What is your Brand Worth?

InterBrand releases an annual report on the value of companies' brands.  

As you might expect, Coca-Cola sits at the top of the list with over $66B (that's billion with a B) in brand equity.  

This number does not include trucks, factories, syrup, shelf space, etc.  

$66B for their reputation.  

$66B for how people feel about them.  

What is your brand worth?

Coke didn't start as a global company.  They grew.  If you start right now with a brand plan, how big could you grow to be?  How much value could you add to your bottom line?

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner

Baby Got Brands

Our thoughts on the state of advertising and branding today...

Change The Conversation

All businesses, products and services make promises to their consumers. It is based on a single point of differentiation, or a difference that can be authentically claimed and delivered. It is, in effect, the essence of the brand itself. If the experience as a whole does not support your promise, then the brand will either suffer, or at best, fail to build loyalty and advocacy.

What happens when your promise is ordinary?  When you promise the same thing as everyone else?

3 False Promises heard by consumers every day:
We have great customer service.
Our prices can't be beat.
Our people really set us apart.
You have to change the conversation.  You have to dig deep and really figure out what makes you different.  What makes you great.  Why should someone pick you over the competition.  

If you don't know, you better find out quick, before your competition figures out why they are better than you.

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner

Pick Me, Pick Me

Fueling New Business, a leading resource for advertising agencies across the country, holds a monthly poll to determine the best ad agency blog.  With almost 62,000 advertising agencies in America, we are honored to announce that Razor Branding Blog has been nominated as a blog of the month for April.

As a third time nominee, we are in it to win it.

If you have been a faithful reader, and enjoy Razor Branding Blog, please vote for us now by clicking here.

If you are new to Razor Branding Blog, please review our previous blog posts, links are on the right side of the page, and then click here to vote.

As they say in politics, please vote early and vote often.

We appreciate your support.

What Do You Stand For?

In the immortal words of advertising legend, Bill Bernbach:

If you stand for something, you will always find some people for you and some against you. If you stand for nothing, you will find nobody against you and nobody for you.
What do you stand for?

What does your company stand for?

What makes your product special?

Are you thinking BIG...really big?

Or do you just keep saying the same thing and hoping that something different happens?

If your company doesn't have a unique selling point, a specific difference, how can anyone choose you?  They aren't.  They are just getting you by default.

Once you stop attempting to be all things to all people and you truly commit to a path for your product and company, then people will seek you out.  

That's when people will stand up for you.

That's when people will become brand advocates for your product.

That's when you will get people in your tribe.

If a radio station played "all music", they wouldn't have any loyal listeners.  No one likes all music.  The more niche a station is, the more loyal those fans are.  Isn't better to have less fans that are more loyal?

Are you niche enough?

It's the first rule of branding - FOCUS.  Find the one differentiating and powerfully compelling *thing* that makes you great.

Once you know what it is then you have to find an interesting way to tell the world about it.

I read a story about the Aeolion piano company in New York years ago that was struggling to find something different about them.  Their pianos look like the competition (who was much better known).  Their pianos sound like the competition.  So what made them great?

Turns out, the secret ingredient was the capo d'astro bar.  This bar didn't really do anything for the first 50 years but after that it kept the harp inside the piano from warping and getting out of tune too badly. Basically, meant the piano would sound better longer and be easier and cheaper to keep in tune.

Although that is good to know and provides a point of differentiation, it's not really very interesting.  Sometimes, just having your FOCUS isn't enough, you still have to tell the story in an interesting way.  

Luckily for the Aeolian piano company, the interesting way to share that story was through the use of the Met.  The Metropolitan Opera used the piano and it was the only thing they were taking with them on their move to Lincoln Center.

Most people have trouble finding their own capo d'astro bar and an even harder time finding the interesting way to share the story about it.

Dig Deep.  Figure out what makes your product and company different and then find an interesting way to share it.  It's worth the effort.

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner

Whrrl-ing From Festival International

So it started innocently enough.  Justin Bacque says, "Hey have you heard of Whrrl?"  He explained to the rest of us in the room that it was an app that allowed users to post photos and text into a collaborative story through their mobile phones and on the web.  

We checked it out and fell in love at first site.  With the app and with Justin.

And we decided the best event to test drive the new toy would be Festival International de Louisiane.  Everyone with the app is invited to join in and there are people contributing that we just met.  It's pretty cool to tell a story of the same event from so many different vantage points. For the first two nights it will be pretty easy because we will all be together for the most point.  It will get really exciting over the weekend when we are all spread out through the 5 different stages all listening to different bands.

Festival International kicked off last night with amazing performances by The Pine Leaf Boys and Keith Frank.  Tonight the performers are from around the world:

Marc Broussard w/ surprise special guests (Louisiana)
Locos Por Juana (Colombia/Venezuela)
Ilê Aiyê (Brazil)
Tarace Boulba (France)
Chicha Libre (Peru/France/US)
Chic Gamine (Manitoba)
Ladysmith Red Lions of S. Africa (South Africa)  
Feufollet w/ The Quebe Sisters Band (Louisiana/Texas)

If you want to be a part of Festival but can't get to Downtown Lafayette, you can follow us on Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/jacirusso)  and get updates as they happen (hashtag is #festintl).

Even better you can get the photos and text all in one place at Whrrl (http://www.whrrl.com

Check out the lineup for the rest of the weekend.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Grupo Fantasma (US)
Cherish the Ladies (Ireland)
Dobet Gnahore (Ivory Coast)
Alpha Ya Ya Diallo (Guinea)
Bonerama (Louisiana)
Tarace Boulba (France)
Ilê Aiyê (Brazil)
Morikeba Kouyate Kora Connection (Senegal) 
Quebe Sisters Band (Texas)
Zulu Connection (Louisiana)
Sherman Robertson (Louisiana)
Corey Ledet (Louisiana)
Divine Jones (Louisiana)
Cedric Watson w/ Lil' Buck Sinegal (Louisiana)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Rachid Taha (Algeria)
Locos Por Juana (Colombia/Venezuela)
Orange Blossom (France)
Zachary Richard (Louisiana)
Grupo Fantasma (Texas)
Dengue Fever (Cambodia/US)
Malajube (Québec)
Dobet Gnahore (Ivory Coast)
Cherish the Ladies (Ireland)
Tarace Boulba (France)
Crocodile Gumboot Dancers of South Africa (S. Africa) 
Zulu Connection (Louisiana)
David Egan & 20 Years of Trouble (Louisiana)
Chicha Libre (Peru/France/US)
Les Chevres a Pul (Belgium)
Rupa and the April Fishes (India/France/US)
Ladysmith Red Liona of S. Africa (S. Africa)
Firecracker Jazz Band (US)
Bombes 2 Bal (France)
Bertrand Laurence (France)
Coatimundi (France)
Balfa Toujours (Louisiana)
Cedric Watson & Bijou Creole (Louisiana)
Chic Gamine (Manitoba)
Genticorum (Québec)
TBC Brass Band (Louisiana)
Quebe Sisters Band (Texas)
Red Stick Ramblers w/ Firecracker Jazz Band (Louisiana/US)
Louisiana Folk Roots presents: A Tribute to Walter Mouton (Louisiana)
Louisiana Folk Roots presents: International Fiddle Summit (Various)
Louisiana Folk Roots presents: The France-Louisiana Connection w/ Bombes 2 Bal (France/Louisiana)
Peter Villegas (Wyoming)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Rootz Underground (Jamaica)
Dengue Fever (Cambodia/US)
Alpha Ya Ya Diallo (Guinea)
Orange Blossom (France)
Crocodile Gumboot Dancers of S. Africa (S. Africa)
Rupa and the April Fishes (India/France/US)
Malajube (Québec)
Tarace Boulba (France)
Ladysmith Red Lions of S. Africa (S. Africa)
Genticorum (Québec)
Les Chèvres à Pull (Belgium)
Masankha Banda (Malawi)
Zulu Connection (Louisiana)
Roddie Romero & the Hub City Allstars (Louisiana)
Lil Buck Sinegal (Louisiana)
Racines (Louisiana)
Lil Nathan & the Zydeco Big Timers (Louisiana)
Horace Trahan & Matt Doucet w/ The Bluerunners (Louisiana)
Peter Villegas (Wyoming)
Worship With a Purpose Gospel Singers (Louisiana)

So the weather is beautiful.  There are 500 bands from around the world.  Food vendors on every corner.  It's going to be a great Festival.  Hope you can be a part of it.

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner

It's All Changing So Fast

It seems like the whole world is all changing so fast.  This video from Convergence 09 explains that it isn't in my head.  The world really is changing very quickly.

Content Is King

For years the entertainment industry has been preaching the value of content. Once they realized that they could leverage properties across multiple platforms, the entire business model changed.

Look at feature films, for example.  The money that a movie earns during it's theatrical release is now the smallest part of the overall earnings.  A film can generate earnings through product placement, merchandise, pay-per-view, DVD, foreign distribution, cable, ringtones, soundtrack, sequels and more.  

Great content can provide a return on investment for years to come.

Online, this same business model is manifesting itself in an entirely different way.  When it comes to the internet, content is now also becoming king.  But not because one property can be leveraged through multiple platforms over years to come.  Online the power of content is through engagement.

The new rule of thumb online is as follows:

"Aggregate, Edit, Contextualize"

Think about the show "The Soup".  The entire show is based on gathering clips by editing other shows, pulling out the best ones, adding funny commentary and voila, a tv show.

That is what is happening on the most popular websites every day.  Gathering information from across the web, cutting through the non-applicable clutter, and providing insight (or humor) for the rest.

Is your content worth the aggregation?  Are you providing a voice that people want to listen to? Or will you be an aggregator?  Will you be on the lookout for great points of view?  This is where we are headed, and the future is now.

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner

Whrrl-ing Festival International de Louisiane

If you have never had the pleasure to travel to Historic Downtown Lafayette, Louisiana during the last full week of April to be a part of Festival International, this year you can have the chance to experience it as never before.

First, let me explain a little bit about Festival International.  As they tell it, Festival is:

Festival International de Louisiane is a community-based, non-profit arts organization formed in 1986 to produce an annual visual and performing arts festival celebrating the French cultural heritage of southern Louisiana – primarily a combination of French, African, Caribbean and Hispanic influences. The largest outdoor, FREE Francophone event in the U.S., the Festival places special emphasis on highlighting the connections between Acadiana and the Francophone world. Each year performing, visual and culinary artists from Europe, Africa, Canada, the Caribbean and the Americas are invited to share their talents with Louisiana artists, residents and visitors.

Since its creation, Festival International de Louisiane has become famous as a premier presenter of some of the most unique world musicians and performances in the United States. Popular Louisiana artists such as Aaron Neville, Dr. John, Irma Thomas, Allan Toussaint, Zachary Richard, Sonny Landreth, Beausoleil, Buckwheat Zydeco, Boozoo Chavis, Amedee "Bois Sec" Ardoin, D.L. Menard, Terrance Simien, C.J. Chenier, Geno Delafose, Marc Broussard, Marcia Ball, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Canray Fontenot and Buddy Guy have all performed on our stages.

To me, Festival is 5 days with 350,000 people and 500 bands from all around the world all gathered right outside the front door of my office.  Festival is good food, good friends and a great time.  Festival is laid back and relaxed.  Festival is 7 stages of music.  Festival is street food on every corner.  Festival is kids playing in the fountain in the park.   

During Festival we become very popular with an office right in the center of it all.  We represent a bathroom with no line, a place to change the baby's diaper, a quiet place to rest up and plan which stage to visit next.  

We LOVE Festival.

But this year we are going to enjoy it in a whole new way.  One of our favorite people, Justin Bacque, has introduced us to Whrrl.  And we love it - well, them - both Justin and Whrrl.

Whrrl is an app where people can collaborate on a story with photos and text in real time and share it online through Facebook, Twitter and the web.  It uses the gps on smartphones and there are mobiles apps for Iphone and Blackberry so everyone at an event with the app can all tell the story from their perspective. 

So, we are going to Whrrl Festival.  If you are in Historic Downtown Lafayette this week, be a part of the story.  Download Whrrl and jump in.  If you aren't able to travel here for the festivities, be a part of it online.  You can friend us on Facebook or Twitter and then check out the story as it is unfolds.  

Please comment as we go.  The more participation the better.  We want this to be a community event.  Tom Martin did a great job of sharing his Mardi Gras experience through Twitter.  This will be like that but with a dozen of us all contributing to the same story.

Cross your fingers and let's see how it turns out.

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner

The Domino's Effect

Domino's Pizza is facing a communications crisis of the highest priority.

The quick version of events is as follows:

Two employees made a video in the kitchen of a North Carolina franchise doing really gross things to the food. Then they posted the video on YouTube and it was viewed over one million times before the company found out.

Sales have now been impacted. Domino's has had to spend quite a bit of time and money in damage control. The two employees are being threatened with the prospect of arrest and possibly a lawsuit.

The company demanded that YouTube pull down the offending video. The CEO created a response video. Domino's has created a twitter account to battle the story within the social media space.

Domino's Pizza defends reputation on Twitter after YouTube video shows employees abusing food. by Jessica Shankleman www.Telegraph.co.uk

Domino's Pizza has defended its reputation on Twitter after an employee posted a video on YouTube showing a staff member abusing food at the fast food restaurant.

To read more and see the CEO response video, click here

Could this have all been avoided?

Sure. When we work with brands whether they are regional or national, the first thing we encourage is the creation of a social media policy.

Some of the policies are as simple as "Be Nice." When you think about it, that really covers most issues. Another has been "Don't do anything you wouldn't want to tell your mom about." Unfortunately, these days that doesn't really cover everything.

Most companies, however, have a document that is drafted by legal and very clearly defines exactly what is and is not allowed. All the way down to some subjects that require corporate approval before posting a reply.

No company today can afford to not have a social media section included in their employee handbook. Even if your company isn't online, you can guarantee your employees are.

We learned this lesson a few years ago and in a very painful way. One of our team members at the time had a picture on her My Space page engaged in activity that I am quite certain she would not do in front of her mother (body shots). With a number of churches as clients there was a potential for a very large problem.

Our policy is very simple:

1 - No discussion of clients at all
2 - No trash talking about co-workers
3 - No nudity or blatant profanity

It might be simple but it pretty much covers most circumstances.

How to handle Social Media in the workplace:

1 - Participation Policy - Set up a social media policy and educate everyone on the importance of social media and maintaining an appropriate reputation.

2 - Usage Policy - When can employees go online? Is it considered a work exercise or personal time?

3 - Reputation Monitoring - Who is watching online for mentions of the company and employees in each of these spaces? Domino's problem would have been non-existent if they had noticed the video before one million people viewed it.

If Domino's had followed these simple steps, they could have avoided most of the headache that they have had to face for the past week.

Is your company ready? Do you have a social media policy in place? If not, you need one, today.

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner
The Russo Group

Bring Back The Jingle

I had the opportunity to speak to Maggie's Kindergarten class during Career Day last week.

This is an incredibly humbling experience and I recommend it for every parent that wants to really appreciate how hard their teacher works. And how little their big important job is to a group of kids.

It started easy enough.

I went "on" after the nurse. Figure that she had probably scared the heck out of them with her talk of being sick and having to get immunized. Surprisingly, six year olds are actually not very fond of shots.

So, I thought I would have it made. Not so much.

First of all, the concept of branding is really hard for a six year old to grasp. I forgot the first rule in advertising - speak to your consumer in their language.

Luckily, we have done quite a bit of work for Feld Entertainment over the years so we started talking about Ringling Brother's Circus and Playhouse Disney as well as Disney on Ice and the Wiggles. Now I had their attention - as fleeting as that might be.

The merchandise seemed to really get their attention. When they could see and touch a dvd or blanket they were engaged.

Then the class really got interested when we talked about jingles. It was amazing.

This group of 19 excited and rambunctious kids all immediately sat still and started thinking of "songs" that they had heard on tv.

Now advertising made sense to them.

One by one they started naming different jingles and then singing them.

"Give me that vanilla fish, give me that fish" (McDonald's Fillet of Fish)

"I can go go go on my hover round. Indoors out all over town." (HoverRound)

"Five dollar foot long. Five dollar foot loooong." (Subway)

They really came to life when we talked about these jingles. They knew the words (for the most part). They responded to the music. They knew the products.

What happened to jingles?

There were great ones:

"Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz. Oh what a relief it is."

"Rice A Roni. The San Francisco Treat."

"My bologna has a first name it O-s-c-a-r, My bologna has a second name it M-a-y-e-rOh I love to eat it every day And if you ask my why I'lll saaaaaaay,Cause Oscar Mayer has a way with B-o-l-o-g-n-aaaaaaaaa"

What jingles do you remember? Which ones got stuck in your head and you couldn't get them out? Ahh, the good old days.

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner
The Russo Group

You Have To Listen To The Conversation

One of the best points about social media is the ability to hear what is going on.  You can listen for your name, for your company and products, as well as your competitors.

There are great stories of companies like Comcast that have used tools like Twitter to listen to their customers and provide solutions to their problems.  Thereby raising their customer satisfaction surveys to much higher levels.

But Delta Airlines is obviously not listening.  I was on a flight from New Orleans to New York on Monday that should have lasted 3 hours.  

We were stuck on the plane for 9 hours.  The weather in New York prevented us from taking off for a little while so we sat on the tarmac at MSY for about 45 minutes.  The flight was very turbulent and a few passengers got sick.  We were held at the outer marker until we got low on fuel and then we were diverted to Dulles.  

Landed in DC to refuel and the pilot told us that we would have to wait about 30 minutes and then we could take off for La Guardia.

One problem.  We aren't idiots.  It's a Monday morning so what do you think we are doing?  Working on our laptops and iphones.  One quick search online and it is pretty easy to find out that Newark is shut down and La Guardia has delays of up to 4 hours. So why give misinformation to a plane full of business people with access to the internet.

A number of people on the plane are using Twitter and sharing the experience online.  The tweets are being retweeted so at this point thousands of people are going through this with us.

But no response from Delta.

The pilot announces that there is a one time opportunity to get off the plane if you are interested but Delta will not release the bags from the cargo area and they are not responsible for you once you get off the plane.  You are on your own.  A few passengers who have urgent business or connecting flights in NYC take the offer and head for the nearest Amtrak station.  My meetings didn't start until Tuesday so I was okay.

We boarded at 6:30am for a 3 hour flight and it is now past noon.  Passengers are getting hungry.  We ask about ordering pizza or being allowed to go into the terminal to get food.  Can't leave the plane - even to go to the terminal.

The flight attendant offers snack service.  I pick one of the cute little mini cans of pringles and some grapes.  Imagine my surprise when she informs me that it will be $9.  I ask if she is serious and her reply is that bad weather is not her fault.  

I am stunned.  We are stuck on the plane, not given many options, and yet they want to charge for a snack.  More people start twittering.  Passengers are pissed off.

But no response from Delta.

We are finally cleared to take off for a very turbulent flight into New York.  A few more people get sick.  All in all we were on the plane for close to nine hours and there were hundreds of tweets sent.

But no response from Delta.

In this day and age every company has to be listening online for their name.  It's your golden opportunity to address a problem as soon as it happens.  

Crises Communications 101:  Respond quickly and with the truth.

Hard to believe that Delta doesn't have a program in place to tackle situations like this.  People don't need lifetime free flight to make them feel better.  They just want to be heard.

Are you listening?

Jaci Russo 
Sr. Partner
The Russo Group

What About The Weight of The Books?

There is a story about an architect who designed this beautiful library.  It was beautiful and the culmination of a career.  The only problem is that it sank a few inches each year and eventually had to be condemned.  He didn't think about the weight of the books.  

I'm not sure if this story is real or not, heard it from Ted Mosby on "How I Met Your Mother."  But I want to think that it is true.  

It really applies when I think about in-house marketing departments.  By working on the same client day in and day out, there is no one there to remind them about the weight of the books.

The lack of fresh  input shows in the lack of strategy, the lack of consumer insights, and the poor creative concepts.  

Why would a company rather invest in the salaries and benefits of a full time staff rather than hiring an agency that can provide great branding, effective creative and measurable results?

I realize that I am probably offending a large number of in-house groups, but maybe it's time to face the facts.  Most of the work from in-house groups is substandard.  They aren't paying attention to the trends.  They aren't staying ahead of the curve with digital tactics.  They have to spend their time playing political games and worrying about getting a promotion.  They are hiring people that couldn't work at agencies.  With no drive for innovation and no challenge to do it better and no chance for cross industry pollination, in-house groups don't stand a chance.

Hire an agency.  They are always thinking about the weight of the books.

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner
The Russo Group

Mind Reading - The Ultimate Super Power for Branding

On St. Patrick's Day, a leprechaun visited the Pre-K and Kindergarten classrooms at school.  Much to the delight of our daughters, the leprechaun messed up papers, turned the teacher's chair upside down and left footprints on the students' tables.  

Their visit was the center of discussion at dinner that night.  Maggie, 6, informed all of us that if you caught a leprechaun, you could have one wish.  I asked her what she would wish for and she gave it deep thought and decided "all of the superpowers".  

Jordan, 8, said there were too many things on her list to choose just one and asked if she could force the leprechaun to give her more than one wish.  (This should be great insight into her personality and how difficult the next 10 years will be for us.)

Molly, 5, said that she would want to be Katie because Katie has straight hair, no freckles, and most importantly, doesn't pick her nose.  Ummm, okay.

After I stifled laughter I started to think about super powers in the context of my job.  What super powers would be best for us to have as a branding agency that would most benefit our clients.

Mind Reading.  

Yep, Matt Portman Heroes-style mind reading.

How great would that be. Talk about consumer insights.  Real genuine consumer insights, not just what the loud mouth in the focus group thinks makes her sound cool.

But, then I realized that we are developing that power now.  Social Media gives us the power to read minds.  To eavesdrop on people's conversations.  To see them actually interacting with the products in their own lives, not just in a staged test in the lab.  To hear people around the world talk about a product...good or bad.  If they hate it, you will quickly find out why as they tell all of their friends.  If they love it, you can just quickly realize it when they turn in to brand advocates.

Branding is all about the emotional connection that a consumer has with a product or company.  Social media is the perfect set of tools to hear if that emotional connection is being formed or not.

Ahh, to be a fly on the wall and eavesdrop on all of those conversations...what an incredible super power.

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner
The Russo Group

Can Design Save The Newspaper?

As we watch daily newspapers go out of business in major markets, there is an incredible shift occuring in our industry.  I was floored when I read 

In March, I wrote about print, specifically the daily paper, being a Dying Industry.  In that post, I wrote,

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.
To spend money in newspapers today, as they are losing subscribers and readers by the day is a mistake.  This has been a very hard concept for a number of designers who love the elegance of a well crafted print ad as well as to a number of readers who can't imagine not having the experience of starting the day with a cup of coffee and the morning newspaper.

We were beginning to think that all was lost until this video popped up.  Maybe there is hope for the daily newspaper.  Maybe they can really go through a true paradigm shift and turn the whole industry around.  Just maybe...

Top Agency Mistakes

Hearing about how other agencies do it is a great way for us to learn how not to do it.  This group of panelists talking about mistakes that other agencies have made is truly educational.  I can definitely file it under "What were they thinking?".

Pause Before Panic

Why do people go straight to panic?

Why not ask questions first then decide if there is a reason to freak out?

Wouldn't the world be a better place if everyone took a deep breath and asked questions before jumping to the conclusion that there is a problem.

Our corporate culture is pretty relaxed.  Don't get me wrong, we take our job very seriously.  We work very hard and give our clients total commitment.  But, when it comes down to it, we are laid back.  

Dress code, unless you are going to a client's office, is jeans.  Some days it might even include baseball caps and tshirts.  We think you have to be comfortable to do your best work.

Humor is an important part of the day.  We laugh with each other.  We laugh at each other.  We laugh at others around us.  We genuinely spend a good part of every day laughing.

We enjoy each other.  It helps that we greatly respect each other's work.  We have all worked for large (Fortune 100/500) companies in big markets (LA, Seattle, Dallas, NY) and made a conscious decision to return to our hometown and work for a smaller agency.  We remember what it was like in those big firms and we want to be the opposite.

We don't have to cover our asses.  There is no blame game - no CYA.  No one is looking to get their teammates in trouble.  No one is going around looking to blame.  Mistakes happen, we are human, but when they happen we look for how to improve the process to prevent that same mistake from happening again. 

Some of our clients aren't so lucky.  Some of them don't work in fun, laid back, team driven companies.  So, at the first hint that there might be something wrong, they push the panic button.  They assume the worst and call us, all worked up, in a full blown panic.

If you ask first, then you will know if there is a problem or not.

If you ask first, then you can lower your blood pressure.

If you ask first, then it is a lot easier to find out what is going on.

If there needs to be a panic, you will have time for that after you find out for sure.

Pause before your panic.  Your heart, and your agency, will thank you.

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner
The Russo Group

6 Naming Styles

The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier, is a great book on branding.  Gets to the point very quickly with regards to what is a brand and more importantly what isn't.

A brand is not a logo.

A brand is not a paper system or business card.

A brand is not a product.

A brand is not a company.

Simply put, a brand is someone's gut feeling, their emotional reponse, to a product or company.

Basically a brand is a reputation. 

You can't control your brand because you can't control how people think or feel.  

Naming is obviously an important part of the brand identity, like the logo or the business card.  The name is usually the first point of contact that a potential customer has.  

Josh Levine outlines the 6 naming styles.  You can read more about it here.  Good stuff.

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner
The Russo Group

The “Brand” of Professional Baseball's Demise

Strikes, new stadiums, steroids, inflated ego’s, entitlement, scandals, media sensationalism, ridiculous contracts, overpriced tickets, play for pay mentalities, greed – just of few of the reasons why the brand of American baseball is slowly dieing.

Now, to be perfectly honest, I can’t claim to be the biggest fan of professional baseball, but it would be hard not to appreciate its affect on our history, culture and national identity. Names like Ruth, DiMaggio, Aaron and Mantle live on to this day, reminding us of baseball’s glorious past.

In recent years though, baseball has taken quite a beating. Sure, stadiums still get filled and jerseys still sell, but for the most part, baseball has begun to lose its luster. If you want proof of this, all you need to do is turn on your TV. It seems that every day there is a new contract dispute, allegation of steroid use or the demolition of another historic ballpark. Unfortunately, baseball seems to have lost its way. They have forgotten their promise to their fans, their history and their legacy.

But there is hope.

This past Saturday I attended the opening day ceremonies of my son’s Little League, and over the course of the next few hours, witnessed why generation after generation of Americans remain loyal to the game. And even though the world of professional baseball seems to have forgotten them, they have refused to forget the game.

The reality is, baseball does not live in million dollar stadiums, but rather, in small parks and in small towns all over the country. There, people are reminded of a time when all of the problems of the world could be solved on a baseball field. All that was needed was a glove, ball, bat and a few good friends – something I was able to experience as I watched 300 young boys line up on the diamond for the season’s first pitch.

Hats were placed over each of the player’s hearts as the anthem played on this cool spring morning – each of them dreaming of making that one great play on the field. I doubt many of them were worrying about future contracts, the media or deciding whether or not to cheat in order get ahead. No, I think they were simply enjoying the game itself.

While the brand of professional baseball may be damaged, it is not beyond repair. In order to fix it though, the powers that be must remind themselves of their promise to their fans. Their promise to not only produce good baseball, but to also protect an American treasure that each year gets further and further out of control. They must remind themselves of what it was like to play the game when it was still just a game.

Michael J. Russo
Creative Director
The Russo Group

Thank You Dutch

Recently I attended a state-wide portfolio review for graduating college seniors, and while I appreciated the opportunity help the future generation of design professionals, I left wondering if we have lost something in recent years. It might be the proliferation of technology, or perhaps the times we live, but I could not help but notice a change in both attitudes and more importantly the work being produced.

To be clear, I met with some very bright students who showed great promise – but for the most part, their work failed to embrace the modern trends in our industry and culture, and more importantly, the creative spirit that students normally display. Basically, I wasn’t wowed. So, what’s the deal?

I know the next part of this will sound like and old dad who tells his kids how they don’t know how good they have it – followed by the story of how I walked to school in the snow, uphill, both ways. Never the less, when I went to school, we were challenged every day – learning that through quantity comes quality. Whether being assigned 300 logos on the first day of class, or hand lettering entire paragraphs of copy with a rapidograph pen, we learned quickly that hard work was the key to success. Our often hated and sometimes loved instructor, Mr. Dutch Kepler – or simply, Dutch, gave these assignments to us, which at the time seemed pointless.

Dutch and I had many battles during my senior year, which on several occasions had him politely asking me to leave his class for the day. I say politely, but it was probably more like, “Russo, get the hell out of my sight.” I like to think there was always a lesson buried beneath his rants. Perhaps he was teaching me to be passionate about my work, or perhaps he expected more. Either way, it forced me to decide whether I was ready for this profession. This meant long hours, sleepless nights, and a commitment to dig deep in the pursuit of excellence – no computers and no fancy photoshop filters, just the eternal search for the best idea.

Unfortunately, these same principles seem to have been lost in recent years. I see it every day – recent graduates with poorly put together books, resumes with typos, and expectations of a corner office and the keys to a ready-made career. Few seem to understand the process of learning the trade, or the responsibility that comes when someone entrusts you with the future of their business.

So, I would like to challenge those still in pursuit of a career in advertising or design, to raise the bar a bit, and get serious about what lies ahead. I would like to also thank Dutch for that 300 logos project on the first day of class. It made me realize that we have to believe we can do the impossible in order for us to make the impossible happen.

Michael J. Russo
Creative Director
The Russo Group

Create an Emotional Connection For Your Brand

There are some spots that so completely sum up the brand, so totally make a true emotional connection that they perfectly accomplish the strategy.  The spot resonates and forms a bond.

This ad from Coke does exactly that.

Yet, this one does not.  I don't get it.  At all.  I don't understand how it enhances the brand or forms an emotional connection. You?