Two great agencies have become one! Henry Russell Bruce (HRB) and ME&V Advertising have merged to create a combined company of more than 50 people with offices in Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Quad Cities. The combined agency represents more than 200 clients across 10 states and offers branding, marketing, public relations, and advertising services in healthcare, higher education and banking, corporate communications and nonprofit fundraising. Take a look around →

HRB's previous site can still be accessed below.


Brad Maxwell Brad Maxwell wrote:February 25th, 2014

Videos Speak Louder than Words

A picture is worth a thousand words. Assuming that’s true, how many words is a video worth?

We can of course take the analytical approach. Apple’s iPhone 5 for example, shoots video at 30 fps (frames per second), meaning every second of video consists of 30 still-image pictures. A little quick math: 30 seconds  x  30 fps  =  900 still images.  If each picture is truly “worth a thousand words,”  multiply 900 images by 1000 words, you get 900,000. So a 30 second video should bring nearly a million words to mind, right?


Marchino Sequence by Davide Costanzo

Viewer Value

We know it doesn’t exactly work like that, but you get the idea. Video is becoming a fundamental part of today’s media culture, from YouTube entertainment to Lynda video tutorials, the combination of video and web seem to be an eternal match. Video has the unique ability to engage viewers with visuals and sound, thus providing targeted audiences with an immersive and time-efficient learning experience. For marketers and web developers, the value of video in content marketing is more prevalent now than ever. If a video truly provokes thousands or millions of words, it’s important that marketers understand the thoughts and desired behaviors associated with each video strategy.

A Bright Future
Research by Cisco suggests video will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic by 2017. In the fast paced world of business, clients (and potential clients) don’t have time to sift through mounds of text. Consumers want information delivered quickly, efficiently, and in a manner that engages multiple senses. Many marketers understand the paradigm is shifting towards multimedia, and it’s time to press the record button or be left behind.

  • By 2017 video will account for 69% of consumer internet traffic – Cisco
  • 76% of marketers plan to increase their use of video on the internet - Social Media Examiner
  • 58% of B2B marketers believe that video is an effective form of B2B marketing - CMI

Where Video & Content Marketing Meet
Videos reflect a company’s brand, whether the content is developed with this in mind or not. Too often, videos are created simply to increase traffic. Avoid the “traffic temptation” and ensure content represents the company mission, vision, and values. Create a strategy that supports a consistent brand message, conveys insightful information and provides a rich and interactive experience. Consider these points before venturing into the world of video marketing:

1).  Design Goal-Oriented Videos

  • What emotions do you want to evoke and why?
  • Who is your target audience?  (Industry language vs. average consumer)
  • What actions do you want your audience to take?

2).  Implement Calls to Action 

  • Provide links to valuable resources  (landing pages, related videos,  testimonials)
  • Offer convenient contact options for personal interaction and additional information
  • Encourage further discussion through blogs, comments, and other customer-relation outlets

3).  Analyze Performance 

  • View the analytics associated with your video and its desired outcome (fluxuation of sales, leads, web traffic, customer contact)
  • Gauge viewer behavior – What feedback is your video receiving? Do viewers easily associate it with your brand?
  • Use results to tweak content and maximize future return

Striking the Balance
While fundamental marketing practices remain relevant (identifying a problem, target audience and solution), a new challenge is presented to apply these principles to a much more immersive platform. Video content marketing needs to strike the delicate balance between pure entertainment and information overload.  Like any successful marketing campaign, understanding your audience is key.  The possibilities of video are nearly endless, but it only reaches as far as your conception, production and distribution strategies allow.

Remember your competition looms merely a few clicks away. Why just tell when you can show AND tell through a multi-sensorial platform?  Who knows, five years from now, will you be reading an article like this or watching it?

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Lea Sullivan Lea Sullivan wrote:October 18th, 2013

Pantone Color Report: A Follow-Up

2014 Pantone Color Report

Rachel RoyAs promised, here’s a quick follow-up on my blog post about the Pantone Color Report from a few weeks ago. Read more about the original Fall 2013 Color Report

New York Fashion Week has come and gone, and the new Spring 2014 Pantone Color report is out. Packed with lots of bright rich colors (duh, it’s Spring!) but also some unexpected neutrals that I really love. Take a more in-depth look of the Pantone® Fashion Color Report Spring 2014 

Images via Pantone

Lea Sullivan
Art Director
800-728-2656 ext. 124

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Jim Thebeau Jim Thebeau wrote:July 16th, 2013

Insider Secrets: How to Work with a Marketing Agency (Part 2)

In Part 1 we wrote about how agencies work and the difference between a good agency and a great one.
In Part 2 we offer five reasons you might want to work with an agency.

As information channels and screens proliferate and attention spans shrink to nanoseconds, marketers find they have to work harder to get and keep the eyes, ears and minds of customers focused on your key message.

Today, it may be all about one-to-one and relationship marketing, but if your messaging is unclear or too long, you risk losing the interest of your customers and prospects. This is the point in marketing where experienced marketing firms or ad agencies can provide a helping hand.

Why, exactly, would you want to work with an agency? Here are a few reasons it might make sense for your company.

1. Serious agencies or marketing firms position themselves as independent, third-party communications experts that are in business to solve marketing problems. Independent means they are not tied to any specific advertising or promotional media like a newspaper, television station or online trade journal. Third-party means they look at your particular marketing challenge objectively and help you solve it by finding the best message and the best way to deliver that message to the target audience. Advertising agencies should always make sure your messages support your brand and your branding position.

2. Agencies tend to think in ways that company marketers don’t. Marketers may struggle to come up with new themes, ideas and concepts to promote their products and services. While the agency staff may have produced many ideas over the years, your project is new to them and they will bring a fresh approach to the marketing problem based on past experiences. Outside insights can be valuable, helpful and shorten your time to roll out the concept or idea – the solution to the problem. Agencies often use research with customers, prospects and former customers to develop new insights.

HRB Advertising Agency

3. After working with dozens of clients in dozens of industries, agency professionals may actually have a very good handle (following some download conversations and insights from you) on how your customers think. These creative teams have not lived with the company day and night. In a sense, they don’t know too much and can bring you tantalizing concepts that cut through the clutter and deliver your precise and powerful message with impact. This can be especially helpful in the areas of creative design and Web design.

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4. Use an agency on a consulting basis to review your ideas, concepts and plans. You don’t have to form a permanent, contractual relationship to get some great new outside thinking. Ask senior members of the agency staff for a few hours of time to discuss or review your approaches to a new marketing theme, the launch of a new product or just putting a fresh face on your marketing messages. You may come away with some valuable new ideas that will more than pay for the agency’s consulting time. In some cases it could benefit you to start your conversation with the head of the public relations department, since those practitioners tend to have the broadest experience in internal and external communications.

5. As the pace of business life accelerates and marketing staffs become leaner, outsourcing certain marketing tasks may actually help you get more work done. Outsourcing opportunities are especially relevant for repetitive tasks such as producing email marketing materials, Web site and search engine optimization, newsletters, direct mail and collateral, Internet marketing and social media activities. Though the agency professionals may never know as much as you do about your company and its products, they can take on recurring tasks and make sure they are done on time and on budget – letting you focus on your larger, primary marketing objectives. Outsourcing your media buying services could certainly save a lot of staff time, and it could even save you money by making your buys more effective.

Don’t be afraid to contact an agency and talk with principles or senior staffers about your marketing challenges. Most agencies or marketing firms do not charge for one or two meetings with your team to get a download on the issues or challenges you face. And, most provide detailed estimates or proposals that marketers must sign before any work begins. Legitimate agencies are always willing to discuss timelines, deliverables and billings at any time. If you don’t see details you want in the estimates or proposals, ask the agency to add them before you sign off. Don’t work with an agency without signed estimates and timelines so you can avoid performance issues later.

Click here to read Part 1, Insider Secrets: How to Work with a Marketing Agency

Jim Thebeau
800-728-2656 ext. 121

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Jim Thebeau Jim Thebeau wrote:June 11th, 2013

Insider Secrets: How to Work with a Marketing Agency

Agencies, or at least most agencies, know that they must put the best interest of the client ahead of making money. Of course agencies are in business to make a profit, but not at the expense of harming a relationship with a client. For an agency, it’s all about building a relationship and trust and being liked by the client. It’s really hard to work with someone you don’t like even if they produce the coolest marketing campaigns you’ve ever seen.

HRB Marketing

Photo credit: Flickr user ucouldguess

Most agencies win new business by writing proposals and responding to requests for proposals (RFPs). This consumes a considerable amount of agency time and resources that cannot be devoted to creating great marketing plans and campaigns for clients.

A good agency will give you a standalone proposal at the drop of a hat. This is what usually happens when prospects just want a “bid” for a single project. Sometimes you might even get such a proposal when you ask for something more important, like a major campaign for a product launch, a rebrand for your organization, a dynamic website or a public relations media blitz.

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A great agency typically will spend dozens or hundreds of hours learning about your business and
gaining insights before providing a proposal.
And, the agency team often will offer optional approaches to solving a marketing problem if they think it will generate better results for the client. This is not just an effort to just sell something to the client, but to provide alternative ideas or concepts that can really move the needle further up the chart for the client.

Unless the agency wants to sit down with you and have a healthy exchange of information and a discussion of your sales and marketing processes, customer service, goals and expected results (commonly known as a download meeting), you may not get the proposal or results you are expecting. A great agency will go beyond the surface and dig into the details of your business and offer its own insights and suggestions on how best to proceed – without being asked.

HRB Marketing Business Relations

Photo credit: Flickr user ronnyandre

Don’t be afraid to ask the agency about its relevant experience in your industry. It can be helpful for an agency to have experience in your industry, but don’t rule out one that demonstrates a history of success in various industries. After all, a great agency is very good at ferreting out insights, key messages and brand differentiators then using their communications expertise to deliver that information to key audiences – no matter what the industry.

If you have questions about working with an agency, feel free to call or send me an email. I really do want you to make the right choice when choosing an agency to work with. In Part 2, we’ll offer 5 reasons it might make sense to work with an agency.

Jim Thebeau
800-728-2656 ext. 121

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Steve Erickson Steve Erickson wrote:April 26th, 2013

Being a Professional (or, “Tell us we suck.”)

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog I called Reincarnation as a Career StrategyFor those of you who don’t recall every word of it, it was essentially about how to be a good client and build a mutually productive and enjoyable relationship with your agency. I stand by my thoughts from then, but I’d like to add one more comment, about something that appears to be more prevalent in this business.

We all know that “cattle calls,” getting multiple agencies to respond to a request for a proposal, are not going away. When an agency feels it has the opportunity to show what it’s capable of creatively and also sees the potential for some kind of financial gain, you can pretty much count on their engagement. They get a team together to do the needed research, develop a traditional and/or social media strategy, and probably at least a couple of creative executions.

Being a Professional

It can be hard work, and it takes time … above and beyond the time it takes to service existing accounts. And whether they realize they’re up against two other agencies, or six, it’s what professionals in this business know that have to do to win the business. They also understand the math. Four agencies presenting means a 25% shot at winning. Six agencies, about 17%. The numbers don’t lie.

So, what’s my point? It’s this. Every new business prospect knows the agencies they’ve invited to make a proposal have invested hours and hours of time and effort to prepare, with a fractional shot at winning and (usually) no compensation for their work. As part of every RFP, I believe the “losing” agencies should at the very least be “compensated” by a candid conversation with the (now ex) prospect as to why they were not awarded the business.

I said “conversation” not a boilerplate email something to the effect of “Thank you for your participation … the committee has decided to go another direction … we will keep you on our list for any possible future projects … etc.” That’s a total cop out. Hey, if our work totally sucked or if you hated how our team dressed, we’d like to know. We’re professionals, we can take it.

Even worse, and this seems to be happening more often, is the total lack of response from the prospect after the presentation. Phone calls and emails go totally unanswered. In a matter of just days, the agency has gone from an anticipated presenter to persona non grata.

The agency may have had only a 10% or 50% chance of getting the business … but ignoring them afterwards, that’s 100% unprofessional.

Steve Erickson
President, Creative Director
800-728-2656, ext. 126

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Tracy Pratt Tracy Pratt wrote:April 22nd, 2013

Fantastic Voyage: Inside the brain of your consumer

Sceen from the movie, Fantastic Voyage (1966)

The miniaturized crew of the Proteus work to remove a blood clot from the brain of a scientist in the 1966 classic, “Fantastic Voyage”. IMDb | Copyright 20th Century Fox Films

What makes a consumer click that “buy” button? Is it a compelling offer, a FB friend’s recommendation or an intuitively designed website?  More importantly, what makes a consumer bounce away without doing anything?  Let’s suit up with the crew of the Proteus and see what those pulsating neurons tell us.

What leads to a consumer buying decision?

Before we can influence the buying decision, we have to understand how it’s made. Here’s some of the research.

How Consumers Decide to Buy Our Products – Sometimes consumers buy in response to problems they face. Sometimes they buy because they want more stuff. They can be rational about their choices or be influenced by promotions, opinions or pure product appeal. They are loyal to brands but unforgiving to brands they reject.

Today’s Shopper is “Always On”  –  Indeed. It’s pretty obvious technology plays a huge role in today’s shopping experience. When it’s not a brick-and-mortar impulse buy, consumers use their favorite devices to gather information about a product, ramping up that research the closer they get to a purchase. The “always on” consumer is also very vocal about the brands he/she chooses.

Social Media influences purchasing decisions – Let’s say that again: social media influences purchasing decisions. In fact, research shows Social Media has fundamentally changed the consumer decision process. This 2012 Social Media report shows 14% of people bought a product after seeing a social ad (15% shared those ads). More persuasively, this study says 65% of social media users learn about brands, products, services via social media; 53% use social media to compliment brands, 50% share concerns about brands and 47% share monetary incentives they hear about.

When in Doubt…Just Ask – If you really want to get inside the mind of your consumer, just ask.  User testing is one of the best tools for that. In fact, we recently ran some e-commerce user testing for one of our integrated marketing clients with good results. If you ask the right questions, the feedback can be very useful. User testing can tell you about SEO/SEM, first impressions, paths to purchase, perceptions of trust and the impact of your website’s design, content, functionality and navigation…all which play a part in a good e-commerce experience.

Data-driven marketing can help

Data-driven marketing can help inform your e-commerce strategy. Here are a few of the basic tools we use to gain insight into our customer’s e-commerce tactics.

Google Analytics – Installed on every site (or should be), this basic data collection tool can tell you who’s coming to your site, what visitors do on your site, how they found your site…and whether visitors took the action (or “conversion”) you wanted them to such as buying a product, filling out a contact form, downloading a white paper, etc. To dive deep into e-commerce conversions, we use this and other tracking tools.

Crazy Egg – One of our lead programmer’s favorite tools, Crazy Egg’s heat map and scroll map reports can help you understand the “hot spots” of your web page, visually compiling data to identify popular (and not-so-popular) click zones.

Hootsuite – A great basic dashboard for tracking and engaging in multiple social media campaigns. HRB’s social media manager uses this along with more intricate engagement tools to grow our customers’ e-commerce in the social space.

Those are some obvious ones. There are several other cool tools we use to understand consumer buying habits, gauge consumer actions and monitor intent to purchase.

What does the future hold?

Neuromarketers are buzzing about the Brain Activity Map project announced early this year.  Will researchers find triggers for a hidden “buy” button? Whatever the outcome, the results are sure to be fascinating.

In the meantime, harness the brain power of HRB. We’ll take an integrated approach to your marketing, offering you traditional ad agency services as well as web design, programming, mobile app development, search engine optimization, competitive analysis, keyword research, pay-per-click campaigns, email marketing and social media marketing. Contact us for help with your own Fantastic Voyage.

Tracy Pratt
Director of Digital Strategies
800-728-2656 ext. 112

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Jim Thebeau Jim Thebeau wrote:April 17th, 2013

When Promoting Your Brand, Think About the Brands You Prefer

Why do you choose to do business with a particular brand? What connection did the brand make to earn your business or your loyalty? Do you borrow those attributes that make you happy and apply them to your business?

Download our whitepaper to learn more about branding strategies >> Branding: How to Brand Your Company for Growth

Here are attributes from a positive brand:

Honesty is the Best Policy

One of the most important things you can do for your brand is to be honest. Communicate your service expectations, as well as your abilities to your customers clearly and honestly. Don’t make commitments or promises that you cannot keep. That can lead to a disappointed customer and that could cost you. Be realistic on target, activity or delivery dates and let the customer know why. Of course, today customer turn times are getting shorter and shorter so you can’t disappoint by missing the customer’s stated deadlines.

Great Customer Service

Business is and always has been a relationship business. Most customers are lost through the actions, words and attitudes of company employees. The experts say that’s how 68 percent of customers are lost.  Allowing employees to go the extra mile for your customers could make all the difference for your business. Have you established customer service boundaries or expectations for your employees? Do they know how far they can go to fix a customer problem or resolve an issue? If they do, they are more likely to do the right thing. Provide customer service training to protect your brand.
[Click here to learn more about turning your employees into brand ambassadors]


Customers want consistency out of their brands. They want to know what experience to expect each time they interact with a brand – just like you do. Basically, it’s about your product or service doing what you say it will do, doing it right the first time and doing it on time. Customers will accept the occasional mistake. But if you make too many or don’t do anything to correct the mistake, you’ve had it. Simply put, providing caring and consistent support are the keys to customer retention and a reliable brand.
[Click here to find more important branding attributes] 


Jim Thebeau
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Jim Thebeau Jim Thebeau wrote:April 16th, 2013

Three Tips to Building a Stronger Brand

#1: Know Your Core Values and Make Sure Your Customer Does, Too.

People are drawn to companies with integrity. Be clear about what your company values and what is important, and make sure your customers are clear about this, too. Communicate your values through your website, employees and products. Commit to adhering to your values in everything your business does – every communication with your customer, every interaction with the public.

Brand Ambassador

Photo credit: Flickr user Jeni Rodger

#2: Use Your Employees as Brand Ambassadors.

Insist that your employees provide a positive experience with every customer interaction. Don’t wait for negative feedback or a customer complaint to address how your employees work with your customers or how they represent your brand. Be proactive. Your employees are your Brand Ambassadors. They are the link between your customer and your product or service. If they aren’t representing your brand and your values properly, you are missing a major opportunity and selling your business short. Provide training in proper customer service and make sure they understand how important they are to the growth of the company. It’s not always easy to get a second chance with a customer.

#3: Communicate With Your Customer.

With all the communications channels available today, there is no excuse for not connecting with your customers. They need to feel as though you value them, not just for their money but as people. Make sure you are going out of your way to communicate your thanks to them and ask for their input or ideas. Create a proper email program for customer communication that is consistent and permission-based. Another approach is to pick up the phone and make a personal call to them.

Jim Thebeau
800-728-2656 ext. 121

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Leslie Blanche Leslie Blanche wrote:April 11th, 2013

The Importance of Patient Experience

A 2012 survey conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers found that personal experience is the number one reason patients choose a physician or hospital. In fact, the patient experience is more than two and a half times more important in the healthcare industry than to consumers in other industries, such as hospitality and banking. The results go on to say that more than one-third of healthcare consumers would be willing to switch hospitals or providers if someone new offered a more “ideal” experience. So much for patient loyalty!

DOWNLOAD FREE ARTICLE>> Hospital Marketing - Human Touch

Patient Loyalty

Photo credit: flickr user andyde

The healthcare industry has had to abruptly adapt to the idea of consumerism. Physicians aren’t used to thinking of their colleagues as competitors yet in today’s climate that is exactly what they are. So, what does a physician have to do to keep patients coming to her practice, instead of going down the street – or worse – to a different city.

I encourage physicians to look critically at their practice policies and environment, not as THEY see it, but as their PATIENTS see it. I once worked with a plastic surgeon in Virginia who had been “burned” by patients committing to multiple vials of filler when seating in the chair, but refusing to pay the full amount when checking out. His solution was to have patients pay up front, perform the treatment and evaluate whether they wanted/needed more product. If they decided on more, the patient had to leave the treatment room to pay for the additional product and then go back to the treatment room to finish up. This was resulting in uncomfortable patient visits… and fewer and fewer repeat patients.

We worked with the physician, his staff and even his patients to devise a system that would protect the practice while making sure patients felt comfortable and had an enjoyable experience. He reports that his appointment book is fuller than it has been in months and his repeat patients are steadily increasing.

Learn by visiting to find about the services available at HRB

Leslie Blanche
Senior Healthcare Marketing Manager

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Shelby Kraus Shelby Kraus wrote:April 10th, 2013

Why Some Brands Lose Their Cool & Others Stay Hip

I spend a lot of time watching corporate brands and product brands and am always fascinated by the decisions executives make. Some execute a complete overhaul, while others opt for “an update.” Do these product managers and brand managers conduct research? Have they been asking the consumer what they think the brand is for their product or do they just go off of “gut” instincts or an executive’s excitement to make a mark for him or her? Branding and re-branding should not be taken lightly. Your brand is not what you say it is, it is what the public says it is.

Have you really taken the time to ask your customers what they think? If not, you should.

DOWNLOAD OUR FREE WHITEPAPER HERE – “How to Brand Your Company for Growth”

Negative Brand Experience

Photo credit: Flicker user Roadsidepictures

Here are some of the attributes we try to determine when working on a re-branding project:

  • How much equity does the brand have already?
  • What is the essence of the brand?
  • What is the profile of your brand advocate?
  • How is the brand positioned against the competition?
  • Where did the original brand come from?
  • Where do we want to position the brand for the future?
  • What do our customer’s believe about the brand?

I read an article from Ragan Communications that listed five brands that had unfortunate missteps in the past several years and ended up changing the new brand back because the customers (the ones who really matter) pushed back.

Another one I’d like to add to the list is jcp. The debate is still out on J.C. Penney Company, Inc. brand, which is on at least its fourth re-brand, as to whether or not jcp will stick. Do you think the new CEO asked consumers what they wanted?

Remember, the customer is mightier than any board room conversation when it comes to sales. Ask their opinion. It could end up saving you millions of unused creative or a logo you only use for a few months.

Learn more… 

Marketing Strategy Mistake #3: Believing that brand doesn’t matter

Shelby Kraus
Vice President, Public Relations
Account Manager
800-728-2656, ext. 125

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