For USAA, Veterans Day is one of the most special days of the year as it’s a day to celebrate our more than 18 million living veterans. This year, we’re adjusting, and it’s going to be a different type of celebration as many of our public events are canceled due to COVID.
Every year at USAA, we kick off Veterans Day with an employee event (this year, fully virtual) where our 35,000 employees celebrate all of those who served our country, including many of our employees. In the days leading up to Veterans Day, we deploy a robust marketing and communications campaign to raise awareness of the meaning of Veterans Day and encourage others to join in celebrating. Because of the challenges that this year has brought, our team, like so many others, has shifted how we plan and execute some of our biggest campaigns, like Veterans Day.
Our teams have been flexing new muscles as we work remotely, including shooting video footage of their family members for content that is being produced from the comforts of their homes. An example with our Veterans Day #HonorThroughAction campaign is a new tactic that we implemented this year to engage children. Our team developed a kid’s craft – a star suncatcher – that was highlighted through owned, paid and earned channels. The video features one of our creative team members and her son in a video shot on an iPhone. We also found ways to engage military families across the country by deploying physical craft kits to select Armed Services YMCA locations – one of our Corporate Responsibility alliances – to help bring something fun to our military families who are limited on activities because of the pandemic.
When the pandemic hit earlier this year, we knew this was one of the utmost times to be there for our members in as many ways as we could. We supercharged the flexible payment plans we offer because, as all brands realized, the turbulence caused by the virus was also creating economic hardships for many of our military families. We worked to share the support we were providing by implementing more branded advertising to tell existing members what help was available to them. Our ads also shared what we’re doing as corporate citizens in our communities and encouraged others to help support those in need. From auto dividends to non-profit donations, we put our members’ needs at the center.
Executing on this marketing strategy in a virtual environment, at what we like to call “COVID-speed” at USAA, wasn’t always easy. At USAA, we historically have operated through face-to-face relationships, and you lose so much of that in this environment. For me, as a new leader appointed amid the pandemic, it was important for me to connect and provide direction for the marketing team.
The key to being a good leader and teammate is the ability to understand body language or social expression. Figuring out how to do that through a digital and video world has been a big focus for us; learning to use Zoom, engaging our employees through poll questions, encouraging mental breaks so people don’t get exhausted by working endless hours in their homes where it’s often easy to lose track of time. We adopted some intentional habits, including not scheduling meetings over lunch, starting meetings five minutes after the hour to allow small breaks and ending five minutes before the hour to allow for transition time. And we’ve put a greater emphasis on health and wellness programs.
Much has changed in our lives personally and professionally in 2020. But our desire to be of service to those who have served us is stronger than ever. As a marketing team, we’ll continue to make sure we are present and supportive of our members by taking care of ourselves and showing up where and when they need us the most.