Recruiting soldiers to the army can be a mission impossible in a time where personal comfort is treasured and creation of identity happens online. At least, this was the starting point for the agency DDB’s target group understanding when the Swedish Army released their new recruitment plan: engagement on partly the technological terms of the target group as well as the physical reality of the company.

Who cares?
The video below showcases how the Swedish Army forced the target group to think “inside the box” and sacrifice their own comfort in order to save a stranger.  The point was to evoke a physical reaction to the core message of the campaign, “Who Cares?”, in order to test how the target group valued the central point of the Army: helping others despite your own discomfort. With a target group understanding focused on the online part of their daily life, the campaign tried to actively move them from the screen into the action.

So, what did they do exactly?
In practice, they installed a box in the city centre of Stockholm with nothing but a chair and some water bottles inside. They then launched a web site streaming live from within the box where a guy was sitting on the chair. Finally, spreading the message online as well as on print and outdoor, they invited all viewers and by walkers to join in by taking over the hot seat in the box in order to rescue the person already sitting in the box. Point being, that in order to help the person in the box people would have to move away from the screen and actively help the person by taking their place. No tweets or status updates would help.

It’s a success!
And was it a success? In terms of creating engagement both physically and online, it was a great success: people traveled from all over Sweden to partake in the happening and shared their experience and thoughts about the campaign in social media. During the 89hrs the box was open, no one spent more than 2hrs before rescued by a stranger. Furthermore, they more than doubled the number of targeted applicants from a goal of 4,300 to an actual 9,930.

…But did they get it right?
Despite the success and innovative engagement strategy, I personally find the target group understanding a bit limited. Limited in the sense that the starting point of the campaign was the understanding that the target group spend most of their time being self involved online. They tweet, post and blog about their own life and don’t leave their comfort zone in the process. Sure, the target group, the so-called Digital Natives, spend a lot of time sharing their life online. But they share the life they live off line more than anything else. A point the campaign indirectly proved by the huge online engagement and viral spread of the streaming web site as well as the great number of people physically partaking meanwhile tweeting about it. The premises for understanding the target group as well as the success criteria are therefore somewhat questionable.

Nevertheless, the Swedish Army created a campaign that very successfully created involvement – both short term as well as long term.