The British Army faced a critical recruitment challenge. Their traditional audience with a thirst for frontline action wasn’t big enough to fill the ranks. To increase appeal to a broader audience, ‘This is Belonging’ was launched in 2017, showing a surprising, human side to Army life. It shifted perceptions and increased applications to an 8 year high.

But significant barriers remained that held many of our audience back from applying. The image of soldiers as superheroes who were ready made from day 1 created doubts for many about whether they’d be physically or mentally strong enough. We needed to tackle these doubts, and help more people see the Army as somewhere that would support them to grow.

How we helped

Quantitative analysis and netnography revealed a generation of young people growing up in a culture of perfectionism that led them to believe that failure is something to fear. Something to be ashamed of, to avoid all costs. 76% of 16-24s said they felt held back by a fear of failure when taking on new challenges, and 81% said they don’t achieve their goals because of a fear of failure.

But in truth, failure is nothing to fear. It’s a powerful driver of learning and growing, embraced by some of the most successful sports stars and businesses on the planet.

Ethnography with serving soldiers relevelled that in the Army, failing is just the first step to winning. It shows them they’re training hard enough, aiming high enough, and pushing themselves far enough. It teaches them lessons and helps them grow, so they’ll nail it when it really matters. This surprising truth fuelled our strategy: To show how in the Army, failure isn’t the enemy of progress, it’s the path towards it.

What happened next

The creative idea was to redefine failure by showing how in the Army, failing is the first step to winning. This came to life in our campaign line: ‘Fail. Learn. Win’.

The campaign challenged society’s view of failure as something to be embarrassed about, and showed its powerful positive role in becoming the best in the Army. Striking OOH and social content redefined setbacks as an essential step on the path to success, depicted through real soldiers’ portraits showing their past challenges and proud success. TV, VOD and radio adverts spotlighted moments where soldiers faced failure in training, and pushed past it to grow and win.

Further social content punctured the dominant narrative of projected perfectionism on social media, and showed the Army as a space to fail, learn and win in contrast. An influencer content series and podcast spotlighted relatable stories from influencers and Army personnel who had experienced failure themselves, and learnt through it to become who they are today. Digital display and further social content delivered tailored messaging to different segments, addressing the rational barriers and drivers as candidates got closer to application.


At launch, the campaign received 161 pieces of coverage, with a PR reach of 1.47 billion. 2 weeks after launch, applications exceeded targets by 22%.

The long-term ‘This is Belonging’ platform and each campaign iteration have tackled deep Army stereotypes, inspired a new generation, and transformed the effectiveness of Army recruitment. Testament to the campaign’s effectiveness, the work has won a prestigious IPA Gold Effectiveness award amongst a host of other accreditations, including Cannes Lions and D&AD creative awards as well as winning the DMA Grand Prix for data strategy. ‘This is Belonging’ continues to go from strength to strength, helping more young people find where they belong in the British Army.