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Case Study: US Navy Deploys Direct Mail to Target Women

Date: June, 2013 --

In this Fresh Data Case Study, we’ll detail how the US Navy selected direct mail as its weapon of choice to target young women and generate interest in a career amongst their ranks. This case study will further detail how direct mail initiatives were combined with customized online and social media programs to effectively target this demographic. Finally we’ll share some numbers in order to quantify the success of this strategy. This case study was assembled by Data Services, Inc. in cooperation with our friends at the Prescott Report.

When young women in American secondary schools approach their last year, they begin to wrestle with next steps. Not many consider a career in the military forces, let alone the U.S. Navy. There are numerous misperceptions of Navy service and life. “It’s a man’s job.” Or, “they only have nursing and admin assistant jobs”. That was the challenge faced by a marketing team whose resources were greatly reduced due to decreased military budgets.  

The objectives were to transform those perceptions of the Navy among women in the target age group and to generate leads for recruiters. One of the challenges in this was the understanding that the target audience, young women completing high school or recently graduated, consume a wide variety of media when seeking information.

Media Choices:

The Navy had to make some “unexplored waters” kind of media choices. After preliminary research, the plan focused on two different direct mail creative efforts, two different email promotions, more targeted content on the “brand” website,, and a Facebook fan page named Women (re)Defined. The latter is still “sailing” and worth visiting.  

The campaign started after the summer break as high school seniors began preparations for the SAT exams (Standardized Test for College Admission). These scores are critical factors in students’ choices for the future. Colleges, universities, many prospective employers, and the Navy, take these into account in judging applicants.

The Target:

The Navy knew what the ideal candidate “looked like”. They didn’t want every high school senior that applied, but were really seeking young women who were looking for work that would challenge them in an important and interesting way. There are plenty of choices in the Navy, whose work force reflects the American people in gender and diversity. The desirable candidate would want to make a difference in the world and she would be seeking a challenging career that will hold her interest. She must be used to testing her physical capabilities while remaining comfortable with traditional feminine qualities. She would believe that stereotypes are meaningless or to be defied. The size of this target population was estimated at 1 million, about half of the female population of 18 year olds at the time.

Creative & Strategy:

The creative concept underlying all work was set: Strong and active women with the desire to make a better world and to work in an exciting and challenging environment will find many opportunities to do just that in the Navy.

The campaign had a budget “between $500,000 and $1,000,000” and was constructed to provide prospects a number of different channels through which they could learn more, and perhaps experience the Navy a bit. Certainly the Navy does not lack for images to bring to life those themes of contribution, excitement and challenge!

Direct mail featured female sailors as leaders, focusing on the Navy as a place of opportunity for women who seek meaningful careers. The two versions also tested how recipients reacted to social media referrals within the pieces, providing insight into more targeted use. In addition, there were conventional response mechanisms, an 800 number, and a BRC for more literature. A QR code led to a landing page featuring videos of female sailors.

Social media (as noted) included Facebook which tied into the website. 

  Email was used as a follow-up to the direct mail and reinforced the earlier messages. Two different versions were used, a short and a long form, to measure how and whether readers sought more information from the resources promoted.

The website was updated and broadened to show women in training, underscore benefits, present real women at work, and provide live chat and lead capture tools to encourage response.  


Leads enabled recruiters to fulfill 100% of their FY 11 goal and gave them a strong start to meeting the FY12 goal. The direct mail piece engaged readers directly and engaged across all channels where the integrated content through those channels delivered prospects extremely effectively. 

This is really a lesson in the power of direct mail to engage the recipient and empower, in this case, her to react/respond by providing multiple response channels. The letter was the first point of contact. Interestingly, 49% of the leads responded with the time-honored BRC, while only15% answered through the website. Perhaps it was its novelty for this younger audience!  And critical to the success was the cohesiveness of the message across all media - meaningful and satisfying careers are available in the Navy

Immediately following the mailing the Women (re)Defined Facebook page received 509 likes and page views increased 11%. Traffic and likes have continued from there and in early 2012 there were over 24,000 likes, an 82% increase from FY2010.

Last, but not least, Cross Media Recruitment-the U.S. Navy received a medal of its own when it was awarded a DMA 2012 Echo Silver award.

No doubt part of the victory was due to some good address hygiene. So make sure Data Services gets your data, and addresses, ship-shape, before your next campaign sails.