Theme Song

Have you ever thought of what your theme song would be? You know, your own personal soundtrack as you moved through life. Perhaps in sad times it would be something dark and reflective, or for more joyous occasions, something edgier and uplifting.

Now, think about how awesome it would be to have the power to simply flip the channel at any given moment, effectively changing your mood as easily as changing a song on your iPod. The truth is, music possesses the power to do just that. It can affect how we feel and act by connecting with us on an emotional level – in many ways, just like a strong brand. I know, it sound like a stretch, but let me explain.

Our ability to connect with emotions, whether it be through a song or brand, represents our desire for things that make us feel good about ourselves, our decisions and our lives. It also motivates us to act in a certain manor. Think of George Gershwin, Jimmy Hendrix, or Bach. Each possesses a unique sound that is theirs alone – with each provoking an emotional reaction from within. Whether you are fan or not, simply hearing their music will intuitively cause an emotional response.

Now think of Coke, Nike and Apple. What mental real estate do they own within your thoughts? Chances are they are firmly established in your emotional database.

So, do you remember where you were when the music died? Will your customers remember where they were the first time they realized your brand was a recognizable, unforgettable part of their life? If not, perhaps it’s time to give some thought to what your theme song might be. And to be clear, by theme song, we are not referring to a jingle, but rather, the essence of your brand.

Stacey Boudreaux Grow
Account Executive
The Russo Group

When a Good Idea Goes Bad

As I was driving home last night I looked up to see a billboard that had me wondering, did anyone truly think this was a good idea?

In order to protect the innocent, I will not give names, but in all honesty, I was shocked that this particular piece of advertising made it through both "creative" and corporate approvals to see the light of day.

Now, I could easily spend several pages describing what was wrong with this board, but there is plenty of bad advertising out there, and my ranting about it here will do little to change that. What I would like to focus on however, is the power of good advertising, and why it is important to always strive for the best.

I guess the obvious benefit of good advertising is a positive return on investment – otherwise, why do it at all? But deeper than that, a good campaign reflects on the essence of the company that it represents. It is in so many ways a direct reflection of the brand itself. Ah, that branding word again. Seems to come up a lot these days doesn't it? The problem is, I think many of the people who use it still don't have a complete understanding of what it means, or how powerful it can be when used properly.

Truth be told, the actual advertising portion of a branding campaign is one of the final pieces of the puzzle, which is why it so often ends up being the most neglected. I say neglected because it is generally the first thing businesses and agencies focus on. It's like trying to discuss global warming with a baby. Sure, it might be entertaining, but a baby is hardly prepared to speak, much less articulate thoughts on such matters. Kicking out an ad campaign without properly developing a company's brand message is pretty much the same thing.

So, until there is a brand police established to fight bad advertising, I will continue to do my part in helping those who will hear. My advice is to make sure you know yourself first, your audience second and your advertising third. Only then can you communicate the right message to the right people, with the right vehicle.

Michael Russo
Creative Director - The Russo Group

Staying The Course

Maintaining your brand through difficult times
(Pulled from the June 2008 Russo Group Newsletter - Revelations)

Chances are good that you’ve noticed the recent changes in our economy. Perhaps it’s the queasy feeling you got this morning as you filled up your car with gas, or maybe it’s the nightly news that works very hard to terrorize us all with forecasts of doom. Either way, we have all felt the pinch these last few months with no real end in sight. It is during these times that special attention must be paid to maintaining the integrity of your brand. Unfortunately though, most businesses forget about their commitment to building and maintaining brand equity and head directly into crisis mode.

Crisis mode generally results in discounts, sales and an attempt to attract transactional customers. While this may help to maintain the status quo, it won’t lead to long term gains. More importantly, you begin to slowly water down your message, losing the relational clients you have worked so hard for. This loss of brand loyalty is difficult if not impossible to regain once it is gone.

Think about it. Has your product or service declined in value since yesterday? No, of course not? Well then, why would you even think of not charging what your product or service is worth? Your brand is worth more than that, and it is vital that both you and your customers regard it as such. Truth be told, once you head down the road of price point marketing, you will soon find yourself chasing after a dog that will never be caught.

Strong brands understand the difference between transactional and relational consumers. Transactional consumers are going to drive to the end of the Earth, or at least the State Line, to get the lowest price (please disregard the amount of gas and time spent on this transaction). They will always make you work harder for less. Relational consumers on the other hand, will always want YOUR brand because of the promises you have made regarding quality, service, and overall awesomeness. They provide you with both loyalty and, wait for it – advocacy, the single most powerful form of advertising available. They rarely look for the best bargain, but rather, the best quality. These are the customers we all want.

If you are an avid reader of our writings here at Russo, you’ll notice that we talk about advocacy and results quite a bit. The reason? They are what we strive for with every branded touchpoint we develop. They are also unattainable as soon as you lose focus on your core promise and begin discounting the value of your product or service. Remember, your promise is your brand – and as soon as you begin slashing prices you lose credibility. So, before you run to the weekly paper and begin announcing the fire sale, think about the ramifications of those actions. Yes, there may still be difficult times ahead, but those who stay the course and remain true to their promise, will find their brand is not only intact, but stronger than ever.

Michael Russo
Creative Director
The Russo Group