What do the Marine Corps and the most formidable brands have in common? Plenty.
Four lessons aspiring brands can learn from our Nation's force in readiness
As our nation’s fight for independence raged in November 1775, American patriots recognized the need to strengthen naval forces. The Second Continental Congress passed a resolution on Nov. 10, 1775, calling for the creation of two battalions of Marines to serve as landing forces with the fleet. Captain Samuel Nicholas set up the first recruiting headquarters at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, looking for “a few good men,” and the United States Marine Corps was born.
Now, 247 years later, November 10 remains a day when Marines pay tribute to all that the Marine Corps Birthday symbolizes: the few and the proud men and women who have the resolve to fight and win for our Nation’s common cause. Whether through a greeting of “Semper Fi” or the donning of dress blues with the eagle, globe, and anchor emblem, the Marine Corps Birthday is also a showcase of the best branding practices the most formidable brands apply—the very ones we preach and teach most frequently here at ShinePR:
1. Unite around a common purpose, a core idea that creates powerful, emotional connections with key audiences
A brand’s purpose states the reason the brand exists.
For 247 years, the purpose of the Marine Corps has been the protection of our Nation and the advancement of its ideals. This purpose creates intense emotional connections as it requires individuals willing and determined to unite to achieve a cause that is so much greater than themselves. The purpose is reinforced by teaching every Marine about the legendary battles Marines have fought to defend America’s way of life.
2. Create a visual and verbal brand identity infused with meaning and use it consistently
A brand’s visual and verbal identity are the images and language that express who the brand is and what is stands for. Combined, these elements both represent and distinguish the brand from others.
The core of the Marine Corps’ visual identity is the Marine Corps Emblem that has featured the eagle, globe, and anchor since it was adopted in 1868.
Each component of the emblem is infused with meaning and connected to the Marine Corps purpose:
- The eagle represents the United States, the nation Marines defend. The eagle’s wings are outstretched and within reach of the entire world.
- The globe stands for the Marines’ global commitments, worldwide presence, impact, and reputation. The Western Hemisphere is visible to show the coastlines the Marines defend.
- The anchor represents the close ties the Marines have with the U.S. Navy, and the cable wrapped around the anchor reminds us of the amphibious nature of the Marines and their ability to access any battleground across any coastline in the world.
Apart from the eagle, globe, and anchor emblem, one of the most iconic visual symbols of the Marines is the flag raising during the battle of Iwo Jima. This vital moment that propelled the U.S. to victory was captured in the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph that has become a symbol and permanent reminder of the Marines’ fighting spirit and resilience.
Both the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va., and the National Museum of the Marine Corps near Quantico, Va. incorporate this visual into their design for all the meaning it represents.
When it comes to verbal identity, the Corps motto, Semper Fidelis (Latin for “always faithful”) is one of the oldest slogans in America, dating all the way back to 1883. Semper Fidelis, sometimes shortened to “Semper Fi,” represents faithfulness and commitment to the battles, the nation, and the loyalty to fellow Marines. Semper Fidelis is a bond developed and shared among Marines. It’s a motto that is lived and used as a greeting, a motivation, a salutation, a closing.The Semper Fidelis motto also appears on a banner held in the eagle’s beak on the Marine Corps flag)
3. Define values, standards of behavior, that drive daily actions, interactions, and decisions.
One of the ways we help organizations define their values is to think about them as the “how” the brand behaves. You know you have the right list of values when you run down the list and see a list of your organization’s non-negotiables. Values are lived in action and shape an organization’s culture. They are timeless, and they drive decisions.
The Marine Corps’ values are Honor, Courage, and Commitment. Every Marine is expected to live by these values and to fight by these values, as well. As stated on their website, these values “are the building blocks that will aid you in making the right decisions at the right time, both on the battlefield and in our Nation’s communities.”
4. Build your brand from the inside out by creating experiences that connect people to the brand purpose
It is not enough to simply write a brand purpose statement or publish a poster of core values. To build a commanding brand, organizations must forge deeper connections through meaningful, shared experiences. This effort begins inside the organization, because informed, inspired employees become committed brand ambassadors. Employees who feel connected to the brand’s purpose and meaning stay longer, produce more, and have greater overall wellbeing.
A Marine Corps General once stated, “Every Marine is, first and foremost, a rifleman. All other conditions are secondary.” Every Marine is trained to be a rifleman, regardless of their ultimate role in the Marine Corps, connecting every Marine to the brand’s original purpose.
Another way Marines experience the brand is through their uniforms. The eagle, globe, and anchor symbol appears on practically every uniform. It is said to be the oldest military insignia in continued use, appearing on the gold buttons of the dress uniform since 1804.
It is even hidden inside their combat uniform’s camo pattern and on the heels of their combat boots. The Marines’ dress blues uniform is the only uniform in the U.S. military designated to include the red, white, and blue colors of the American flag – a connection to the Marines’ history and founding in 1775.
The United States Marine Corps is a brand shaped by 247 years of history, tradition, and the selfless commitment of hundreds of thousands of Americans.
Have you ever heard of a former Marine? No. That’s because the Marine mindset is “Once a Marine, Always a Marine.” How would you like to have that level of brand equity?!
To all Marines, Happy 247th Birthday! And thank you for giving us the presents of a protected Nation and a brand to emulate.
Martha Holler is the co-founder of ShinePR and has over 25 years of experience in public relations. Her expertise is amplifying brand purpose and delivering tangible and measurable results for her clients.