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Your country needs you

It is 100 years since the end of the First World War, a bloody period of modern history in which over 16 million people died.

To mark the centenary of the end of the war, we’re taking a closer look at what is assumed to be one of the world’s most iconic and successful marketing tools – the image of Lord Kitchener pointing at the viewer next to the words, “Your country needs you”. It was such a successful concept, it is still familiar even today and has been repurposed by governments around the world as their own recruiting poster, famously by the US which used the image of Uncle Sam in the same pose, but also by the Russians and Germans amongst many others.

Originally a magazine cover design, the image immediately captured the zeitgeist of the time. When it first appeared in September 1914 – a month after Britain entered the war – a record number of people enlisted.

Why was it so successful?

Lord Kitchener was a famous and respected military figure at the time – so famous in fact, his image was instantly recognisable and he did not need to be named. Using a recognisable personality in this way has always been a successful tactic to encourage others to follow their lead. In the old days, the influencers tended to be royalty and the nobility, then came the cult of celebrity in the 20th century, and while celebrities – and some members of the royalty – are still very influential, more recently, the mantle has been taken up by ordinary people who have built up a massive online following through blogging and vlogging, basically by directly addressing their audience and making them feel a part of their world.

Ironically, it is the fame of this poster that has kept Lord Kitchener famous. Otherwise his name would have been consigned to the history books like those of his contemporaries, Field Marshal Sir John French and General Sir Henry Wilson. Nope, we haven’t heard of them either.

You!

It is the directness of Kitchener’s stare, the direction of the pointing finger, and the use of the second person that provides an instant connection. He really is addressing ‘you’, and at a time when going off to fight in the war was still considered a noble thing, it had young men – and boys who lied about their age – queueing up to take the King’s Shilling.

Using the second person (i.e. by saying ‘you’ instead of the first person ‘I’ or the third person ‘he/she’) in today’s content marketing is the best way of creating a personal engagement with the reader. By addressing them as you would speak to a friend, you are encouraging them to put themselves into your scenario. In the case of the Kitchener poster, the audience is encouraged to see themselves as patriotic heroes. In the case of a product or service, they are encouraged to imagine how much easier or better life will be if they owned one. As soon as you have that connection, it becomes easier to take people through your sales funnel, converting engagement into profit.

If you would like to engage more with your customers and clients in order to generate more leads, talk to us about how we can help.

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