Posted by Abe Sauer on October 4, 2011 03:01 PM
The behind-the-scenes world of trademarking the US military was thrust into the public sphere earlier this year when it was revealed that Disney had filed to trademark "Seal Team Six" just hours after it was announced the elite group had killed Osama Bin Laden. Soon after the fiasco, we found various armed forces extensions moving quickly to trademark their respective intellectual property.
One US armed forces unit that has long understood the value of its brand is the Army. While most Americans are probably familiar with the Army's branding with regard to recruitment and retention efforts, from "Be All You Can Be" to "Army Strong," they are probably less familiar with brand extensions like the Army's new line of toys.
Brand licensing agency Beanstalk was retained to develop two new extensions that will land US Army-branded toys in stores just in time for the holiday gift-buying season.
One line of remote control helicopters and Humvees will be though Excalibur, a division of EB Brands. The other new kids' line will be construction toys and building blocks through Best-Lock Group.
The Army's brand licensing program is not new, although the service arm is faced with some brand management concerns many other brands probably do not face. Yet, the Army's stated policy on its extensions program does not sound any different from its peers: "The U.S. Army administers the development and distribution of quality consumer products that build positive brand awareness for the U.S. Army."
One would not expect the Army to execute anything halfway, and its branding rules are no exception. The Army maintains a branding portal which outlines strict guidelines on brand use, including logos, camouflage backgrounds, color palettes, and typography.
In a statement about the new partnerships, the director of U.S. Army's trademark licensing, Paul Jensen, said, "Through our Trademark Licensing Program we continue to explore ways for the U.S. Army brand to create authentic experiences for younger generations of consumers. As a core value of our brand, innovation and technology are elements that were extremely important to communicate through this licensing program."
From a brand strategy perspective, the Army's new extensions are far more dynamic than a simple US Army soldier action figure. Army-branded toys that are interactive create a connection between a child and the Army brand on an organic level. That is to say, instead of playing with an toy simply because of a pre-formed idea of it being an Army toy, a child may play with these despite them being Army toys, thus associating the US Army brand with fun, innovative technology.
While that may not sit well with pacificists (or Army critics), it's a smart approach from a branding perspective.