Broad marketing strategies involve pouring millions into advertising, but more localized efforts focus on interacting personally with potential recruits using stylized promotional media.
That's what's happening Friday in Chandler, where a local Army recruiting office is sponsoring a video-game tournament that is expected to draw more than 100 people. Recruiters will promote the benefits of the Army as video-game buffs play America's Army, a role-playing game created by the Army in 2002. A Chandler business, Tropical Smoothie Café, is hosting the event from noon to 8 p.m.
The Army's emphasis on more individualized recruiting efforts allows recruiters to answer questions and address concerns about joining the military when thousands of troops are deployed in Iraq, said Staff Sgt. Morgan Self, a Chandler recruiting officer.
"People want to join the military and they have questions. (But) in the media, all you hear about is soldier's stories from Iraq and Afghanistan," Self said. "We're trying to put out the word that it's not all about deployment."
This type of a tournament is a new approach for recruiting in the Southeast Valley, said Self, who added that video games are entertaining and promote awareness of the Army. An Xbox 360 version of the game released last month, he said, tells stories of real soldiers who won Silver and Bronze Stars for heroism in combat.
"The game is more or less just to have fun," he said. "If everyone that was playing was actually joining the Army, then recruiters wouldn't have a job."
Recruiters will dole out door prizes and an i-Pod Shuffle goes to the tournament's winning team. Participants also can try out the Xbox game or strap on a real Army weapon that was hollowed out and rigged with lasers for shooting at on-screen images to create a virtual-soldier experience.
Tropical Smoothie Café owner Tina Webster said her sense of patriotism, respect for her dad's military service and the opportunity for extra business prompted her to host the event.
"My father served in the military for 22 years. (People) need to know more about the opportunities in the military and it's a great thing to protect your country," she said.
Rosela Martinez, 19, an Arizona State University student, said military recruiters would regularly visit her Tolleson High School campus in Hummers decked with large television screens showing promotional military videos.
Martinez said she considers military video games and music videos a form of propaganda.
"I really felt like these are professional salesmen targeting kids. The media used shows people rock-climbing and parachuting. It doesn't include anything about any real risks," she said.
While at a Scottsdale movie theater last week, Henry Bernberg, 20, got his first glimpse of a National Guard advertisement. The ad featured a popular rock band in a music video that showed soldiers from the civil-war era to today performing heroic acts.
Bernberg said he worries the military's increased use of video games and music videos for recruiting is misrepresenting war.
"They (advertise) in a way that it's not a person you're killing, it's a computerized image," he said. "I think you should be told you're going to see horrible things and you may be put in a situation where you have to make a decision to do horrible things . . . like take someone's life."
But Mark Blacker, who is beyond recruiting age and also watched the National Guard ad, said the lack of a draft and the Iraq war has forced the military to use more innovative recruiting.
"I'm all for it. Recruiting is a hard job nowadays, so they don't really have a choice," he said.
Dianna M. Náñez