way, many marketers have forgotten the basics of integrated marketing. Advertisers shift to digital-only strategies, and then ask me why they're seeing less response rates through their online media. The answer is simple.

According to the Direct Marketing Association, campaigns that utilize print combined with internet advertising have up to a 25% higher response rate than just using internet alone.1 In other words, the awareness created through print advertising helps digital media convert at a higher rate.

Media Usage by the Military
The lifestyle and characteristics of military audiences make effective media integration even more important. The on-the-go military lifestyle often makes the omnipresent digital connections we have all come to demand unreliable. Let's face it, signal bars are hard to get when you are aboard a ship at sea. Often, the only reliable media is one you can roll up and put in your rucksack.

The marketing research firm MRI reports that 96% of 18 to 24-year-olds are print media readers. MRI goes on to report that 47% of the military audience is heavy magazine users. If you combine this with the fact that 62% of military audience members are heavy Internet users, it's easy to see why an integrated approach is imperative to a military marketing campaign success.2

Reaching an Elusive Audience
It's hard enough to reach the 1.4 million-person active military audience, but what if you need to reach the 1.3 million Reservists and National Guardsmen? There are even fewer media options available. For example "The Reserve & National Guard" magazine distributed through military personnel at National Guard armories and Reserve centers is unique in the media landscape.

Another consideration is how magazines develop relationships with their subscriber base. It's these relationships that are attractive to the advertiser. New print and digital cross-platform approaches help magazines increase the depth of engagement with their readers.

Another defining element of print advertising is the focus it brings to advertising viewing. Folio Magazine reported that magazines used by consumers are the primary or exclusive medium 85% of the time. In other words, if you're reading a magazine you're less likely to be multitasking. Compare that to web browsing with a television running in the background. This context is important to know how your ad will be consumed by the reader.

Not All Military Magazines Are Created Equal.
When selecting a military magazine for your campaigns, it is important consider each publication's focus to insure a proper advertising to editorial fit. Most publications are specific to a particular focus such as "GI Jobs" and veteran employment. Magazines having a military-lifestyle focus are attractive because they can serve advertising needs across a number of different categories. Often their editorial calendars afford focus in a particular area such as education, finances, travel allowing advertisers to pair relevant content with ads to maximize impact and outcomes.

Another key distinction comes in magazine distribution. Many military magazines are distributed at registers of post exchanges and commissaries. Even worse is the practice of "dumping" magazines on bases to buoy higher circulation numbers. This distribution leaves less time for quality viewership and no guarantee that the magazines will be read at all.

There are military magazines that have spent years building distribution deep into military on-base communities creating strong reader loyalty. For example, AmeriForce Media's "Military Families" magazine is requested by on-base personnel such as Education Service Officers, and then distributed to service members and their families on-base. This distribution includes hard to reach locations such as education and community service centers, transition and relocation offices, base daycare centers, sea-service ships and other locations that create high dwell times and impact on readers.

Bridging the Print-Web Gap
The final best practice for advertisers is the integrated use of print and web media. In addition to upper purchase-funnel awareness, print advertising should include digital links and calls-to-action for downloads. This cross-pollination between web and print helps both the reader and the advertiser with a seamless experience and more opportunity to seek more information on a purchase.

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1. Direct Marketing Association Response Rate Report, 2015
2. Mediamark Research and Intelligence (MRI) Military Audience Behavioral Data, Spring 2015