Boys and Girls Club "Running of the Ducks" Campaigns

Boys and Girls Club "Running of the Ducks" Campaigns
Originally uploaded by therussogroup

The opportunity to work with non-profits throughout the community is important for a number of reasons:

1 - Non-profits are so busy helping people that they don't usually have the time to help themselves.

2 - The staff at non-profits are skilled at social work and problem solving but they are not marketers or designers.

3 - Often times, they don't understand branding and how to develop an emotional connection with their audience.

4 - Most selfishly, giving to them is good for our souls. We really enjoy helping and watching the results of our work.

Get out there.

Pick up a hammer.

Be a mentor.

Be a part of the solution in your community.

If you aren't sure where to start, call your local United Way office. They will do a great job of matching your interest with an organization that needs you.

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner
The Russo Group

Bad Logo, Really Bad

A logo is a very important part of the brand identity.  

It's the first connection most people with have with you.  

It will form their first impression.  

It is crucial that it is well planned, involves sound strategic planning, and most importantly take a step back, look at it through other eyes and see if your logo properly represents you.

I bet these companies wish they had done that.

Dying Industry

  Throughout history there are countless examples of companies that have gone out of business because as times have changed there is no longer a need for the widget that they produce.

As a matter of fact, when you look at the Industrial Revolution and the Technological Revolution there are entire industries that have become extinct.

It is obviously sad on a personal level.  The human casualties of this kind of change are tragic.  

To see the family farm that has been passed down for generations go belly up because new growing innovations has made it impossible to maintain the margins is heartbreaking.  But to subsidize the farmer, to pay them to not grow, it just further creates a welfare state.  It is healthier for the economy, and work ethic, to let evolution run its course.

During the Industrial Revolution, the world of automation eliminated jobs, businesses, entire categories.  As much as that hurts, it has to happen for growth and development.

On March 9th, we discussed the closing of the Rocky Mountain News in Denver.  It is a sad story but one of changing times.  The newspaper, as a daily printed piece, is becoming obsolete.  I mourn it's passing like everyone else.  But, I realize that it is inevitable.

I was surprised and disappointed to read an article by Mike Hughes, President of The Martin Agency, "Do Some Good: Create Newspaper Ads" begging advertising agencies to spend money on newspaper ads.  Seriously?  I appreciate that his agency serves as the Agency of Record for the Newspaper Association of America.  I realize that he is serving his client by spreading the gospel of newspaper.  But seriously.

Newspapers as an industry have shunned advertising agencies for years.  They are the only media that don't pay a standard 15% media commission to agencies when they place ads for their clients.

Newspapers are losing subscribers (and even worse readers) by the thousands every day providing less and less value to their advertisers.

Newspapers used to have a unique position of providing in depth news and fast.  At least faster than a weekly or a monthly.  That position is laughable now.  The Internet can not only provide breaking news faster it can also provide more discussion by allowing the reader to participate in the conversation.

When looking at Branding it is important to "Change The Conversation".  Mr. Hughes approach of just begging agencies to invest their clients hard earned money in a medium that provides so little return on investment is reprehensible.  Advertising agencies can't save newspapers.  

Newspapers need to change the conversation.  They need to change the business model.  They need to take what they do really well (investigate and report the news) and utilize new tools to do it better.  

The newspapers that continue to hold on to the old business model will go the way of the dinosaur.  It will be sad, but change is inevitable.

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner
The Russo Group

Mr. W

Love an ad that makes you think...

Great Spot

The following spot was made a few years ago.  Just watched it again and I am still so incredibly impressed.

606 takes before they got it right.

Actually shot, not animated.

True branding - like the car or not, it really creates an emotional connection.

Tells a story.

Highlights features and benefits of the car without a boring laundry list.

10 Reasons Why Small Agencies Rock!

Obviously, as a small agency, it greatly benefits me for everyone to love small agencies.  I want companies to realize that small agencies provide so much benefit to the community.

1 - Flexible - we never say "that's not how we do it".  Small agencies can adjust to the needs of the client, the project, or the situation.

2 - Nimble - if we don't move quickly then clients move away.  In the immortal words of Jay Chiat, when he was a small agency, "We are the nimble pirates to the rest of the advertising agencies' navy."

3 - Less (no) Bureaucracy - means less layers between client and creative.  This also mean less overhead (see #4).

4 - More Value - less expensive means a better value for your investment

5 - Direct Involvement - there is no "B" or "C" team to relegate the account to.  The principals that built the agency and made it great are actively involved.

6 - Talent - The great strategic and creative minds want to be at a shop where they can spread their wings and really make a difference.  

7 - Quality Hires - Small agencies don't have to hire 150 people in a month - we can recruit the best.

8 - Less Turnover - Which means we are able to keep our people happy and with us longer.

9 - No shareholders - With no holding company and shareholders to answer to we don't have to maintain an expected profit margin and send those profits away.

10 - Community Partners - We can actually get involved in the community and make a difference.

Having worked at large Fortune 100 companies and now for the past 8 years at a small agency.  I can tell you where I produce my best work - and have the most fun.

I love Alex Bogusky's article in Ad Age, Bogusky Loves Small Shops, where he talks about his love for small agencies and his belief that we are the future of advertising.

He is a pretty smart guy and I couldn't agree more.

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner
The Russo Group

How Important are Advertising Awards to the Agencies?

Before there were advertising awards, there were advertising agencies. In recent years though, these lines have blurred greatly, with agencies often placing more importance on the hardware they earn over the results they produce for their clients.

By the time the One Show accidentally emailed it's awards registration list to a few members of the media last week, (Ad Age, "Unwitting Email Reveals What Agencies Shell Out For Awards" Reg Req.) the advertising awards business had become a very big business on its own. Ad Age estimates that the One Show alone received about $10 million in entry fees last year. Apparently, there are some ad agencies that base their entire worth on the amount of awards they win.

Really, are you serious? Are there actually ad agencies that look at the subjective opinions of a few judges to determine the quality of their work. The importance of these awards can be summed up by the CEO of the company with the largest number of entries in this year's One Show.

As BBDO Worldwide President-CEO Andrew Robertson is quoted in Ad Age "Awards matter," he said. "They are how we measure the quality of our work against that of our competitors. BBDO aims to be the most awarded network of the year, every year. We have 287 offices trying to win awards every year. We are in them to win them."
Are clients actually motivated by the awards that their agencies win? Would you hire an agency based on that criteria? And if so, why? Does an award given from one advertising colleague to another mean they will produce better results for you? That their message will resonate with your target audience?

And while we are on the subject, how in the world can agencies justify laying off employees and then spending $10 million dollars to win a plaque? Where are their priorities?

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner
The Russo Group

Office Fun Day

Want to know what we are doing this afternoon?  

Yep, it's time for Fun Day.  

Once a month we shut down the office early and go do something fun together.

Today, we are going to see Duplicity with Julia Roberts and Clive Owen.

Each month, someone else gets to pick the date and type of activity and this month I had the pleasure.  Seemed like a movie day would be a good way to go.

Last month, it was Andy's turn and we played board games. 

Month before, Ashley sent us on a bonafide scavenger hunt all over downtown.  Well thought out and elaborate, she had us really working for it.

I think you get the picture.  Needless to say, it is fun.  But mostly, it's just a chance for us to walk away from our desks, turn off our phones and really enjoy hanging out together.

We are very fortunate that we get to work with people that we like.  So, it's a lot of fun to play for a little while.

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner
The Russo Group

Disney Sells Them By The Dozen

Disney has done a fantastic job of extending the brand while still focusing on their core mission of family fun.  There is a natural line of progression from cartoons to live action movies to tv to music to books to theme parks to merchandise.

But groceries?



Like Porsche going from sports cars to station wagons, there doesn't seem to be brand logic for Disney to go from Mickey to eggs.

This needs to be filed under "What were they thinking".

Make My Logo Bigger

This just makes us laugh out loud.

First Things First

When times are good and people are in a spending mode, most companies will do well, no matter how they market their products.  

But now, times are tight.

Purchases are evaluated very carefully.  If they don't have to buy it, then they won't.  If they do have to buy it, then they are going to weigh their options very carefully.  

Therefore, it is crucial that we are analyzing marketing decisions to ensure we spend budgets wisely.

Strategy has to come first.  Seriously.

If a company goes straight to tactics, how could they possibly know if the tactic is on strategy.   The company will waste their budget if they don't plan first.  Period.

It is far better to start with determining 'what you are going to say' and 'who you are going to say it to' before you ever start to think of 'where you want to say it'.  

Think First, Then Do.  

Plan First, Then Execute.

Strategy First, Then Tactics.

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner
The Russo Group

Good Design is Important

The 'before' (cover from 2008) and 'after' (cover from 2009) for the recycling guide for the city of Lafayette. 

Which one would compel you to pick it up?  

So many people (large companies and small) don't seem to appreciate the importance of good design.  

Perhaps it is because they don't realize the science and strategy that goes into the choices that are made during the development of the project.  Perhaps it's because they receive a first draft and don't know there is a better option out there.  

What ever the reason might be,  a strong brand has to be supported by strategic design decisions.

In the immortal words of Jef I. Richards, "Creative without strategy is called 'art'.  Creative with strategy is called 'advertising'."

Selling Hope

"In the factory we make cosmetics but in the store we sell hope." 
Revlon Founder, Max Factor

What are you selling - cosmetics or hope?

Do you sell tires or safety?

Do you sell insurance or protection?

Do you sell ads or success?

With today's harsh economic times, marketers tend to be running towards what they think is safe and will provide immediate sales.  Talking about price.  Discounting prices.  Anything just to drive sales.

If everyone is discounting prices, then the customer still has to make a choice between these newly discounted products.  That final choice to purchase will be made based on value.  

Their perception of value will be based on the brand.  How does the customer "feel" about the product.  All things being relative (and if everyone has been discounting, the prices are relative) which one makes them happy.  Which one gives them hope.  Which one feels "right".

We tend to define ourselves by the products we use "I'm a Mac" or "I'm a PC".  People feel strongly about buying Nike or Reebok.  Don't bring a Pepsi to a Coke drinker think that it will be acceptable.  Brand Loyalty is a very powerful tool.  

Brand Loyalty is not built through discounted prices.  It is built through establishing your position and staying focused on it.  

You need to sell hope not cosmetics.

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner
The Russo Group

Holiday Inn With a Shiny New Look

Recently I had the opportunity to stay at an all new Holiday Inn.  Wow.  They have really come a long way.

New construction.
New logo.
New interior design.
New layout.

Lots of nice soft seating areas with leather settees that you can just sink into.
Well appointed lobby with plasma TVs on the walls.
Nice sundries area with everything a traveler could need.
Lovely pool area with a robust exercise room.

Really nice.

Once inside the room, I checked the notepad on the desk just to make sure it actually said Holiday Inn. Sure enough.  It was a Holiday Inn.  Not like any Holiday Inn I had seen before. 

The room was lovely.  Truly lovely. Beautiful furnishings.  Well appointed. Almost like a suite. Little area with a microwave, mini-fridge, coffee pot.  Large flat screen TV on the bureau. Bedside table with a CD player.  Very spacious.  

I was almost sad that I would only be in the room for a few hours each night due to a schedule that kept me busy all day.  I would have been pretty content to just hang out in that great big king size bed with the really soft down comforter and watch TV all day.

Great stay, right?  Well, almost.  I headed into the restroom and it was great.  Beautiful marble counter top with under mount sink and sea glass tile.  Warm wood and shiny chrome.  High end.  I turned on the water in the tub and then reached for a switch to get the shower to come on. But no switch to flip for the shower.  I pulled the lever.  Nothing.  I pushed the lever.  Nothing.  I looked for a button.  Nothing.  I twisted and turned the lever.  Nothing.  I gave up and took a bath.  

The point?  Two points actually.

1 - Contrary to how it might appear, I am fully capable and can often work complicated machinery, like showers.  The point is that I bet the people at Holiday Inn think their shower is really easy to use.  They are just too close to it.  They have seen it so many times through their eyes that they stopped seeing it through the customers' eyes.  Stopped considering what the guest might be experiencing.

2 - All of the rest of their evolution was so great, and I enjoyed the experience so much, that it didn't stop me from wanting to go back.  It didn't stop me from enjoying the rest of my stay.  It didn't stop me from speaking highly about the changes to everyone I saw during my trip.

If you are genuine, your customers can and will forgive you.  People don't expect perfection.  They expect effort.  They expect an experience.  Put your best foot forward and you can be forgiven a misstep.

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner
The Russo Group

Get Real...Seriously

For all of the talk about social media, and there is a lot of it right now, the real true power of social media is to let people get to know you.  Get to know your company.  Get to know your product.  Develop your brand.

That is the first step in branding - FOCUS.  Get to know your focus and cut through the clutter to find the true thing you do best.

Traditional advertising campaigns and collateral material are great and they will probably always have a place in the world, just a smaller one now.  Those advertising components are so prepared and researched and thought out, sort of like putting on your very best suit for the job interview.  When you are dressed like that and really thinking about putting your best foot forward, it's not the real you.

Social media lets your customers get to know the real you.  Your core.  Your essence.  What you are really about.  And it's a good thing.

When a customer reads your blog, checks out your Facebook page and follows you on Twitter, they get to know your company and your product pretty well.  If it's not a match - that is great. Let's find out about it now, before we get too far into the relationship. 

You can't be all things to all people.  Don't even try.  Stand up for who you are.  Stand up for what you are.  If you are a sports car, don't try to be a station wagon too (sorry, Porsche but it's true).  

It is far better to have 25% of people fall in love with you 100% of the way, then have 100% of the people only be convinced 25% of the way.

Be real and in the words of the incredible, Aileen Bennett, "BE YOU".

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner
The Russo Group

Are You One In A Million?

Each person is special.  Truly.  

We are all a little different from each other.  

No matter which demographic or psychographic profile you use to start categorizing, there are enough points of difference that I am the only person that will ever have the exact same history and background that I do.

Why, then, do you continue to talk to me like I am one of the masses?  Why expect that the message for that person is also the right message for me.

I am a media buyer by trade and think that mass media will never go away.  but the way that it is being utilized will change.  Now you can learn so much about your consumers.  It goes beyond just age and gender, way beyond.  And you can use that information in a good way - not just in a weird stalker kind of way.

With the use of social media you can really get to know your customer.  

Talk to me.  Talk directly to me like I am the only one in the room.  

Think about how much more connected we will be.

Scripps Snips Daily in Denver

The closing of the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, Colorado leaves a city of 2.7 million without a daily newspaper.  The following video delivers a very powerful and emotional view inside the newsroom and the reporters that have had their lives turned upside down.

Everyone in advertising is watching and waiting to see if daily newspapers will evolve and grow during this digital age or continue to suffer the wrath of the changing world.


Just as Adam Hartung explains in the following article, the Rocky Mountain News isn’t the first, and I don’t think it will be the last…

Is your market soft, or has it shifted? - Newspaper failures

by Adam Hartung   

The Rocky Mountain News has folded up shop.  After 150 yearsno more newspaper in Denver, CO. (read article here).  This is newsworthy because of the size of Denver, but the trend has been obvious.  The newspaper's owner (Scripps) closed the Albuquerque Tribune and Cincinnati Post last year.  And this is just the beginning.  Hearst has already said it may well have to close the San Francisco Chronicle within weeks.  Tribune Company, parent of The Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times has filed for bankruptcy, as has  Philadelphia Newspapers which publishes the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily Journal.  The American Society of Newspaper Editors has cancelled its annual convention for 2009 (read article here.)...

How To Brand - Part 3 - HARMONY

The third and final part is where it all comes together.  This is when the Brand Launch occurs. The materials that are actually seen to the outside world.  This is truly where the magic happens.

There are hundreds of companies that have failed because of the disconnects with their brand. That is a problem with the Harmony.  The offer they promised is not what they delivered.  It is such a simple thing, but oh so important.



Harmony works to identify and then develop a series of branded touchpoints that establish trust between your brand and the consumer. This trust comes from a consistent delivery of the brand promise at all times. Connecting your touchpoints into a seamless pattern of brand unity ensures that nothing detracts from consumer expectations.

How To Brand - Part 2 - CONNECTION

The second in a three part series on Razor Branding.  

Branding isn't just the domain of really big successful companies that have millions of dollars to spend on advertising.  Companies big and small can benefit from strong branding practices.

Lots of companies have spent millions on advertising, but that is no guarantee for growth.  But every company that follows the steps to branding will succeed.



Connection establishes the voice or message of the brand making it the preferred choice over the competition.

This voice speaks clearly of your brand promise at all times, and never price points, always helping to define your one differentiating and powerfully compelling quality that resonates within the target audience's lives. Yes, it's a mouthful - but once defined, your brand becomes razor sharp, with the ability to cut through competing brands in any industry.

Tomorrow, part three...

How To Brand - Part 1 - FOCUS

There is a perception that Branding is only for large companies with million dollar budgets like Coca-Cola, Nike, Apple, etc.  It would appear that those companies bought the brand equity that makes them so valuable.

Yet, upon further analysis, those companies have just followed good branding practices.  The same branding practices that every company can follow.  There are a lot of companies that are no longer in business that spent a lot of money promoting themselves.  You can't buy a successful brand.

Just to keep us on the same page, let's review the definition of terms:

Branding is not a logo

Branding is not a business card

Branding is not a product or service

To put it simply, branding is how the consumer feels about you.  It is their emotional reaction to your product or service.

There are three parts to successful branding.  Part 1 - FOCUS.



Focus defines that one differentiating and powerfully compelling quality that makes your brand razor sharp, cutting through the clutter while making your brand known and remembered remembered because it makes a promise to your customersand/or clients, and most importantly, keeps it.

By changing the conversation we are then able to clearly define this promise within any given category. In doing so, consumers can easily understand how your particular product or service can enhance their lives. Remember, the consumer owns the brand. We cannot mandate how they feel, but you can influence it.

Tomorrow, part two...

9 types of Facebook Friends

I was very leery of Facebook at first.  Truly didn't see the point of it and openly mocked my friends who were early adopters.  Then I got sucked in.  Big time.  

I have reconnected with friends from college, friends from high school, even friends all the way back in grade school that I haven't seen in more years than I care to admit.  

My grandparents who live in San Antonio are now on FB and it is a great way for them to keep up with me and their great-grandchildren.

So, needless to say I am now a fan and have even gotten clients through this social media tool.

Through all of my time on Facebook, the following article from the San Francisco Chronicle is the best summary of the Facebook experience and the 'types of friends' that you will meet there:

The Facebook ghost

Extreme Makeover, Facebook edition

The Facebook snob


The Friend addict

The "Hey, remember me?"

The Facebook superfan

The glory days

The exhibitionist

Like just about everyone who joins Facebook, I started an account two months ago hoping to reconnect with old friends, network within my chosen profession and find out which people from my high school are still hot.

What I didn't expect was how much the online social networking community would be just like going back to 11th grade. There are fewer people wearing Depeche Mode T-shirts and more people sharing random things about themselves, and my locker combination has been replaced with a password. But the sting of rejection, the sanctimony of the popular kids, dressing up for picture day and even the random chatter in the hallways is pretty much exactly the same...

Taking it to the Streets for Tea

Bigelow Tea goes to the streets to meet customers.

Chris Brogan's post, "Put a Face To Your Brand", highlights Bigelow Tea and their 'take it to the streets' effort.  Cindi Bigelow, the President of the company, and grand-daughter of the founder, is on the streets of NYC talking to tea and coffee drinkers about their beverage choices.

I agree with Chris, having an actual person represent the brand is important in this day and age of transparency.  Although the days of fictional spokespeople will never go away completely, this is definitely a time that calls for personalization.

As great as the Bigelow 'man on the street' effort is, I am actually more impressed by the way they are using social media to expand the brand.  Posting the videos on their website, putting them out on YouTube, bloggers expanding that message - all good use of social media.  Without spending any money on advertising, they have put their message (2:30 minutes of video instead of just 30 seconds) in front of thousands.

Great job to Bigelow Tea - really makes me want to put on a pot of water and wait for the whistle.