How to recruit young Swedes to the military
Enlisting in the military is obligatory in Sweden, but according to the regulations, "free-will and motivation" must come under strong consideration in recruitment. At the same time, as many as a third of 18-year-olds answer "I don't know" when asked if they are interested in military service. With conscription partially based volunteering and an increasing need for new recruits, this is a clear challenge.
The purpose of the communications campaign was partly to inform people about conscription, and partly to make more people feel motivated to enlist. As young people from non-Nordic backgrounds are generally particularly difficult to reach with official communications, this was a target group that was important to reach and influence.
As its communications agency, Spoon has done several strategic campaigns and concepts for the Swedish Defence Conscription and Assessment Agency. Every year, its target group is new (people who turn 18 that year) and every year Spoon comes up with new insights and campaign concepts to best solve their communication challenges.
The strategy behind the 2022 campaign concept was based on two important foundations:
- We need to give individualistic Generation Z arguments for why it is a good idea to enlist.
- We need to talk about conscription and military service on the target group’s own terms.
The solution was ‘My strengths’ – a broad campaign using both digital and analogue channels that was aimed at preparing the target group for their upcoming obligations to enlist.
Knowing that young people are primarily inspired by people they can identify with, we created a concept based on the idea of letting young people speak directly to other young people (instead of authorities to young people). In a series of clips, actual 18-year-olds talk about what strengths they see in themselves. The idea of letting young people film themselves was based on the realisation that the target audience values authenticity in the content they consume.
Spoon produced all content pieces. In the campaign, we wanted to address the target group on their own terms, and let real stories speak for themselves. That's why our short films are based on selfie clips taken by young people.
"Every year, we inform the country's soon-to-be 18-year-olds about their obligations in terms of enlistment documents, conscription and military service. For the ‘My strengths’ campaign, we started with the challenge that the target group generally has a low level of knowledge about the total defence policy, and that many find it difficult to see the value conscription and military service can offer. “With this campaign, Spoon succeeded in creating a format that directly appeals to the target group, with the aim of increasing knowledge and understanding of why Sweden has a total defence duty.”
Did we then succeed in preparing young people for conscription? Did we show that military service is compatible with identity building? Yes, we did. The numbers in the zero and effect measurements Spoon did together with Swedish Defence Conscription and Assessment Agency speak for themselves:
The percentage of respondents who answered ‘YES – I feel ready’ increased significantly (39% versus 47%). In addition, more people now largely agree that military service is an opportunity for personal development (72% versus 65%).
When it comes to youth from non-Nordic backgrounds, the numbers show that the campaign was really beneficial: the percentage who now know that all 18-year-olds must fill in an enlistment document increased from 52% to a whopping 90%.
Source: Kantar Public Noll/Conscription impact measurement 2022