March 06, 2013
|Eric Napier '13MBA provides over-watch for an aerial resupply of 7th Special Forces Group in Oruzgan province, Afghanistan.|
Behind every great
military strategist is a great marketer. That’s a bold statement, but when you
consider the parallels between the principles of marketing and the tactics of
military missions overseas, you’ll start to see the logic. While chief
marketing officers and military commanders might be using different language,
the truth is, they’re all saying the same thing.
Eric Napier ’13MBA, a Special Operations Army veteran, will tell you that marketing is one of the primary roles of the military, especially in places like Iraq and Afghanistan where building support with locals is critical to missions. And he should know. From 2003 through 2011, Napier served in the U.S. Army as an intelligence analyst and psychological operations specialist, spending nearly two years in war-torn regions.
“We did recruiting, conducted land mine awareness campaigns, and marketed anonymous hotlines where people called in tips,” Napier says. “It was all about understanding our target audience and creating the right messages.”
|Napier takes a break after a mission in Qalat province, Afghanistan|
Napier shakes his head
at the idea that military missions are primarily about bombing targets and
capturing terrorists. “Today’s special operations forces utilize tactics and
techniques to prevent civilian casualties and multiply forces through building
relationships. Typical door kicking missions do still take place, but with
advanced intelligence gathering, the military can conduct smarter missions that
minimize potential battlefield disasters,” Napier says.
Napier received a bachelor’s in sociology from Samford University, and he is fascinated by human behavior and understanding different cultures. These passions led him to pursue a career in the military where one of his primary domestic roles was analyzing threat packets and making recommendations about their legitimacy and threat level.
Overseas, it was a different story. He remembers a mission in Afghanistan where he and his unit set up FM transmitters and handed out crank radios to locals for the purpose of broadcasting popular music and public safety and awareness messages. The “hearts and minds” campaign being conducted in combat zones serves as a force multiplier by building relationships and trust rather than animosity and resentment.
“A large part of our training was learning about human behavior, understanding our target audience, and using different mediums to reach out to those audiences,” Napier says. “We were constantly asking ‘does this add value,’ which is really asking ‘does this help us to accomplish this mission.’ Our measures of effectiveness weren’t profit or earnings; we looked at saving lives and having successful recruitment initiatives.”
Back in the civilian world, Napier continually draws upon his military experiences during his Crummer classes. While the vernacular is different, both worlds strive to improve processes and differentiate themselves from the competition—whether it be competing companies or terror cells. Napier looks forward to using his skill sets in the Orlando business sector after graduating from Rollins in the spring. He is also helping the Crummer Graduate School administration design military veteran recruiting initiatives and build a veteran organization for students and alumni.
By Kristen Manieri
Office of Marketing & Communications
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