(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Lillian Stephens)
Military Spouse Appreciation Day has been observed on the Friday before Mother’s Day every year since 1984. Its purpose is to bring attention to the role that military spouses—both male and female—play in maintaining the morale of the military.
“Military spouses are the first line of defense,” says Judy Davis, a military spouse, motivational speaker, blogger, military lifestyle consultant, and author of Right Side Up: Find Your Way When Military Life Turns You Upside Down. “We are the people who note when there is a change in our spouse’s behavior or when they are stressed out. We are there to help with morale as well as with their physical and mental health well-being.”
Retailers looking to create a marketing campaign that celebrates military spouses’ contributions to our nation need to ensure that their strategy feels authentic to military families. Here are four tips for creating a meaningful campaign strategy.
1) Don’t forget the male spouses
There is a general misconception that all military spouses are female but, according to Macho Spouse, there are an estimated 187,000 male U.S. military spouses around the world. Almost half are veterans themselves.
“Each event I speak at, there are more and more men attending who are actual spouses,” Davis says. This shouldn’t be surprising because more combat positions are open to women and the 2011 repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” allows gay men and women to serve openly in their ranks. The male military spouse population will only continue to grow, which means brands have to adjust their marketing campaigns to include them.
2) Support an established event
Every military installation sponsors a luncheon or appreciation ceremony for its military spouses. Instead of creating something new, consider sponsoring a local event in your community, Davis suggests. Reach out to the local installation’s community service group or morale and welfare group and tell them you’d like to partner on an event for Military Spouse Appreciation Day.
3) Partner with military websites
Many military websites and blogs sponsor events and articles for Military Spouse Appreciation Day. Reach out to one of these sites and ask if there is a webinar you can sponsor for military spouses who can’t attend an appreciation event in person, Davis suggests. For list of potential partners, check out this guide to the military blogosphere to get to know the territory.
4) Provide a discount on a service that alleviates a burden
Military spouses often carry the burden of being the mother and father when a spouse is deployed. Offer a discount on a service that might have been done by the deployed spouse such as an oil change, lawn care or childcare, says military spouse M.J. Boice of Virginia. When a spouse is deployed, it’s not uncommon to feel like unexpected things happen or breakdown, Boice says. Any discount that would guard against Murphy’s Law that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, is welcomed, she says.
Military Spouse Appreciation Day is one of six national days of recognition in May to celebrate National Military Appreciate Month. Other holidays marketers might want to highlight in May include May 1 (Loyalty Day), May 8 (Victory in Europe Day), May 20 (Armed Forces Day) and, of course, the last Monday in May (Memorial Day), which is May 29 this year.