Jaci and Michael Russo: Authors of “He Said, She Said: Branding”

We welcome Jaci and Michael Russo, authors of “He Said, She Said: Branding,” to Discover Lafayette.

Their new book shares the wisdom they’ve garnered through their combined decades of experience working in branding and with each other as a married couple.

It’s important to understand that in today’s world, a company’s “brand” is much more than a logo or type of product. The Russos define brand in the same way as Marty Neumeier, an American icon in the world of advertising and business creativity: “A brand is a person’s emotional connection to a company, product or service.” That emotional connection is why consumers seek out the products that they like, that make them feel good, and that they’re willing to pay more for. We can all relate to products that we’re proud to wear or drive….the things that make us feel good every time we encounter them.

Jaci and Michael Russo are the co-founders of brandRUSSO, a strategic branding agency in Lafayette, LA. The agency focuses on helping their clients build their brand, help them effectively tell their story, and decipher their best business practices to effectively distinguish them from the crowd of competitors. Experience has shown that their clients may then command a premium price for their products or services once their targeted market identifies with their brand and trusts that they will deliver on their company’s promises.

“He Said, She Said: Branding” can be purchased online at Amazon or at Beausoleil Books on Jefferson Street in downtown Lafayette. Michael and Jaci Russo share not only their tips on effectively branding a company but how they have managed to stay married while working together for over 20 years!

About 15 years ago, the Russos sat down and analyzed how they strategically solved their clients’ problems and trademarked it “Razor Branding.” In a nutshell, the Russos ask clients the following questions: “Who are you talking to?” “Why should they pick you?” “What are you trying to say?” “Where should you say it?”

Razor Branding has four core elements that work for any type of business or service for which you are wanting to build a solid and loyal client base: focus (the “Who”), promise (the “Why”), connection (the “What”), and harmony (the “Where”). It works by “first identifying their client’s target audience and then developing messaging, strategies, and creative that builds awareness, loyalty, and eventual advocacy.”

“In the entrance to our building, we have a quote from Jef Richards: ‘Creative without strategy is art. Creative with strategy is advertising.’ I came across this quote while I was touring agencies in Texas back in college. I like to think if Jef had written that today, it would have said, “Creative with strategy is branding.” Michael Russo

Our interview is full of colorful anecdotes that will inspire both budding entrepreneurs and established business owners to closely examine their business practices and how they place media ads. Since 2008 there has been a drastic change in marketing due to the explosion of social media. Before then, television, radio, and print ads were the way to go.

Today, Jaci and Michael call themselves ‘media agnostic,” meaning that there is no one (media) size that fits all businesses to effectively share messaging about a client’s offerings. For some clients, it is still best to place tv ads. Others will advertise solely on digital platforms. It all depends on who the targeted market is and how best to reach them. It is interesting to note that South Louisiana is a huge radio market…..” people here love their radio!”

“Consumers have all the power now. They have the ability to communicate their experience, and many businesses, such as Uber and Airbnb have built their brands upon that feedback. Uber riders have to give their driver a rating and vice versa. Everyone has access to this information. Crowdsourcing of reviews means that companies have to earn your loyalty; they can no longer tell you what to think.” Jaci Russo

Razor branding gives Russo’s clients a blueprint to proactively build their brand by planning ahead on how to most effectively market their offerings and get a better return on their marketing dollars. While word of mouth advertising is still the coveted manner of advertising, sometimes a business needs a little help in telling their story and messaging to their targeted audience as to what truly sets them apart from competitors.

New businesses entering the market especially need to strategize how they will build the goodwill that older, established businesses have developed over time. “Look at your current practices and refine/improve/build relationships. You can’t successfully sell products without getting your business practices straight. Your individual employees may leave over time, but your corporate brand can be sustained.”

Jaci noted that brandRUSSO starts the process by asking their client to define who their target market is. Russo then reaches out to a company’s clients and asks what their priorities are and what do people think of that company?; there can be a big gap between what a client thinks is important to their customers and what the market actually wants or what people think of their business. This can be a wake-up call: “You have to decide if you’re going to listen to your potential customers or resist them and be irrelevant. Your choices have consequences.” The bottom line is that a company doesn’t own its brand, the people who buy it do. All you can do is to provide opportunities to buy into your brand by delivering on your promises you make to the consumer.”

Visit https://brandrusso.com/ for more information on Jaci and Michael Russo’s branding and marketing agency.

Discover Lafayette thanks Jaci and Michael Russo for sharing marketing lessons learned over the years. May they enjoy many more enjoyable years of partnership in work and life!