The Royal Canadian Legion has faced continued declining membership since 1986, this suggests that Legion marketing practices have not been connecting effectively with either core members or attracting new members. If the Legion wants to retain and/or expand their membership reach, it must, as a first step, begin by developing a unique brand that understands the demographic characteristics from which it wishes to participate.
The first important step is to define the respective age groups. In this case, we have listed the current ratios of Legion members to Canadian age groups – effective 2015.
- Greatest Generation: 1920-1946 10.69 percent
- Baby Boomers: 1946-1964 1.16 percent
- Generation X: 1965-1982 0.39 percent
- Millennials: 1982-2000 0.08 percent
There is such a difference in demographics and their corresponding characteristics, a successful branding strategy must be subdivided into two campaigns: (1) recruitment and (2) retention.
The expressed recruiting objective for the Legion is to grow members (civilians and military) by 20% to a total of 28K new members for the 2016 calendar year.
If the Legion is serious about growing its membership by 20 percent, then efforts need to be made in those two categories with the greatest potential: Generation X and the Millennials. The latter group is particularly important because in June 2015, the age group outnumbered Baby Boomers in the workforce!
Seen from this perspective, it is important to study the unique communication and media preferences of these two age groups. For instance, according to a Longbeard Creative study conducted on February 2015, 71 percent of Millennials and Generation X get their information about an organization and cause from a website and 80 percent report preferring when organizations have mobile friendly websites (e.g. smart phone friendly). According to an Abacus Data survey done in 2011, 9 in 10 Millennials have a Facebook account, 8 in 10 Gen X have an account with a growing propensity to watch online videos. Some four years later, it is safe to assume that this ratio is even higher. It is also noteworthy that these generations are more tolerant of races and groups than older generations (47% vs. 19%), with 45% agreeing with preferential treatment to improve the position of minorities. These demographic characteristics must play an important role in the production of online videos.
To summarize, these two age groups are used to instant access to information. The good news is that, according to Longbeard Creative, some 55 percent of Millennials and 44 percent of Generation X have said that seeing clearly how donations impact those in need directly impacts their decision to either donate money or their time with an organization.
Therefore, a successful Legion recruitment campaign must target the largest age group offering a unique brand that has a mobile app friendly website that should include: online videos of upcoming events, success stories, background research, statistics, and news items related to the cause. Perhaps more importantly, the website needs to explain how supporting the cause will make a difference with opportunities to volunteer or join.
The expressed retention objective for the Legion is to grow the retention rate by 2 percent (from 90 percent to 92 percent) for the 2016 calendar year.
As I mentioned earlier, there is a considerable difference between the generations concerning their respective communication and media preferences. Given that the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers form the two largest combined group of Legion members, retention efforts should be concentrated on them if we are to increase the yearly retention rate by 2 percent.
While surveys suggest that direct mail is acceptable to all age groups, the difference in response rates between the age groups is dramatic. According to Longbeard Creative, a majority (58 percent) of the Greatest Generation say they respond to a call to action via direct mail, while only 11 percent of Millennials report the same (Gen X reported 23 percent and Baby Boomers report 36 percent). They are also the largest age groups to respond to emails (23 percent). Therefore, direct mail and emails may have the greatest impact on the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers and should be tailored accordingly. They are also the largest age group to get their information from TV, the radio and print newspapers and magazines.
Therefore, a successful Legion retention campaign must target the largest age groups that are already members of the Legion by offering a unique brand that relies on more traditional broadcast and print mediums – including mail, emails and phone calls. Since these generations are also less diverse, any images targeting this group should reflect the demographic nature of these two generations.
By developing a unique brand that understands the demographic characteristics from which it wishes to participate, the Legion will have a chance to increase its retention percentage and/or expand its membership reach. By the same token it will be able to curb its continued declining membership since 1986. Again, the emphasis is to develop a unique brand that takes into account the unique communication and media preferences of the four major age groups.
What do you think? Does a demographic analysis make a difference in developing a unique brand? And can a unique brand be further subdivided into a recruitment and retention component?
NB: The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Royal Canadian Legion.