Rear Admiral James Foggo is a pretty smart and accomplished guy. You’ll note, dear readers, that he’s a submariner, which in general, recent events notwithstanding, are a group of Pretty Smart Guys. (and women, now that SECNAV has so decreed). He’s smart enough to understand that places like the Blogosphere is a place to reach out to some self-selecting and interested audiences when you have a targeted message you wish to communicate, and perhaps disperse to other parts of the interweb. He’s done so, over at the blog at the United States Naval Institute. He wonders, among other things, if the current advertising slogan “The Navy: America’s Force For Good” is not drifting away from the Chief of Naval Operations’ own published vision for the Navy of Warfighting First! Operate Forward! Be Ready! Wander over, take a read, maybe even the mainly very cogent comments, and if you are of a mind and interest, come on back for my own reply below:
Dear Admiral Foggo,
First of all, thank you for joining with other Flags, such as ADML Stavridis, ADML Harvey and others in coming into the blog world to address issues and ideas with readers who care enough to know where to come and read and respond. I read through the responses through 1900Z today, 15AUG, and honestly, most of what I thought I was initially going to say has already been said by much better, and smarter, writers than I am, such as Steeljaw Scribe, CDR Salamander and BJ Armstrong.
But sir, several things about your piece struck me on the first and subsequent readings that caused me to reflect on how we came to a slogan (not a motto) that has caused as many, if not more smirks than nods of assent. First sir, I most respectfully invite your attention to the third paragraph of your piece:
“Accordingly, he may want to examine our current “brand.” In enterprise terms, Strategic Communicators employ the marketing strategy of “branding” to focus on the objectives achievable with the goods and services that the company can offer its clientele. For example, the American Marketing Association (AMA) definition of a “brand” is a “name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.” “
Do you remember when you were a junior officer, sir? Remember the oft-played game, especially among the JO’s or later, junior staff officers, called “
Bullshit Buzzword Bingo?” I’m sure you do. Go back and reread the above paragraph sir. “brand,” “enterprise,” “marketing strategy,” “…the company can offer it’s clientele,” and topped off with a quote from the American Marketing Association. Sir, wording like this tells me, a survivor of more than a couple of forays inside the Shark Tank Beltway that whether your Flag Writer or you wrote this, someone has been inside the bowels of the Pentagon too long. It’s time to step away from there, and the concentric rings and cushions of gobbledygook and self-licking ice cream cones and head down to the piers, the flight lines and the tenders and start breathing salt air again.
Admiral, you are the former commanding officer of one of the most lethal weapons known in the modern world, a United States Navy nuclear-powered attack submarine. No amount of time away from that, and the years of education, training and operations that led up to that, should ever dilute the core desire to serve at sea (or in your case, under the sea) and have it be thinned by years of graduate education, policy meetings, sensitivity training or staff tours. I recognize and deeply appreciate the subtle intrusion of non-core issues, matters and the fact the farther away one gets from the harbor or the runway, the more distant the basic ethos of who and what the Navy is, to ourselves and to the American people.
Sir, I can actually appreciate what you are saying there, but look at the terminology. I most respectfully submit that the American people do NOT want to be treated as consumers of the Navy “brand” as if it was some sort of new toothpaste or car. I also appreciate the fact that the Navy indeed needs to gets it message out to the citizens of this nation, to our national elected representatives and even abroad to both national leaderships and even the common people of those nations. But your core audience are the citizens of this nation. The taxpayers, the veterans, the members of the Armed Forces, especially our sailors and the youth of this country who really want to do something more with their lives than go to school and then go right to an eight hour a day job for the bulk of their adult lives.
I agree that the current phrase “A Global Force for Good” is as soft and pliable as certain brands of bathroom tissue. It also completely, totally and utterly in opposition to CNO’s succinct sailing orders listed ahead. Does the Navy do humanitarian ops? Well of course we do, whether the third-world local tyrants like it or not, we go places where most other nations either fear to go or are utterly incapable of going and deliver, time and time again, aid, food and comfort. But sir, as you indicate, that’s NOT our Navy’s primary mission. The Navy is there to, as one very pithy statement puts it, “put warheads on foreheads.” There, I said it. The people of this nation expect our Navy to be an Armed Force and to use their arms forcefully when lawfully ordered to by our national leadership in defense of the nation and it’s defined national goals and objectives, based upon the lawful Constitution of the United States, to “provide for the common defense.”
You ask, thoughtfully, what should we look to replace the ad agency feel good, let’s-kick-it-around-and-see-what-the-customer-likes “Mad Men” kind of pap that sadly the Navy has been foisting upon a skeptical public. Sir, I was eight years old when this poster first began to be seen:
Eight years old, and yet, to this day, it’s what I and many, many citizens think of when you say “Navy” to them. Consider that fact, sir. Remember when your seniors decided that the Navy needed to have “core values?” “Honor, courage, commitment.” All very nice and aspirational and declarative. What about our Navy history, sir? Our heritage? Our continuum of service to the American people, to protect our citizens and our shores and our national goals, sir? From Old Ironsides to the nuclear Navy; from forced impressment of American citizens by foreign bully nations to delivering one of the most storied long-range raids in history. This, sir is one of the true keys to “branding” our Navy to our nation, our leaders and the world.
The other visual was referred and linked in response to your question by my friend, Steel Jaw Scribe:
A post 9/11 response, and yes, burdened with that excrementally bad “Accelerate Your Life” subtext, but nonetheless it speaks to a core of tradition of a Navy that serves our nation. It’s succinct, it addresses the true “core value” of the Navy and it tells the reader what the Navy “does” in no uncertain terms. There’s no “all things to all readers,” or “oh, it speaks in multiple subtexts”
advertising agency CHINFO-speak.
You asked of us readers, sir, our thoughts about “branding” the Navy. I say, sir, go to “All Stop” with such language, for a starter. What do we think will succinctly communicate who the Navy is and what the nation’s Navy does? One respondent, BJ Armstrong pointed out that the Navy is the only service with no Latin motto, and suggested “Non Sibi sed Patriae” …Not for Self, But for Country. A great start, and one well worth considering as part of this process.
I for one will not be one to only gripe but will also throw out what I think may be a starting idea if we are to really define our Navy in the eyes of the public:
“For my ship and my shipmates,
For my Navy and my nation.”
Welcome aboard sir, and thanks for asking. We appreciate the fact that you’ve taken the time to ask. I hope the answers may help us out of “feel good land” and out again onto the seas of service.
P.S. One last thing, sir, if I may. Get in your car some Saturday night or Sunday morning, get on the interstate and drive down to Little Creek or Norfolk. No entourage, no Loop, just you. Drive to the piers and go up the brow of the third ship you see. Present yourself, tell them to stop going nuts and take the time, sir, to talk to them. Talk to the junior sailor you just scared the living daylights out of. Talk to the panic-stricken In-Port OOD. Just talk to them. Ask then what they really think and feel and what their families or loved ones think. Get back to the piers, sir. Please. Don’t forget the smell of the sea. Ever.