Branding The Queen City: The Advertising Geniuses Behind Cincinnati's Success

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One sentence speaks volumes.

For Marsh Brand Partners, that sentence is “creating customer connections for life.” It is also more than just a sentence, it is the new Marsh Brand partners positioning. For the 75-years young company, the positioning is the driving force propelling the idea company to create deep, lasting relationships with its clients so that its customers, in turn, establish loyalty that lasts a lifetime.

For nearly a year now, the 53-person team at Marsh Brand Partners has been living and breathing “creating customer connections for life,” letting the mantra infiltrate the core of their people and clients.

“The line is all about our passion for going for life in all things and having a deep understanding of knowing our clients and helping them know their customers in order to activate them today and tomorrow,” says James Browning Jr., chief strategic and creative officer at Marsh Brand Partners.

When you are a client of Marsh Brand Partners, you are, as the name implies, a partner of the agency.

“We’re really not about one-off projects,” says Brown- ing. “We create extended relationships with our clients, which in return generates results and loyalty.”

Client retention is high at Marsh Brand Partners, due in part to the agency’s focus on creatively outthinking, rather than outspending the competition, and always delivering measurable results.

“We are passionate about delivering results,” says Browning, admitting that coming up with big ideas every day is what we love, however, we love the combination of great work that also delivers great results. “And we do it all with passion and fun.”

In addition to outthinking instead of outspending their competitors, managing partner Pete Costanzo believes the high customer retention is also in-line with the fact that the Marsh team outhustles their competitors, too.

“We’re not afraid to roll up our sleeves,” says Costanzo. “It’s about the right strategy, creative and relevant mediums that will move our customers and generate results. And, we don’t stop until we are creating action with our clients audiences.”

So what does a Marsh Brand Partners strategic direction and creative expression look like?

It all starts with really knowing and understanding the customer and client opportunity.

Take Captain Morgan and Curly’s Bar-B-Q, for example. Marsh came together with the Curly’s and Captain Morgan’s brands to create a new adventure in pulled pork, to connect with customers in a new, fresh and engaging way, based on both of the brand’s audiences opportunity and desire for something new in the BBQ space.

Marsh utilized its open innovation model to drive a new taste sensation with the flavor experts and research and development teams from both Curly’s Foods and Captain Morgan’s brand teams.

After creating several rounds and tastings, then gathering consumer insight and inspiration, Marsh also created a co-branded, upscale package design that best captured the new product to have incredible impact on shelf.

Upscale packaging, was only the beginning. Marsh built a strategic plan to engage the audience to create awareness, drive trial and ultimately, connect with customers in multiple mediums and deliver the goods. “We are an idea company with caring, fun people, strategically driven and creatively inspired,” says Browning.

“We apply amazing talents that fuel connections with brands and their audiences in meaningful ways, in order to activate and ultimately create customer connections for life.

Considering the growth that Marsh Brand Partners has experienced in the past six months since Browning has joined the partnership, it is safe to say their push for creating customer connections for life is working. After experiencing a 30 percent downturn over the past three years, the agency is on track for a 25 percent gain over last year.

“Clients are really in tune with our positioning and how we focus on connecting with them and connecting them with their customers,” says Costanzo. That positioning is resonating with Marsh Brand Partners current client relationships with many iconic brands including Reckitt Benckiser, Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s that go beyond 15 years.

“Marsh has tremendous history in food too,” says Costanzo. “We’re deeply involved in all of our brands, and we have great success with the food and beverage categories. We’re definitely foodies.”

The downtown Cincinnati headquarters has recently opened new doors in Austin, Texas, Nashville, Tenn., and Chicago, Ill., in addition to its office in New Jersey. That growth comes as the firm has been awarded agency of record status for both regional and national brands, such as John Morrell Food Group, Nathan’s Hot Dogs, Curly’s BBQ, BASCO and more.  

“Seeing growth this year with our clients speaks to them believing in us,” says Ken Neiheisel, managing partner at Marsh Brand Partners. “We know how to deliver, which means new opportunities to flex our new capabili- ties. It’s really exciting.”

Browning adds, “It’s magic followed by fireworks. Growth gets people’s hearts racing. It creates a new energy in the shop that reinforces our commitment and serves as a positive reinforcement for our team.”

That team is what truly makes Marsh unique. “Our team is multitalented,” says Rob Iorio, chief operating officer. “That makes us more efficient and more effective at what we do. There’s a can-do attitude in everyone, giving our team the fantastic ability to do whatever needs to be done.”

“My favorite part of coming to work is the people we work with,” says Costanzo. “It’s crazy fun and I wouldn’t do it if it weren’t for all of our teams. I’m proud and humbled by them every day.”

Browning often refers to the team of creative directors, writers, designers, account executives, administrative support and more as the “50 brilliant minds” that make the company run with power fueled by trust in the leader- ship and new vision for the brand and its powerful bonds internally and externally.

“We have incredibly talented people here,” says Browning.

While the talent is diverse and widespread, Costanzo acknowledges a common thread running through each employee.

“Everyone here wants to be a part of building something big ... not just something that exists, but something that is really special,” says Costanzo. “There’s an ownership and sense of pride that doesn’t exist elsewhere.”

The managing team knows that the company’s mission statement, that inspired their positioning of “creating customer connections for life,” is the blueprint to creating something really special.

“You just can’t build anything of significance without a blueprint,” says Costanzo.

“This is what we believe in,” Neiheisel adds. “When Jim presented our positioning statement, it was so perfect for us. There were so many connecting points, from all of our pasts, but more importantly to our business and where we are headed for the future.”

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Branding The Queen City: The Advertising Geniuses Behind Cincinnati's Success

18 of 19

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