Is Happy Joe an authentic military lifestyle brand? It’s a question that’s been on my mind lately. Honestly, I don’t really know.
We’ve struggled with the idea of placing definitive labels on our brand. We’re pro-military but not militaristic. We love our freedom, but aren’t blindly patriotic. We appreciate and love those who served, but don’t place them on a pedestal or condone entitlement. This seems unconventional or counter culture to the typical military brand.
If you look at the narrative being told by some other veteran owned companies, the “military lifestyle” is all about God, country, large guns, big boobs, or the bearded special ops contractor in a Punisher cap. Then there are a few who use war mongering or violence to enforce the idea we are all kick ass Americans waiting to bitch slap any violator of our rights.
As a guy who spent eight years in the military as a grunt, I certainly appreciate off the wall military humor as well as guns, boobs, and enjoying our freedom. Yet this isn’t what Happy Joe is or ever will be about.
In a world that already perceives American veterans as ticking time bombs or entitled, overzealous patriots, we wanted to be completely different. We want to change the narrative about the military community and tell a more positive story. But I don’t know if this vibe resonates with the people Happy Joe is trying to serve.
Why am I asking this seemingly dumb question?
Recently I had a discussion with a disabled veteran who questioned our sincerity of actually helping veterans and implied we use dumb marketing ploys to make money from the military community.
I love that this person had the balls to ask hard questions and challenge us. It makes us better as a company, but more importantly, as humans.
His viewpoint is the world is taking advantage of veterans for political or business gain. in addition to veterans being abused for monetary reasons or photo ops. I’d be the first to agree with him. There is a lot of shady shit going on relating to our community and completely see his perspective.
While this conversation is deeper than branding or marketing, it did get me thinking. Are we doing something wrong? Are we really an authentic military lifestyle brand or a just a poser? If we were like other military brands, would veterans believe us more?
Let me be real and transparent about Happy Joe.
I want Happy Joe to be a force to reckon with. The goal has always been to build a kick ass brand that resonates with the military community and makes plenty of money. After all, we’re no longer a charity but a for-profit business. But the reasons for these stated goals is not at all what you think!
When we officially launched Happy Joe on January 1st, 2014, the mission was to reduce veteran suicides and improve the well being of those who served. We didn’t care what branch of the military you came from or what era you served. It didn’t matter whether you were in combat or in the rear with the gear. What mattered was that somehow we could make a difference in one veteran’s life, however that looked. Today this mission is just as real as it was back then.
My passion to support veterans has never changed. When we make money or grow our brand, it allows us to help more veterans. If we don’t succeed at our business goals, then we can’t fulfill our mission. It’s simple as that.
It’s not a ploy. We actually care about our veterans.
Building a business around an audience trained to be skeptical of any initiative to support them is not usually recommended by business experts. Even as a veteran owned company it’s been a real struggle to serve this community. There have been times I wanted to quit, but my sincere desire to help veterans keeps me driving on even when it doesn’t make business sense.
Happy Joe was created because people cared enough to stand up and doing something to help our veterans. It’s never been about an agenda or photo opportunities. Everything we’ve done is an expression of gratitude to those who served. We desire to see veterans live happy and heathy lives. That’s what our name and brand represents.
Perhaps we’ve missed the mark somewhere and need to readjust our fire, but the truth is we will always care about our veterans and their lives. It’s in our DNA.
Why does any of this conversation matter?
In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter if Happy Joe is labeled an authentic military lifestyle brand or not. It will have no impact on how we continue to support the mission or serve others. It’s not a big deal, but it is.
Having open, honest conversations helps us grow and improve on so many levels. We should always strive to learn and become better … as individuals or as a company.
This is why this particular conversation matters to me. Labels mean nothing, but perception means everything!
If we’ve made veterans feel marginalized or taken advantage of, we want to correct it. If our brand messaging or communication is off base, we want to adjust it. The last thing I want to do is alienate our company from the community we love and appreciate. While it’s not possible to please everyone, it’s always possible to improve.
I believe Happy Joe is an authentic military brand who truly cares about veterans. We’ve done so much for this community already and plan on doing so much more, however it’s not what I think but what you think. So I’m asking for input.
We would sincerely value and appreciate any thoughts about this discussion, especially from the military community. If you’d like to share your thoughts, reach out to me by phone or send a message via Facebook or Instagram, I would be grateful.
Stay happy and healthy!