The Business of Veterans Day

A closer look at veterans reveals a unique opportunity not only to do good for the 24 million who have worn the uniform, but also do well for the military veteran consumer market that has almost $1 trillion in spending power, and possess a fierce loyalty to brands who take care of them.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

There's now a cultural trend in American for businesses to publicly do good things for military servicemembers. More and more businesses feel compelled to show their appreciation to veterans through things such as military discounts or military appreciation days. Over 85 percent of active military and veterans seek to buy from businesses that offer military discount over those which don't.

But what if businesses looked at veterans not as goodwill but good business?

A closer look at veterans reveals a unique opportunity not only to do good for the 24 million who have worn the uniform, but also do well for the military veteran consumer market that has almost $1 trillion in spending power, and possess a fierce loyalty to brands who take care of them.

Real Results
So far I'm not writing about anything new, so I wanted to cite an example that demonstrates the potential of the Business To Veteran (B2V) market. In the February Internet Retailer report "Under Armour Honors Heroes and Sees Affiliate Revenue Grow by Double 30%", we see significant results in the veteran discount space.

Last year, MARCH Marketing began working with another retailer who for years had realized only marginal results with a strategy repeating a uninspiring message and media around a month-long veteran discount for Veterans Day. That overhaul of their message, discount levels, media strategy and social media resulted in an increase from $20 million to $30 million in a single year.

You see military discounts for Veterans Day from Chevrolet cars to Craftsman tools to Outback restaurants. But what makes some more effective than others?

New Customers and Not Existing Ones
One of the most important parts of a successful military discount is that it has to bring in new customers to succeed -- if not, you are simply giving up margin to existing customers.

In the Under Armor example, the topline sales were driven by a surge of new customers. Since the program launched, 70 percent of those using the online military discount were first-time customers.

The key to driving new customers onto a veteran discount is through the different marketing elements of the program such as effective messaging and media mix to reach the audience.

Elements of a Successful Military Discount Promotion
An effective message to military veterans must carry cultural insight to ensure they notice it and, more importantly, share it. First, the message must be done authentically. It should come from a place of respect or acknowledgement, but that doesn't mean you cannot use humor or storytelling. Many advertisers fall into the trap of an overly patriotic message or putting veterans into a "hero" archetype that can actually turn off the veteran audience.

The message "why" must also have a compelling "what." If the military discount is not compelling, or something regularly offered, it will show in the program results. The science here is striking the right balance to drive traffic while protecting margin.

The media mix is critical to reach that military veteran audience. We have found advertisers repeating a media buy to base newspapers to communicate their discount. MARCH recommends a more balanced approach that leverages the target-ability through different military media, including digital. The offer and product also should be incorporated into the media strategy, because some are online-enabled and some require veterans to come to a store or showroom.

However, the advent of online military verification, has changed this. Veterans no longer have to show a military record or ID card to get a discount. Online verification engines such as, Sheer ID, and Gov-X are so accurate that even parts of the government have found them useful tools to verify current military veteran status.

In addition to enabling online commerce, these verification engines are reducing the cost of checking military records and reducing fraud at the same time. Each verification provider has a strength based on the use, so you need to shop them through to find the right fit for your need.

There are other important elements to consider. For example, some will limit the discount program to active duty, National Guard, and reserve while ignoring the 23 million veterans in our country.

That said, increasingly we meet businesses that see the opportunity to do well by doing good for the military. They're gaining first-mover advantage as other businesses try to catch up and recapture lost customers. Military service member and veterans will remember those businesses that took care of them and will reciprocate with fierce brand loyalty that goes beyond just price. This is where goodwill becomes good business.

MARCH Marketing provides best-in-class military and veteran expertise to inform strategy, marketing, and services to commercial, government, and non-profit clients. With offices in Chicago, the agency is one of few that provide these type of world-class marketing and consulting services, and the only with deep expertise into the military and veteran audience. When it comes to strategy and communications to military and veterans, MARCH is the agency to call. For more information, visit us at

Source: Veteran and military omnibus study conducted by MARCH Marketing to 7,509 respondents to achieve statistical significance across different age groups and military status.

Go To Homepage

Popular in the Community