Thursday, June 23, 2005

No Child Left Behind—by Army recruiters 

As farmer writes, the Army's desperate to make up the recruiting shortfall Bush caused by lying his way into Iraq, and somehow, for some reason, not enough Christian Youth, 101st Fighting Keyboarders, fully paid up members of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, or Sons and Daughters of Rich Fucks are signing up.

So, the Army, not unreasonably (given the givens) has framed the issue as a marketing problem, and they're outsourcing the solution. That way, nobody has to worry about privacy laws or pesky Congressional oversight.

Here's part of an interview with Andy Cutler, the CEO of BeNow, the vendor the Army chose:

Andy Cutler is one of the world's top experts at building database marketing strategies for Fortune 500 companies.

Q: Why is a "conversation" so important in B2B marketing

Because you want to keep customers.

Q: We keep on hearing that 'integrated marketing' is the big thing now -- what does that mean to your conversation building?

[CUTLER:] You need all customer conversations to be captured in your database. That they called customer service three times last week, that you sent them email and direct mail campaigns, and also what the total value of the relationship is.
(via E-Consultancy.com)

First, the Army is going to be a having lot of "conversations" with potential candidates.

[Recruiting] is a labor-intensive, frequently frustrating business. An average of 10 telephone calls is required to produce a single “contact” with a prospective recruit. Five or six contacts are needed to gain an “appointment.”

It takes two or three appointments to set up an “interview,” a three-hour session that tests the persuasive powers of the recruiter. One in five interviews results in a “contract,” a commitment to join the Marines.
(Fort Wayne News Sentinel)

"All conversations" means just that. So, it won't be only the recruits who are in the Army's privatized database. It will be everyone the recruiters talked to. Not the 80,000 who signed up, but, using the numbers above, 10 * 5 * 2 * 80,000.

Sounds pretty innocuous, right? Until you ask yourself: What would these conversations be about? The answer: Identification and intimacy. Because that makes the 18-year-old targets most vulnerable to being recruited:

"Honestly, the best way I've found (to reach people) is simply sit down and relate to the person you're talking with," [Staff Sgt. Darrick McGee, an Army recruiter] McGee said.

"Allow them to share their experiences and ask them do they have a vision for themselves. And once they share that vision, you start to discuss, how can we get them where they're going to? It's really basic stuff, benefits. You really have to understand where the person's coming from, and I think that as a recruiter from this area, I do provide that. I've gone to the schools, I've been through a lot of the same things."
(via Roanake Rapids Daily Herald)

"Sit down and relate to the person." Sounds pretty innocuous, right? Well, not exactly:

In one well-publicized case in Colorado, Army recruiters were tape-recorded encouraging a student journalist posing as a high school dropout to create a diploma from a non-existent school to comply with military enlistment requirements.

They also were heard giving him advice on how to disguise a chronic “marijuana problem” and how to pass a mandatory drug test.
(via Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

Pretty funny, huh? An eighteen-year-old treating an Army recruiter like his Father confessor, and confessing to his marijuana habit. [Sure, the "kid" is a journalist. You think that was the first time the recruiters did what they did?]

It gets even funnier when you remember that "all conversations" means just that.

When the recruiter sits down at his terminal at the end of the day, that kid's confession is going straight into the Army's (privatized, unregulated) database, and follow the kid for the rest of his life, whether he signs up or not. As will "all conversations" about credit problems, grades in school, girlfriend trouble, and whether the kid is "undesirable" (i.e. gay, or, if the Air Force uses the same system, a Jew). Losing your Social Security number looks pretty trivial by the side of putting a potential felony into your permanent record, doesn't it?

I think the Army's going to have some PR problems on this one. Maybe they could hire Ketchum to improve their image?

NOTE The savage irony is that blaming the recruiters is really shooting the messenger. Sure, they're moral agents, and some of the tactics are, um, unsavory, but the Army wouldn't be in the fix that it's in if Bush hadn't screwed the pooch in iWaq.

corrente SBL - New Location
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