I hoped to answer two questions in pursuing the topic of marketing to the military as a potential for growth: (1) What brand does this buyer favor? (2) Do they prefer new or used? I uncovered some tendencies that provide benchmarks of sorts.
By applying the same principles our agency utilizes in mapping the socio-economic makeup of a dealer’s particular market, I found that the range of income is a factor for the military consumer. Disposable income for a new recruit is nowhere near that of higher-ranking personnel. That’s reflected in the cost and type of vehicle they will shop. While a used car may be the initial option for lower-ranking military, generally this group is unmarried with less monthly expenses. Moving up to a better vehicle, such as a used truck, is a very real step for their next vehicle purchase. The more tenured military tend to be married with young families, and new vehicles, especially vans or SUVs.
The choice of favoring import or domestic in my opinion is difficult to decipher on any level except market by market. Map studies we have done for DMAs with a large military presence in the Southeast and Midwest tended to be good for domestic brands. Markets in South Florida or western states tended to be import-intenders. Socio-economic conditions dictate preferences and the higher the income the more likely that segment will consider imports.
It’s amazing to Google the word “military buyers” and see how many brands are marketing military-specific programs for new vehicle shoppers with options for stateside and overseas delivery. Whatever program you design, make sure it merges with any factory program already being marketed to the military.
Do the “military math” for your market and determine what the potential is. The big picture is to research the number of eligible military for your market by contacting local bases, reserve offices and veteran’s organizations. In the spirit of camaraderie it’s important to help and inform military members any time someone is willing to go above and beyond in providing economic assistance, especially as today’s active military is facing the uncertainty of sequestration.
John Paul Strong
John Paul Strong combines his two decades of automotive marketing experience with a team of more than 140 professionals as owner and CEO of Strong Automotive.