Companies with franchised stores typically design their businesses with a particular uniformity, creating a familiar and comfortable environment for their customers. The franchise of Marine Corps recruiting offices around the country is in the process of renovating its spaces using a design created by JWT, the Marine Corps’ advertising firm formerly known as J. Walter Thompson.
“All the companies that people admire today, such as Apple and Starbucks, have a kind of look and feel when you walk into their stores,” said Sean Donahue, the JWT representative for 12th Marine Corps District and an account executive on the project in 2006 during its early development. “Things are the same. Things look the same. The colors are the same. The layout’s the same. There’s an image associated with it, and the Marines didn’t have that for their offices.”
The new recruiting office design calls for blue, red and gold paint on the walls, track lighting illuminating large eagle, globe and anchor emblems with “Marines” graphics on the office walls and front windows. A large plasma television and surround sound system play videos about life in the Marine Corps as well as Marine Corps advertisements while visitors rest on sleek, black furniture.
Installation of the new office design within the 9th Marine Corps District began in September at Recruiting Substation K-Metro, Recruiting Station Kansas City. The walls were freshly painted and the office has new furniture, but it is still waiting for many other elements of the new design.
Staff Sgt. Seth Mayo, a recruiter at the substation, has improved his original outlook on the updates to his office. Mayo felt that he and many of his fellow recruiters would have trouble adjusting to such an extensive change.
Before the renovations began, most recruiting offices had neutral-colored walls littered with various posters, awards and personal affects such as knives, camouflage netting and deployment photos.
“Which is a good thing,” Donahue said. “It shows that (individual) Marine’s experience in the Marine Corps and what the Marine Corps (means) to him. But what was lacking was some sort of consistency.”
Marine Corps Recruiting Command and JWT worked closely together to remedy the issue by creating a new uniformed interior design for the offices consistent with the brand image created for the Corps’ Web, print and television campaigns.
Districts around the country “branded” many of their recruiting offices last year and all substations throughout the 9th Marine Corps District should see their own transformation by the end of 2009, according to Maj. Edwin Norris, the district’s logistics officer.
“The Marines should end up with a better, more professional looking environment in 80 percent of the cases,” Norris said. “There are those 20 percent of Marines who had their office looking very good. But across the board, I think we’re going to take a step up.”
12th Marine Corps District had the design installed at RSS Riverside in July 2007.
“The color scheme is definitely for a younger generation,” said Gunnery Sgt. Salvador Jimenez, the staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge of RSS Riverside, Calif., RS San Diego.
“It’s very vibrant,” Jimenez added. “It doesn’t give it the stereotypical military office feel. The lights, the murals on the wall, the posters all encased, all in uniform, all going together, gives a very professional ambiance to a new applicant coming in not knowing anything about the Marine Corps.”
Jimenez has seen a difference in the way young men and women interact with recruiters while taking in the elements of the office.
“They’re more willing to believe what we have as far as the opportunities available because they see the Marine Corps as a professional career,” Jimenez said. “We have them sit on a leather couch watching a flat screen television … and I take that a step further and put it on surround sound. So that way; the screaming of the jets or the pulling of the trigger amplifies what the Marine Corps is about so they’re more apt to understand.”
But the value of a Marine’s personal touch was not overlooked. Each recruiter has a space to engage prospects, which can be decorated with personal awards and mementos. Donahue says it’s the most significant part of the new layout.
“We realized that was a really important piece for a recruiter,” Donahue said. “When kids are talking to them, they want to know; ‘I’ve seen the ads, I’ve seen the commercials … but tell me about your experience.’ That’s an important engagement piece for recruiters, so we didn’t want to take that element away. Each cubicle has a space for each Marine to put up pieces of his story in the Marine Corps.”
After three years on recruiting duty, Mayo has come to the conclusion that the recruiter is the most influential part of an applicant’s decision to join the Marine Corps. Mayo was concerned that franchising all the recruiting offices would away from the Marines’ individuality as recruiters, but he now says it’s the individual recruiters who give each office its own unique feel, not the TV or couch.
Despite transforming the recruiting office, Marine Corps and JWT leaders still understand that the recruiter is the focal point and all supporting efforts aim to influence qualified young men and women to engage with the recruiter and find out what it means to be a Marine.
“We’ll never want to take that away because a recruiter on the street is essentially the face of the Marine Corps,” Donahue said. “There is no commercial that we can make, no print ad that we can do that will be better than having a Marine on the street in his blues.”