The Army marches into Sears, sets off the alarm ~ Brand Mix

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Army marches into Sears, sets off the alarm

Sometimes finding a way to sell your product to customers can seem like the least of your problems when compared to the needs and demands of other stakeholders.

550 Sears stores nationwide are about to start selling a line of clothing with the Army's 1st Infantry division's Big Red One insignia. That's come as a big and unpleasant unsurprise to a whole bunch of groups including:

Congress: "I'm astounded," said Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA) who chairs the House appropriations panel that oversees the military budget.
Army leadership: Apparently not everyone was in the loop. "There is a great deal of concern among the senior Army brass about this deal" according to a Defense official
Veterans: "That patch is to be worn by only people who served in the 1st Division. What right does the Army have to sell our patch?" Charles Horner, a retired Army officer. And, more strongly by CrowMeris in a comment in Forbes: "As a veteran (not of the 1st Infantry, but a veteran none-the-less), this saddens and sickens me. What's next? Purple Heart jewelry?"
Concerned parents: “It’s reasonable for anyone that’s a parent ... to be worried about the infusion of militaristic trappings into children’s culture,” said Robert Weissman, managing director of Commercial Alert. “It really has the potential to put the Army or any other branches of the military in the wrong position of marketing themselves directly to kids.”

The original intentions of this licensing deal may have been good. (Army spokesman Paul Boyce summed these up as to: "enhance Army recruiting and the public's general goodwill toward the Army and its activities") But the strong negative reaction to this program shows the danger of failing to get enough of the right people on board (especially those with the power and money).

It's often tempting and sometimes necessary to get things done by working with a small group and not involving a broader audience. But this story speaks to the need of making an accurate assessment of the future consequence of such an approach.

1) Army, Sears clothing deal irks lawmakers: Politico
2) Army, Sears partner for 1st Infantry clothing line: Forbes

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