A new campaign from the Army Reserve looks to reach those that want to serve, but also still strive towards their goals in other career fields. The launch coincides with the Reserve’s 115th birthday and includes four films showing how the experience can compliment other careers. Federal Drive with Tom Temin got a chance to speak with Maj. Gen. Alex Fink, chief of Army Enterprise Marketing, to ask him all about the “It’s Your Time” campaign.
Alex Fink If we could, if it’s ok, Eric, why don’t we just back up a step and talk about Be All You Can Be. That’s really, sort of the umbrella launch, which is the new Army campaign, and that is an army for all service components. That includes active duty, Army National Guard and Army Reserve. And so within a brand process or a brand launch, which we did back in March, there were four elements. One of those elements was called the brand architecture. And within a brand architecture, you try to make sense of how do you communicate the goodness of all of your sub brands. And within the Army, one of our sub brands would be the Army Reserve, another one would be the Army National Guard. So still part of the Be All You Can Be campaign, but It’s Your Time is a specific campaign that is for Army Reserve. So it really helps to reveal the part time path to service. In other words, you can be in the Army Reserve and still have a private sector career. You could still be going to school or whatever. So It’s Your Time really kind of has two sorts of things to it, it’s about time. First, as a reserve soldier, you do most of your duty outside of the traditional Monday through Friday workweek. You do it typically on weekends. So in a way, you’re literally doing your duty on your time, if you will, if you think about the weekends traditionally as your time. Then there’s a second sort of element to this, and that is kind of what you were referring to earlier, and that its your time to level up, its your time to make a difference. It’s your time to make your mark. So it really sort of exists on two separate planes. One very specific about how you serve in the Army Reserve and how you can make the most out of your time doing your day job thing during the week, and on the weekends when you have duty doing the Army Reserve thing. Then, at a different level, it’s more about that it’s your opportunity to actually make a difference in the world.
Eric White Yeah. You’re coming at a time when workplace flexibility is front and center, especially after the pandemic. And I’ve been seeing the ads myself on social media and whatnot of, you can serve your country, but also still maintain a career in whatever path you want to take. So where did this idea of maybe having the Army Reserve as a side hustle, in air quotes, how did that come about?
Alex Fink So I love it that you just called it a side hustle, because that’s jokingly what we referred to it. Sometimes, not everybody likes the idea of part time. It is truly part time, you’re not doing it full time, so it’s by definition part time. But it sort of sometimes mitigates or minimizes the relevance or the importance of what you’re doing. Because a lot of us do do it full time, we’re on active duty. And in fact, you may not know this, Eric, but I’m an Army Reserve officer. So I spent a majority of my career in a part time or, as you said, side hustle role, doing the Army Reserve thing on the side, which is exactly how I got to where I am today. I had a day job, civilian career in marketing and strategy and sales. I had, in my Army Reserve career had advanced through the ranks as an Army logistician. And when the Army needed a senior military officer, senior Army officer to run marketing who knew something about marketing, I was able to just very naturally step into this role to lead the Army’s Army Enterprise Marketing Office, because, quite frankly, of the civilian acquired skills that I’ve garnered over the last 20, 30 years of my private sector career.
Eric White Yeah. And you use your cellphone as as an example. And it’s a good segue for my next question, which is in talking to current reserve members, is that what you’ve noticed, that you see all these different kinds of careers and they talked about how this is kind of their second job and it’s a chance to serve and whatnot. But is that what you all found in surveying the reserve members that I’m sure you did for researching this campaign?
Alex Fink Yeah. I think a lot of folks, people join the Army, and to include the Army Reserve for a variety of different reasons. And so, what the campaign is really trying to do is capture as many of those relevant reasons as possible. We don’t want to necessarily say you should join for this reason or for that reason. We really want to try to keep that up to the prospect. So some people will join, and we try to bring this out in the campaign for certain types of skill sets that they can acquire. Think about those as very tangible type of benefits. Others will want to join, because it’s part of a group, a part of a group that I can be part of that makes me different than just maybe my civilian work day. So we think about that as that community aspect. Some of it is, as we started out, just literally a passion, a passion to do something in terms of making a difference in the world. I did it particularly, because I, quite frankly, in a somewhat sometimes intense civilian job, I needed to do something different, completely different than what I was doing during the week, on the weekends, just for my own mental health. I was able to disengage from my day job. I got to do something that was cool, I got to be around soldiers, I got the opportunity to have unique leadership experiences and do all the things that soldiers get to do. And then I could go back to my day job on Monday morning. So it was just sort of that opportunity just to do something different, to sort of break away from the routine that I had in my day job.
Eric White We’re speaking with Major General Alex Fink, chief of Army Enterprise Marketing. And if I could just get a little behind the scenes action. And on a day when we’re hearing about a writers strike on the TV side of things. And when it comes to these commercials, I just am curious about the writing process, what the writer’s room looks like when you all are writing up these recruitment campaigns.
Alex Fink Yeah, great question, Eric. This is sometimes a little look under under the hood of how you develop ads. And I think it’s important for people. People don’t necessarily appreciate this or understand it, and nor do they need to or should they about the creative process. But we always start with a business problem. What’s the business problem that we’re trying to address? We don’t start out with throwing ideas about commercials against the wall. We start out with a business problem. In the reserves, it’s kind of a relevancy issue, the Army Reserve. People just don’t exactly know where to place that when they think about it, relative to other options for their time. And so that’s kind of a challenge. It’s just kind of irrelevant in the sense. And so we have to figure out how to make it relevant. That becomes our business challenge. And then it’s really, ok, creatively, how can we do that? And we don’t go to the writing room, we don’t start looking at execution until we’ve really developed a creative strategy. What’s our way in? And we’ll usually come up with two or three ways in about how to make this a more relevant type of option for youth to think about how they would use their extra time. And then when we finally get there, we look at, OK, we’ve got two or three ways in that we really like. Now let’s let the writers start doing some of their magic and see what we can bring this to life. And we’ll write a whole bunch of scripts. We landed on four. I don’t exactly recall the number we had, but it wouldn’t be surprise me if we didn’t have 20 or 30 scripts out there at one time. And all of them start out pretty rough. And then just through the process, we refine them. Sometimes we take parts of one, and just as any other writing process and figure out what we really like. And then, we go to our leadership and make sure they’re cool with it and then we bring it to life.
Eric White And bringing it back to you. You talked a little bit about your career path, and it is coming to an end now with the Army in your current role. I’m just curious about your thoughts on the future of Army marketing. And where things started when you first got in there, and now where you see things are as you’re leaving the post that you’re in now.
Alex Fink Yeah, thank you for asking that question, Eric. So I had this phenomenal opportunity in the United States Army, because I was an Army Reserve officer to serve at a level that I could have never planned. And so I was asked, and I’ll put ask in air quotes there, not really asked. But brought on active duty as a two star, as a major general to not just lead this organization, but to build it. And really try to understand what does a modern marketing organization, what should it look like? I had great support from my supervisors at the Pentagon. I report pretty much straight to the top. And so a lot of great support from the folks within the Army leadership. We did a pretty significant assessment as to where we are relative to what a modern marketing organization should be. We spent out that first two years, what I call catching up. A lot of work we needed to do, particularly in our data infrastructure systems and our market research foundation, really understanding prospects. So that was catching up. That was sort of phase one. As I think about these two, that’s the launch of Be All You Can Be. Then all of the subordinate campaigns that will rest underneath that to include It’s Your Time for the Army Reserve, and I call that world class. We’re doing world class stuff. And then phase three is really going to be taking the lead. And we’ve got a phenomenal innovation process. We’re really looking at cutting edge ways to connect with our audience outside of maybe traditional types of media that you think about. We’ll probably always do some of that traditional media, but we’re looking at a whole bunch of different, different ways to kind of cut through. I call that taking the lead or phase three. And my successor will have the opportunity to hopefully plan and execute phase three.