Veterans Day has long been a time for U.S. brands to offer special salutes and deals to veterans and active service military. And there are plenty of brands doing that again this year, from Google’s YouTube to Disney parks to countless others.
But for some brands, patriotic salutes involve the other 364 days of the year. Brands are actively hiring veterans, and trying to make sure everyone knows it.
A free Dunkin Donuts donut is just the beginning of the complimentary products brands are offering this year. Publications from USA Today to TIME have put together extensive lists of offers from brands on the holiday. Look for branded offers from Toys”R”Us, Dollar General, Target, Walgreens, Meineke, Toms, Boston Market, Denny’s, Bob Evans, Baker’s Square, IHOP, Hy-Vee, Little Ceasar’s, Lowe’s Home Depot, Great Clips and Applebee’s, just to name a few.
Many brands have gone beyond the freebie. Buffalo Wild Wings, which is offering vets a free meal, also produced a touching short film — “Homecoming: Ironton” (above) — to thank military veterans for their service.
Then there are brands recognizing other brands for their service to veterans. This year, Coca-Cola awarded its President’s Veterans Recognition Award to retailer Dollar General. It’s the first time Coca-Cola has bestowed the award on another brand. According to a press release, Dollar General received the award because:
“Dollar General’s engagement with the military community includes exclusive discounts to active military, veterans and their immediate family members, outreach with the military communities through its military employee resource group, founding of the Paychecks for Patriots program, which supports service members’ transition to civilian life through meaningful employment opportunities.”
Last year Coca-Cola released a special edition “Proud to be an American” patriotic can marking the 75th anniversary of the company’s partnership with the USO.
Dollar General’s commitment to veterans the other 364 days of the year is spreading to many other brands. For example, Goodwill is offering Veterans Day discounts, but the booming re-sale retailer also makes it policy to hire and assist veterans.
For example, Goodwill of Southern Nevada’s Veteran Integration Program has partnered with the National Veterans Foundation to provide career counseling for vets. Goodwill says, they “have relatable experiences and understand the unique needs of veteran and military families.”
But charitable organizations are not the only ones reaching out to veterans. The military itself has long touted vets skilled, dedicated workers, the perfect employee and many of the biggest brands agree.
Obviously, companies that work in military technology like GE remain some of the best companies for vets. But other consumer-focused brands are also making veteran recruitment part of their internal brand strategy. Disney, Ryder, Hormel and Sprint are all household brand names that have been praised for going beyond Veterans Day marketing to make real investments in recruiting.
Microsoft Military Affairs and its partners support veterans as they transition from active duty, help them find a community, hone their technical skills and find meaningful careers. Microsoft knows the value of investing in veterans—and so do the more than 240 companies that have hired its Microsoft Software & Systems Academy graduates.
PepsiCo is another one of the many brands this Veterans Day showing they value (and seek) former military personnel as employees by featuring executives such as Toby Johnson, VP of sales operations for Frito-Lay.
We’re committed to supporting veterans like Toby Johnson, VP Sales Operations for Frito-Lay and US Army veteran. Watch her story and learn what advice she has for young veterans entering the workforce. pic.twitter.com/OO5UIKgQhd
— PepsiCo (@PepsiCo) November 10, 2017
Walmart is especially active in veteran recruitment. The big box retailer is also behind the “Greenlight a Vet” campaign, aiming to “establish visible national support for our veterans by changing one light to green.”
The Home Depot takes pride in its military careers program, while its associates give generously of their own time to assist vets, such as this story from Charlotte, NC:
— Robin Kanady (@RobinFox46) November 1, 2017
Since 2010, we have hired more than 13,000 Veterans, National Guard and Reserve members, and military spouses. https://t.co/7w3kh5wmR3
— Comcast (@comcast) November 6, 2017
AT&T, for its part, has committed to hiring 20,000 veterans by 2020.
— AT&T (@ATT) November 10, 2017
Another brand with strong outreach to vets is Starbucks.
The global barista says it has hired 10,000 veterans and military spouses since 2013 with plans to hiring 15,000 more. Starbucks maintains its own Armed Forces Network and has a large, well-resourced program dedicated to recruiting from the military service community, including the spouses of active service people.
The brand released a video this year—“Starbucks Military Commitment: Ask Better Questions”—that shows the brand is not just paying lip service to its commitment but attempting to do more for vet-civilians employee relations than just adding veteran jobs.
Starbucks’ commitment has led to a crossover with a smaller java brand: Black Rifle Coffee. Last year the CEO of the veteran-owned and -operated Utah coffee company challenged Starbucks to hire veterans instead of refugees. The challenge came at a tense time in the election year after Starbucks very publicly committed to hiring 10,000 refugees by 2022.
Black Rifle—who we interviewed in 2015—committed to hiring 10,000 veterans, the same number Starbucks says it has hired. Turn the clock forward to today to a sponsored Veterans Day Reddit AMA with Black Rifle’s CEO, a well-intentioned event that (unfortunately) turned ugly pretty quickly.
While blue chip brands have the power to move the needle on hiring veterans and giving them, and their families, a bright future, social media and the web have allowed many smaller brands launched by vets to punch above their rank. Unlike the prestigious list of brands launched by veterans that do not make military service a marketing element, these scrappier brands make their military cred a proud part of their businesses.
Consider Grunt Style, an apparel brand that says “if you’re a patriot, and you’re awesome, then you need gear that says the same thing.” And consumers now have a choice of not one but two energy drinks created “by a Navy Seal”: Strike Force and Kill Cliff.