Service Marketing Innovation: U.S. Marines

Ad agencies and their clients are perennially in hot pursuit of marketing innovation. This never-ending goal has gained more urgency in the recession as companies and other organizations try to squeeze more ROI out of existing budgets. At Social Revolution, we practice what we preach.

Many blogs and pundits cover innovation, how to encourage it, how to manage it, how to organize it, how recognize it, etc. We want to not only discuss innovation but go one step further and provide you with real innovative ideas that we hope you will consider “borrowing” for your own use.

In 2007, I was asked by J. Walter Thompson to speak for their client, the U.S. Marine Corps. After my presentation, one of the U.S. Marine Corps staffers present asked me what I would do if I were in their shoes.

Here’s what I told those gathered my innovative approach would be to their marketing. What if, every time you turned on your computer you were greeted by the impressive emblem, above, in the middle of your screen? With a 20% penetration of global desktops this tactic would generate 2 billion impressions a month.

The U.S. Marine Corps accounts for 12% of the $667 million in annual military ad spending, or $80 million, some of that on ESPN television commercials.

Now imagine if instead of spending $80 million on traditional media, the U.S. Marine Corps invested $30 million in a virus protection company, say AVG Technologies, in exchange for the ability to rebrand their free software.

There are more than 2.1 billion internet users. If they restart their computer five times each month, you have a potential number of gross impressions of 10 billion per month. A 20% user penetration would equal 2 billion impressions.

Each morning, hundreds of millions would start up their computer and be greeted by a beautiful, 3D medallion with the message, “Your computer is being defended from harm by the U.S. Marines.” The number of software downloads would explode once the buzz reached users around the world.

That’s service marketing. You perform a service that exudes your brand. You receive massive viral branding. You bask in the glow of much positive goodwill.