Advertising in the Real World

This is to all of my friends who work in other fields (doctors, lawyers, teachers, accountants, etc.) and read this blog to be supportive (and because I often question you to see if you read it thoroughly).  I know you often wonder EXACTLY what it is like at my job every day. 

Here you go.  

I think this vignette does a fantastic job of explaining what it is really like to work in the field of advertising right now.

Oh, you are going to call or email me later and tell me how funny that video is and secretly you will think that I am kidding.

I'm not.

This is really what it is like.

And to clients, current and potential, if (and when) you act like this, don't be surprised to find this video waiting for you in your email inbox.


Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner

Make a Glocal Connection

As your business grows to become more global, it is crucial that you keep a local connection in each community you serve.  

Most communities pride themselves on supporting "Local First".  

Green conscious consumers would rather buy a local product that hasn't left a ginormous carbon footprint to get to the store shelf.

As citizens become more aware of the impact of economic development on the community, the desire is to "keep the dollars circulating locally" rather than sending profits out of market.

The way you reach consumers has to be local as well.  

Get into the market.  Learn the community.  Know the people.

For media buyers, if you are just pulling out the demo and media guides then you are failing your clients.

Approach each market as if you are going to live there.  Who are they?  What are they like? Where do they eat?  Where do they shop?  Which schools are best?  Which neighborhoods?  Who goes to what church?  Where do they work out?  

How can you motivate an entire community to embrace your product and spend their hard earned money on your company if you haven't even bothered to get to know them.

If you met one of these townspeople at a party, would you introduce yourself by saying, "Hi, please buy me, I'm the best."

Of course not.  You would learn their name.  How many kids do they have?  What are their hobbies?  Make their acquaintance before you start selling them something.

Think global but act local.  Be Glocal.

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner

9 Signs You've Over Extended Your Brand

When a tv show "Jumps the Shark" you just know it's time is coming to an end. It's a sign that the writers have run out of ideas and now they will just try anything to keep their viewers and attract new ones.  The name comes from the later years of Happy Days when Fonzie actually jumped over a shark while water skiing.

Companies do this sometimes with their products.  Instead of introducing a long lost relative back from the dead with a dark secret, companies introduce products that don't relate to the current lines.  

This over extension of the brand can prevent the new product from taking off and do irreparable damage to the previously established products.  9 biggest brand over extensions are:

Dump Your Demo - Porsche is all about speed and a fast lifestyle.  Think drug dealing burnout William Hurt in The Big Chill.  Station wagon what?!  How do you go from being the car on a poster in a teenage boy's bedroom to being in the garage of a suburban housewife.  What self-respecting man in his mid-life crises can buy a Porsche now?

Diss Your Own Name - The name of the company is Kentucky FRIED Chicken but they are now pushing grilled chicken.  The new tagline is "Taste the UnFRIED taste of KFC." They are selling against their own name.   

Abandon Your Core Competency - Pizza Hut is now pushing pasta.  Are they changing the name to Pasta Hut?  Will they no longer sell pizza?

Lost the Macho that Made You Cool - Harley Davidson, loved by leather wearing lawyers round the world introduced cake decorating kits.  Not really as tough as the brand should be.

Clean it instead of cook it - Heinz, well known for their ketchups, launched a cleaning vinegar. How do you go from food to cleaning supplies?

You Fly and I'll Buy - From a company famous for it's chicken wings and scantilly clad waitresses comes...wait for it...Hooter's Airlines.  Really?  Because a person that can get the wing sauce just right is exactly the same person that I want flying a 747.

Ignore the drinking age - Sony Playstation has carved out a great niche with video games featuring incredible graphics, great story lines and a very loyal following of pre-pubescent boys. Which is exactly why Sony Playstation should have never even admitted out loud that they were thinking about wine glasses and champagne flutes, much less actually put them on the market.

Make Promises For Your Customers - The Virgin Group has done a fantastic job leveraging the brand of Richard Branson through airlines, music mega stores and more.  I would love to have been in the meeting when they decided to open stores in the UK that would sell wedding dresses and call it, Virgin Brides.

Stink up the Smell - People go to coffee shops for great tasting coffee and the warm relaxing smell of home.  So why in the world would cold, stark, fluorescent, smells-like-a-hamburger-and grease decide to launch McDonald's Gourmet Coffee.  That is an oxymoron.   Yikes.

Brand extensions must be carefully considered.  The company has to branch out within the brand for it to be successful now.  Don't fall into any of these traps.  Always remember that if you find your niche it will make you rich.

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner

The Art of Branding a Cause

Chances are good that you have either donated your time or written a check to help a worthy cause. 

But have you ever truly gotten involved?

Our job, as a branding agency, is to build loyal followers for our clients. When that organization happens to be cause oriented, we work hard to find those who will not just cut a check, but also those who will invest their heart and soul behind the cause. 

Yes, there is often little money involved with not-for-profit agencies, but as Mr. Albert Einstein said, “It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it.”

So how does one build a brand for a not-for-profit organization or a cause, while building a strong base of loyal followers and advocates?

Well, first off, you have to stop thinking of yourselves as a not-for-profit, and start believing that you are, in fact, a business.

I know this sounds harsh, but in today’s world, we have to fight for attention, awareness and money. You have to also understand your competition – and make no mistake, you have competition.

Competition for not-for-profits is growing every day as more and more organizations join the fight to better the world.

While this may be good for society, it is problematic when everyone is dipping into the same pool. Throw in a troubled economy and an audience that appears to have lost faith in charitable organizations, and you have a more than a few challenges to deal with. 

In order to rise above the noise and make your voice heard, you must first identify your audience, and no, your audience is not “everyone with a pulse". You have to seek out those who will connect most with your mission and cause. These core members of your tribe will provide the advocacy that no ad campaign or billboard can provide.

Next, you need to identify your promise – 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. 

Once your promise is established, you need to find your voice and work to “change the conversation.”

Your voice is your identity, or your personality as it is viewed by the world. It establishes a consistent delivery of your message that will resonate with your core audience. Changing the conversation then provides the public with a way to easily understand how your mission can enhance their lives and the lives of those within their community. 

While we cannot mandate how our audience feels, we can influence their behavior – by giving them something to connect on an emotional level with your brand.

There is so much more that goes into building a strong brand, but hopefully this will get you thinking about the possibilities that are out there – but there is a catch. You can’t do this on your own.

As good stewards of donors’ money, or the lack of funds in general, many not-for-profit agencies attempt to do everything themselves, or hire a board member’s best friend’s niece to develop their brand. The problem is, you get what you pay for, and being that you are paying nothing, that is generally what you get.

Now, I am not suggesting you go into debt hiring an agency, but I am saying that you should be prepared to spend something. Most agencies will be more inclined to donate their time when something (anything) is offered in return. 

Our agency charges pennies on the dollar when we work with not-for-profits. We do this to level the playing field by forcing not-for-profit agencies to respect the value of our work, and never abuse our time – the number one reason most reputable firms refuse to take on charity work.

The value of a strong brand is worth as much as the building you are housed in, and if your roof is caving in, you would want a professional to fix it – same principle applies when you are looking to improve your brand.

Michael Russo
Creative Director

To be Free or To be Premium - That is the Question

Chris Anderson, Wired Editor-in-Chief, has written a new book called Free! Why $0.00 is the Future of Business and will be giving it away for free.  

Using the example of King Gillette, Anderson details the discovery of the disposable razor, giving it away free through banks ('save and shave' campaigns) and creating a new business model with profits coming from the sale of the blades.

Free works when it is funded by a recurring sale from another source, such as buy the game console cheap and spend big bucks on the games or buy get the cell phone free but pay for the monthly service.  

Free also works when it is supported by ads and sponsorships.  Almost all of Google's products are free because they are supported by advertisers.  And Google has used that business model to great success through the dot com bust and a down economy.

But then compare that to the opposite end of the spectrum, premium products are commanding premium prices.  Companies like Whole Foods are demanding, and getting, top dollar for the experience of being in the store.  

Products are getting top dollar for the perception that they are made better and are healthier than the others in the category.  Think about $5 Kashi cereal compared to Post at $2 and $6 organic milk compared to $3 store brand.

There are two paths in the woods.  Which one will you choose?

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner

Twitter Tips (Twips)

Tune in every Monday at 5:20pm to KPEL 105.1 for "Branding The Conversation: Using social media tools to expand your brand".  Today's topic is Twitter.  

The following guide will explain what Twitter is, How it works, and why you should use it.

What is Twitter?

Twitter is a free web-based service that allows users to post short messages, of up to 140 characters, just like a text message. Twitter also has social elements, allowing users to “follow” each other.  When you follow somebody on twitter you instantly receive their updates and if they follow you, then they will receive your updates as well.  As Twitter co-founder Biz Stone describes it, “Twitter is fundamentally a broadcast system.”


Why use Twitter?

There are a number of reasons to use Twitter.  Primarily, because it is best to fish where the the fish are.  With millions of people using Twitter, and more joining daily, it makes sense to be a part of the conversation.


Listen:  Twitter is the modern day water cooler.  Listening to Twitter can keep you up to date on trends and events as they happen, the airplane landing on theHudson was reported first on Twitter.  In addition, you can listen for your name, your company, and your product and get a feel for your brand.


Respond:  The ability to eavesdrop on Twitter is equivalent to superhero powers.  When you read that someone is disappointed with your product or service, respond to them.  People want to be heard, they want to know that you care.


Conversation:  Your consumers want to get to know you and they want you to know them.  Twitter provides the opportunity to converse with thousands of people easily.


Share:  Twitter is a great way to promote your content.  Have a new video, new post on your blog, new product launch…share it on Twitter and let the world know about it.


Branding:  Twitter will allow your followers, and potentially your consumers, to get to know you. Your brand is not your logo or your product, your brand is how people feel about you.  It’s your reputation. 


Feedback:  Want to know what color of your product that your customers like best?  Want to know if there is interest in your new product?  Ask your followers. This feedback is a great tool for R&D.


How do you start?

Click here to download a white paper (click on Tips on Twitter) with step by step directions to set up your account as well as a glossary of terms and 3rd party apps that make Twitter even more useful.


Jaci Russo

Sr. Partner

The Russo Group

Long Live the Commodity

Branding works because it is based on an emotional connection.

Commodities are difficult to brand because there is no emotion for that connection:  flour is flour, sugar is sugar.

Establishing value and developing a Unique Brand Position are very difficult.  What makes this flour better than that flour?  

Doesn't it all come down to awareness at that point?  The flour that I am most familiar with, the name I know, will be the choice I make.

What are you doing to make sure you have mind share with your consumer?

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner

Are You Monet?

Claude Monet was part of the Impressionist movement in France.  

Thanks in large part to the movie Clueless, Monet's name became synonymous with something that looks great from a distance but upon investigation is found to be not as pretty up close.

So, Mr. Client, is there an aspect of your business that might be a little Monet?  Perhaps in operations?  Or maybe customer service processes?

If your company looks great from a distance but up close there are some chinks in the armor, then no amount of advertising is going to fix your brand.  Marketing isn't going to solve the actual problem.  Get your house in order before you invite people over to visit.  

Or maybe your Monet is that you don't have an actual point of differentiation?  You claim the same features and benefits as everyone else in your category.  Seriously?  Don't you do anything that is better or different than the others?  If not, then you have to change.  Talk to your consumers and find out what they need that no else is providing.  

Be great inside and out.  Look good from a distance and up close.  Don't be Monet.  

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner


What's The Message?

"The medium is the message."  
  Marshall McLuhan, 1964

In 1964 Marshall McLuhan published the book "Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man". In it, he proposed that media itself, not the content, should be the focus of study.  

Easy for him to say, there were only about a half a dozen different media in the whole country.  A few television networks, a couple of radio stations, a monthly magazine and a daily newspaper or two.

If I had been a media buyer in 1964, it probably would have only taken about an hour a day to do my job.  No wonder they had all that free time for three martini lunches.

Times have changed.  The medium is most definitely not the message anymore.  Now the message is the message.  

It's about content.  

It's about connection.  

It's about relevance.  

It's about differentiation.

What are you about?  Are you still hoping that reaching a lot of people is how you will sell your product.  Think again.  It's not about reaching the most people.  The mission now is to have the deepest connection.

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner

Let's Hang Out in Atlanta

I am so honored and excited to be a speaker at this great 2 day event in Atlanta. We will work with companies to leverage social media to make their businesses more profitable.  

A two day event for generating new business

Agencies need to know how to leverage social media for new business. There are numerous resources and people talking about how social media can work...

We’re training you on how to do it to drive inbound new business leads.

Join us for an intensive two-day, interactive education and practical workshop on leveraging social media for new business. Topics include blogging, social networks, social media marketing, and how you can bring it all together as a proactive component of your new business strategy. This conference is designed to give you the knowledge and get you set-up and started.

Click here to learn more...

Jaci Russo

Sr. Partner

The Russo Group

Fish Where The Fish Are

Growing up in Southwest Louisiana, fishing is a way of life.  

For centuries, fishing is how families fed themselves.  

For thousands of people, fishing is still a weekly occurrence.  

We fish in rivers, ponds, streams, lakes, swamps...even the Gulf of Mexico.

The one thing we are taught as we bait our first hook is to always fish where the fish are.  There are entire industries based on knowing where the fish are and guiding people to the best spot.  

I have had the pleasure of catching my limit on a number of occasions...more than my fair share of times. 

On one glorious day, a few miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, I even had the privilege of hooking a Blue Marlin.  A very big, very strong, very beautiful Blue Marlin.  After a five hour fight that almost undid all four of us (and the crew), we finally wrestled that beast to the boat and just as we were going to pull her aboard, the line caught on the propeller, snapped and she wasted no time heading right back to where she came from, with one beautiful leap in the waves as a good bye.

We went on to catch our limit that day.  Our guide kept putting us in exactly the right spot.  We weren't fishing so much as just catching.  I would put my line out and the fish would fight each other to get caught.  I actually got tired from catching so many.

When I am asked by clients why they should be involved in social media, it reminds me of that fishing trip.  

It was probably really easy to be a media buyer in the 50's and 60's.  With only 4 or 5 media choices it only took them about an hour to plan and place the buy.  That's why they had three martini lunches - nothing else to work on at the office.

But these days it's a whole different story.  There are so many choices. 

So if clients want to fish where the fish are, social media is the best place to catch your line.

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner

photo by Fort MacMurray

Are You Luxury or Premium?

One of the benefits of this recession, and there will be a few of them, is the differentiation between luxury and premium.

Luxury is expensive just to be expensive.

Premium is quality goods made with quality products.

Which one has the better value?

The companies that have been positioning themselves as luxury are realizing the error of their ways. There is no perceived value in a product that is perceived as luxury.

Luxury is haute couture. Premium is custom made.

Look around. We spoil ourselves when we think the product is premium. But the days of buying a product just because it is the most expensive is not longer an option. No matter which tax bracket you are in, there has to be perceived value.

Jaci Russo

Sr. Partner

photo by ExploreLuxury

Brand The Conversation On Radio

I am very pleased to announce that I will be presenting Brand the Conversation Through Social Media on KPEL 105.1 NewsRadio every Monday at 5:20 pm. The show will debut on Monday May 18th with the first one focused on an intro to social media.  

The audience will be business people who are unsure how to use social media and need strong branding now more than ever.  The format each week will include discussion on a different social media application, story in the media and then we will open the phone/text/email/twitter/facebook lines for questions.

We will post each broadcast online as a series of podcasts that can be downloaded.

I am excited and nervous.  I hope people find the information helpful.  Mostly, I hope that I don't suck.

If you have suggestions for topics, please let me know.  Need all the help and direction I can get.

Thank you.

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner

To Pitch or Not to Pitch...?

One of the questions that plagues all B2B businesses is how to get new business and develop more clients. There are lots of theories about inbound v outbound marketing.  

I received an email the other day from JC Fantechi in Sweden.  He is the founder of Icebreaker which helps ad agencies in Europe win new business.  He emailed me because he heard an interview with me about the new business wins we have had this year.  I thought his question was great, so I wanted to answer it here:

In your opinion, are pitches/should pitches be a thing of the past? Are they  really necessary in order to gauge an agency’s output, or wouldn’t a “chemistry test” be better, to meet a potential agency & its work team to see if there is grounds for a good marriage, then work together to solve the strategic and the creative? Maybe that’s the way you already work, but I’m tired of getting my clients into pitches, getting half decent briefs and only one performance in order to get things right.
JC Fantechi
Founder, Icebreaker
These questions are not specific to just advertising agencies.  Most companies that work in the B2B space are expected to put forth some sort of outbound effort to gain new business.  Most often, that outbound effort involves one of the following:

  • RFP - Request For Proposals - Potential client creates a 10-100 page document detailing everything they want to know about their new prospective partner.  In the construction industry, a contractor then spends hours researching the blueprints and creating a very detail proposal including costs.  The final written documents could at times rival the size of War and Peace and the cost would be enough to purchase a house.
  • Pitch - An incredible investment of time and resources dedicated by anywhere from 2 to 20 companies is made at the behest of the client and much like the Olympics, there is only one gold medal winner.  The companies involved completely engross themselves in the client and learn everything they can about the brand and the category.  Since this is typically done in a vacuum with little or no input from the client there is no guarantee that the research and analysis is on target.
I completely agree with JC.  If a sample project were the third option, it would be the best choice every time.  A project would allow both sides to really get to know each other.  A project is like actually dating vs the RFP/Pitch which are more like a first date where you only know what they want you to know about them.

There is another option though.  

We work with our B2B clients to generate inbound efforts.  This is the same way we develop our own business.  Using a myriad of tools, from social media through speaking and writing engagements, we are able to establish ourselves as knowledgeable experts and that is why we are experiencing unprecedented growth (Q1 09 up 118% compared to Q1 08).

Inbound marketing is great for a lot of reasons, most of which, once the relationship is in place, there is no competition for the business.

What sort of tools do you use for your business?

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner

3 C's of Social Media

I was invited to speak to a radio group yesterday about social media; benefits, how it works, etc.

I absolutely loved it.  It must be the former geek high school debater in me, but if I could spend every day just traveling around and speaking to groups about branding and social media, that would be awesome.

It was an interesting twist on the presentation I usually make.  One of the reasons that people use social media, especially Twitter, is to broadcast a message to a large number of people.  The radio station already does that and has way more "followers" than most people on Twitter.  

So then the benefit for them is the CONVERSATION.  To turn the monologue that the radio stations have into a dialogue is a very powerful tool.  

The biggest benefit of social media is the CONNECTION.  It provides an opportunity for consumers to connect with the brand.  Building a tribe of brand advocates should be the ultimate goal of every company.  That following only happens when there is a connection.

The best way to brand the tribe is through CONTENT.  If a company is just posting advertisements about sales then there is no way to develop a relationship.  But to share a little bit of themselves...that is content that will connect.

My friend Becky Kreamer is a fantastic speaker and teaches the Stephen Covey "7 Habits for Highly Effective People" series.  I often hear her tell people that the way we truly learn is by teaching.  I love that.  It's like on the job training.  I think that is one of the reasons that I like traveling around and speaking to groups on Branding and Social Media.  I gain new insight every time.

I am looking forward to watching our social media plan for this station unfold.  Today I am helping them recruit a "Twintern".  This is an intern that will implement their social media plan - basically, a Twitter + Intern = Twintern.  Whomever this lucky guy or gal is, they will have one heck of a fun summer hanging out with these guys.  Should be a blast.

If you are interested in applying for the gig, just let me know.

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner

World's Best Lover

I attended a Kindergarten picnic for Mother's Day with our six year old Maggie today.

It was awesome!  I truly love these events every year.  Usually it involves a song and a soggy sandwich eaten on a blanket in the back field.

But this year, Maggie's teacher put a different spin on it.  She had each of the kids answer a fill in the blank about their mom and then Mrs. Johnson read them aloud to the class and we guessed which mom was the subject.

It went something like this:

My mom's favorite food is _____

I make my mom smile when I ________

When I am at school, my mom is ________

My mom is great at lots of things but she is the best _______

As you can imagine, there were lots of similar answers by the kids.  Lots of favorite foods were "spaghetti".  Most kids make their moms smile by "hugging them".  Some moms "shop" when the kids are at school.  Most moms are best at "cooking supper".

My favorite was the mom whose favorite food is fiber bars, is working out when their daughter is at school and she is the best at Wii Fit.  We laughed that she is regular and healthy.

Maggie's answers for me were near the end and in retrospect, I think Mrs. Johnson put it there for a reason.

It went something like this:

My mom's favorite food is those little bars

I make my mom smile when I love her

When I am at school, my mom is working at The Russo Group (the only company mentioned by name)

My mom is great at lots of things but she is the best at loving me.

As Maggie put the gold medal (soup can top with a red ribbon super glued on it) around my neck, she announced to all of the mothers "My mom is the worlds best lover".

As you can imagine, the entire room erupted in laughter.  Getting a reaction, Maggie continued to say it over and over and over again.

After the class sang "You Are My Sunshine" we were all presented with framed pictures of them in dress up clothes and a poem by Christine R. Cassidy

Today, I play dress up and try to act older;
Play games, play sports, I keep getting bolder.

One day you'll blink, I'll be in my teens;
Sometimes you'll wonder if we share the same genes!

Wake up on morning, I'll be ready to wed;
What an abundance of tears you will shed.

Then one day when years have gone by;
And I have my own family you'll sit back and sigh.

Pull out this picture, my youth still shows;
I'm still your precious child in grown-up clothes.

Not a dry eye in the house.  It was beautiful and touching and heart breaking and uplifting all at the same time.

I am known for a lot of things, wife, mother, agency owner, friend, Ragin Cajun, Downtowner, etc. I am now honored to add "World's Best Lover" to the list.

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner
The Russo Group

Don't Stop The Clock To Save Time

"The man who stops advertising to save money, 
is like the man who stops the clock to save time." 
-Thomas Jefferson

A number of companies have cut their advertising budgets during the economic downturn of the past year.

Obviously when sales are down, there is less money coming in, then there has to be less money being spent.

So, when you don't have money, you should be able to spend time.  Don't stop marketing just because you have stopped advertising.

Utilizing social media (most of the tools are free) only takes time.  Invest yours wisely.

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner


Joey Tribiani, Friends, was not known as a wise man.  But, often, the words he spoke were oh so true.  One of my favorite episodes was when he was reading "Cujo" by Stephen King and got so scared he had to put the book in the freezer.

I totally get that.  

The summer right after I turned ten, was the year I discovered Stephen King and he scared the ever living crap out of me.  

I don't think I got a good night's sleep for months.  One of the moments that scared me the most was in "The Shining".  The scene played out in the movie with Jack Nicholson very well. The boy is standing in the hall and kept saying "Redrum, Redrum" over and over again.

I knew.  I knew and I didn't want to know that he was saying "Murder, Murder" but (insert creepy music here)... backwards.

Flash forward 30 years and the same backwards talking trick is going on, but now with a much less scary premise.

ROTNEM, mentor spelled backwards.  This practice is happening in large agencies across the country.  Junior staffers are training their senior counterparts.

It's actually quite ingenious.  The "kids" all know social media.  They are living it every day. Think about how they live.  They will never own an album, no CD, no cassette, no record, no 8 track. All of their music will always be files on a computer or ipod.  They know social media. 

The C level executives at these large agencies all started in the business before computers.  Talk about a generation gap.

So the juniors are teaching the seniors.  Mentoring up instead of down.  Rotnem.

I think it is a very cool system and I am glad that it is happening.  Eeryone is getting educated and encouraged to participate in social media.  The more the merrier.  Jump on in, the water is fine.

But that underlines a very significant difference between agencies large and small.  The large agencies are so big, with so many layers of beauracracy, that they have to put teams of jr. staffers in place to keep the senior executives up to date on new technologies.  

In smaller agencies, we are all in the trenches every day getting the work done.  We don't have the layers of staff keeping those with the knowlege and experience away from the work.  We all roll up our sleeves every morning and dig in.  We all work directly with clients and are keeping up with new technologies because that is what our clients need.  Everyday.

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner

Corporate Culture in the workplace.

A lesson for both potential employers and job seekers alike.

Once upon a time, getting a job generally meant you were there for the life of your career, or at best, a good portion of it. This often meant starting at the bottom and working your way up the ladder. Well, in case you haven’t noticed, times have changed.

Today, people seem to change jobs as often as they do hairstyles, which is an unfortunate reality that more and more employers are having to deal with. Not only does this force potential employers to be leery of travel prone candidates, it also hurts those who feel they have to continually change jobs in order to find the right fit. At our agency, we call this “The Goldilocks” syndrome – a grass is always greener mentality that is both costly and problematic on many levels.

The good news is that much of this can be avoided by simply taking a closer look at the corporate culture within your business, or for many companies, the lack of it.

Corporate culture generally refers to an organization’s values, beliefs and behaviors, but in today’s world, it goes much deeper. In many ways, it defines an organization’s personality, and the personality of those who call their chosen place of employment home.

The truth is, all employers want the same thing – employees that take pride in their work, employees who are committed to the greater good of the company, and employees that are dependable and reliable over time.

At our firm, we want more. Here, we want team members who are believers – believers in our mission, our future, and in what we do and how we do it. Most importantly, we want team members that add to our conversation by taking ownership within our tribe.

Finding these like-minded individuals has not always been an easy task. To find them, we first had to take a hard look at who we were, and who we wanted to be.

The result was a company-wide transformation that brought on many changes, such as the realization that some of our staff would not be part of the revolution. You see, not only were they the wrong fit for us, but we were also the wrong fit for them. It was a difficult process, but in the end, we were able to develop an agency of believers that could effectively deliver on our promise to our clients, as well as our promise to ourselves. That promise was to have a team of people who worked hard, played hard, enjoyed one another, had a life outside of work and were excited about the opportunity to build something together.

With events like, ‘groove time', our annual ‘Talk Like a Pirate Day’ celebrations, or the making of quarterly YouTube videos such as, ‘Baby Got Brands’, we were able to demonstrate how hard we worked at never taking ourselves too seriously – refusing to model ourselves after traditional agencies that seemed to be more interested in image over substance. Our message was simple – if our way of thinking was not for you, then you were not right for our agency.

By defining our culture, we were able to gain continued ownership from those we enjoyed working with, filter out the non-believers, and attract a wealth of new talent that were not just looking for a job, but a career.

The key to developing a culture that better represents who you want to be, requires that you look closely at who you are, as well as the team you have in place to represent your brand. They are the voice of your company, and it is vital that they buy into what you are selling. If not, it will only be a matter of time before they move on to other opportunities.

For those of you seeking jobs and careers, I recommend looking past the surface, and dig deep beyond the rhetoric. Discover the culture of the companies you are looking at and make sure they provide an environment that you will not only thrive in, but also enjoy.

Jaci Russo

Sr. Partner

The Russo Group


We are becoming a DIY Society.  

The Do It Yourself culture was kind of cute in the beginning.  

Frustrated ex-home-ec-ers and the "make it look so easy" guidance of Martha Stewart became the perfect storm luring moms, dads and homeowners into a world of weekend projects and making clothes out of pine cones.

It was all well and good, cute even, until this after hours home project mindset crossed over into business.  

Mortgage brokers think they can design logos.

Doctors think they can plan public relations strategies.

Lawyers think they can create television spots.

Entire hospital committees think they can develop advertising campaigns.

That makes as much sense as a Do It Yourself Vasectomy Kit.

Seriously.  Hire a professional.

I promise to never practice medicine, write a mortgage or defend someone in a court of law. Why?  Because I am not trained to practice those trades.  Believe it or not, those professionals are not trained to practice my craft either.  

Oh, I know.  You have a Mac.  You figured out how to copy and paste clip art.  You took a marketing class in college.  You even read blogs on branding.

None of those things makes you a professional.  Just because I know how to go to the WebMD website does not mean I should buy scrubs and wear a stethoscope around my neck.  

Please stick to your profession and I will stick to mine.  It might look easy.  The advertising professionals on TV might look they are just hanging around, drinking coffee and tossing ball back and forth in meetings.  

But real advertising takes real talent and real work.  We are trained professionals that take the investment of your budget very seriously.  The return of that investment is of paramount importance to us.  Determining the most strategic way to brand your company, the best way to change the conversation, these are not things we take lightly.

Yes, you can buy a logo online for $99, but should you?

Yes, you can do it yourself, but should you?

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner