5 Principles to Your Best Action Plan Ever

September 29, 2008

Today’s guest post is written by Bryan Radtke, P&G’s Shopper Based Design Brand Manager, Bengals fan, and all around good guy.  Special thanks to him for picking up the slack on Hard Knox Life while I am out this week.

A few months ago I embarked on the annual painful journey that is fiscal year action plan development. The goal of this exercise is similar to many companies…put down on paper the stuff you are going to focus on for the next year, get your management buy in and sign off, and finally file it away, never looking at it again until next year. Yay! Time well spent.

I’m not sure if it’s my old age (I’m 29), the additional responsibility I’ve gained in the past year, or simply a new found passion for productivity, but what I hate more than anything is inefficient use of time. The Action Planning process definitely felt inefficient, so something had to change…and fast.

I decided to look at Action Planning for what it truly can be; a personal strategy to achieving your business goals. Excited yet? Didn’t think so.

Think about it this way. Businesses and organizations that succeed do so more often than not behind a solid, well thought out and executed strategy. Chances are if you are reading this you have a decent amount of ambition and would like to succeed in everything you do, including your career.

Think of your action plan as your personal strategy to that success.

If that didn’t hook you then try this. The unfortunate truth is no job is secure in today’s highly competitive business environment, and that includes your job. You need to earn your employer’s loyalty and bulletproof your career by communicating the unique points of difference and VALUE you bring to the table. The action plan becomes a personal compass to ensure you are:

  • Adding unique value
  • Elevating those around you
  • Demonstrating strategic thinking and ambition

Here are the 5 principles I followed: Read the rest of this entry »

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Upcoming guest writers on Hard Knox Life

September 28, 2008
Cincinnati skyline

Image by joseph a via Flickr

Over the next week, I will be making the move to Cincinnati to start my new assignment in Procter & Gamble Corporate Marketing.  Since I haven’t yet mastered the art of mobile blogging, I have asked a few of my peers and closest friends to keep the fires the burning here at Hard Knox Life with a series of guest posts.  Special thanks in advance to these guys for lending a hand during the move.  I have a feeling you are really going to enjoy reading what they have to say:

Depending on how long it takes to get everything set up at the new home, I should up and running again by October 6.  In the meantime, these guys will do an amazing job of providing interesting reading and I should be relatively active on Twitter.

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A Brand Manager’s Take on MySpace Music

September 25, 2008

If you haven’t heard by now, the much-anticipated MySpace Music is officially live after getting EMI to come onboard as the final major label on the site.  Though they still don’t have a CEO in place, they do have a rumored $2 billion valuation and some serious buzz at launch.  All the usual tech bloggers like ReadWriteWeb and Techcrunch have great summaries of the site so I won’t go into a rundown here.  Instead, I want to provide the perspective of a Brand Manager looking at this as a way to digitally connect with consumers.

First a little background since I have a pretty long history with MySpace.

  • For starters, when I was working as an Assistant Brand Manager on Secret, we did one of the first-ever CPG campaigns on the site, which included co-branded music page with a then unknown artist named Rihanna.
  • Second, I have some very good friends who work at MySpace, thanks in part to the above campaign
  • Finally, I actually met my girlfriend on MySpace, a surprising fact that has been pretty useful in games of “two truths and a lie.”

So what all this means is that I have a soft spot for MySpace and I’m usually pulling for them with new initiatives.  Thankfully on this latest program, they gave me plenty of ammunition to cheer about.

Here are my thoughts:

MySpace’s key to success will be capitalizing on their brand equity of “discovery”:  When I hear about a new band, MySpace is always the first place I go.  No matter if the band is signed to a major or a complete undiscovered, I know there is a 99% chance they have a MySpace where I will be able to hear a few of their songs.  Theoretically I could do the same with iTunes but it has always been hit or miss if they have new bands.  In the short-term, MySpace won’t be able to win by just promoting big, new releases.  Instead, they neeed to focus on their equity of discovery and promote the up and coming bands like crazy.

MySpace Music won’t win over marketers if it is just another “banner ad” media buy: There has been a lot of debate about the CPM’s MySpace will need to charge in order to make this ad-supported format work.  At the heart of the debate is the fact that current social networking media buy CPM’s are extremely low.  The fact is that if MySpace treats this program like more banner ad media inventory, then they have already lost.  What they need to do is create truly compelling, holistic campaigns that tie bands to brands.  The first appeal of MySpace to me 4 years ago as a markter was that MySpace gave me access to artists I couldn’t afford to sign individual deals with.  They were the gateway for me associating with some amazing music.  MySpace needs to leverage that strength to create some really compelling marketing campaigns that in the end make CPM’s irrelevent.   The type of advertising that Pandora offers on their site is a start, but MySpace needs to go much, much further than that.  Create marketing programs that exist on and off the web.

Amazon.com made a brilliant move partnering with MySpace and providing DRM-Free Music: Honestly until I read about the deal with MySpace Music, I didn’t even know that Amazon offered music downloads.  Now they are going to be a click away whenever I listen to new music.  However, the key to this deal working out for them as well, will be point #1 above.  If Amazon can become the place to buy new, up and coming music, then they can put a serious dent into iTunes market share.  When I hear about a band like Benjamin Del Shreve, I want to be able to go straight to their MySpace page, listen to their songs and buy them if I want.  I want to stop having to flip a coin in the hopes that iTunes might carry the band.

MySpace Music needs to bring the social back to music:  In order for MySpace Music to truly be revolutionary, I think they need to bring the social back to music.  Fred Wilson over at A VC has talked at length about his love of mix tapes and MySpace seems to be listening.  But they need to avoid having MySpace Music be a walled garden where how I listen to and share music is limited.  Don’t make me go to MySpace to use your service.  Let me download an Adobe Air player for my desktop.  Also make it easy for me to share my favorite music with my friends.  Give me a widget on my blog showing my playlist.  Hell, find a way to let that same widget live on Facebook since to me Facebook and MySpace aren’t competitors.  MySpace needs to not make the horrible mistake of acting like a portal and forgetting that the future of the web is social media…not isolation.

Treat MySpace Music like a brand and hire accordingly:  As a huge music fan, I see a lot of potential in MySpace Music.  But I also see them making a couple of mistakes that could have major negative impacts on the site being as revolutionary as they want.  In my opinion, the best thing they could do is hire a CEO who gets not only the Social Web, but also Brand Marketing.  MySpace Music needs to act like a brand, not an Internet Portal.  Don’t just hire a web guy…and please don’t hire a media/music person.  Get someone that can build this into the brand that it has the potential to be.

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Celebrate the World’s Largest Ice Cream Social and Support the Make-A-Wish Foundation®

September 25, 2008

Today from 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM, Cold Steam Creamery with be hosting the 7th Annual World’s Largest Ice Cream Social in support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, an organization that grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions.  a special night to join together and share the simple pleasures of life with a FREE ice cream and family fun.  You’ll be treated to a 3 oz. serving of two special “Make-A-Wish Creations” inspired by Jack and Emily, two Wish Children.

  • Jack’s Creation – Marshmallow ice cream with OREO® Cookies, Chocolate Chips and Fudge
  • Emily’s Creation – Nutter Butter® ice cream with White Chocolate Chips, Kit Kat® and Yellow Cake

Nintendo Wii creates one of the most brilliant pieces of digital marketing I have ever seen

September 24, 2008

Thanks to Adam Cohen, I came across one of the most brilliant pieces of digital marketing that I have seen in awhile.  The ad is for the Nintendo Wii and their latest game, Wario Land.

Creative like this is why digital is transforming our jobs as marketers and Brand Managers.  If you haven’t seen what I am talking about, go check it out now at:

http://de.youtube.com/experiencewii

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Microsoft makes a bold move to understand direction of social networks with their latest new hire

September 22, 2008
Danah Boyd

It seems to be Microsoft day here on Hard Knox Life, but they just made a key new hire that should be getting a lot more attention than it is.  According to the folks at ReadWriteWeb, Microsoft Research has hired danah boyd, who is probably the most famous academic in the world focused on youth and social networks.  As RWW points out, the hire is important because “If Microsoft is going to be relevant to the next generation of computer users, who better to pay attention to than the leading expert on how the next generation is using social networks?

danah hit the radar of most folks when she published that kids were moving from MySpace to Facebook.  As danah wrote somewhat controversially in her research:

“The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other ‘good’ kids are now going to Facebook. …MySpace is still home for Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, ‘burnouts,’ ‘alternative kids,’ ‘art fags,’ punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn’t play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm.”

I have been following danah’s work for quite some time, largely thanks to the frequent coverage she gets on Ypulse.  She is truly one of the sharpest minds in understanding youth and how their use of social technology will transform culture and business.  It is going to be really exciting to see the impact danah makes at shaping the future vision of Microsoft and their view of the social web.

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Hello, I’m a PC and I’ve been made into a stereotype

September 22, 2008

As you would expect, all the Apple Fanboys are hating on the new “I’m a PC” campaign from Microsoft.  In particular, bloggers are pouncing on the fact that the ad was likely created using a Mac.  In my opinion, this is just another example of Alan Wolk’s NASCAR Blindness where the left leaning, Mac loving writers of the online world completely miss the point because they have their blinders on.

The fact is, this new campaign is pretty clever for Middle America

Let me start by making some assumptions based on my experiences in the Mac vs PC debate.

  1. Apple’s most passionate Brand Advocates seem to be concentrated on the East and West Coast, especially in cities like New York and San Francisco.
  2. These Apple Fan Boys (and Girls) are more likely to be in a creative line of work (like advertising)
  3. They are reading media in places like the New York Times, where Apple has gotten so much praise for their “I’m a Mac” rich media buys.
  4. Apple celebrates their “trendiness” and the fact they are “cooler” than PC users.

So given these facts, I think the “I’m a PC” campaign is a brilliant move by Microsoft to shore up Middle America.  Put yourself in the shoes of a Microsoft Brand Manager.  You recognize the above assumptions but realize that the do not describe the majority of America.  Just as important, you realize that a lot of people might find Apple and their smarky spokesman Justin Long just a little too smug.  And finally you recognize that in this time of political division and economic uncertainty, people might appreciate advertising that does not play up stereotypes.

The new Microsoft ads work because they focus on what brings us together instead of what sets us apart. They work because they call out that most of us “are not what you call hip”… nor do we want to be.  They work because they show that PC users are not about stereotypes and looking down on others.  And they work because they are funny with things like “I turn #2 into energy” or “I’m a PC and I sell fish.”

My girlfriend Cindy summed it up best when she saw the ad during NFL football on Sunday.  She said, “now that’s an ad for someone that thinks its stupid to spend $3,000 on a Mac just because its cool.”  Enough said.

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