What’s Your Story? Origins of an Agency Brand

PR2020-logo-iconI love a good story. And few stories are more intriguing than the ideas and inspirations that drive entrepreneurs to venture into the unknown and build their own brands.

In The Marketing Agency Blueprint, I shared a piece of my story:

In February 2004, I came to a life-changing realization—the marketing- agency model was broken and had been for years. Although I was only four years into my career at that time, a number of contributing factors had become obvious to me:

  • Billable hours were inefficient at best. Professionals were more worried about meeting hour quotas than delivering the level of service and quality needed to produce measurable results for clients.
  • There was little differentiation between firms, and a lack of innovation within the industry.
  • Training and education were stagnant. Firms and universities were teaching the same systems, principles, and services that had been applied for decades.
  • Request for proposals (RFPs) were a waste of time and energy, for both clients and agencies.
  • Standard measurement systems, such as press clippings, impressions, reach, ad equivalency, and PR value were meaningless, and they had no real connection to bottom-line results.

 The industry was ripe for disruption. — The Marketing Agency Blueprint, Introduction

Finding the Brand Name . . . Or Letting it Find You

The name for my agency actually has it origins from that February day (Feb. 20, 2004 to be exact). While I working as a VP at a traditional PR agency, I had become frustrated with the archaic systems and philosophies that were guiding our industry.

I stopped what I was working on, and typed “PR 20/20” into a Word doc. I started writing about how there needed to be a “different vision” for the industry in general, and agencies in particular. My original thought (this was before blogging) was to write a white paper or submit it as a guest article in a trade publication.

But I soon realized the idea, and the name, was something more. I began thinking about what the industry would look like in the coming years, including core areas such as services, pricing models, measurement standards and technology integration.

I became obsessed with evolving the marketing agency model.

I started PR 20/20 in November 2005 after 21 months of intense planning. It was the most exhilarating and exhausting time of my life. Fueled by a powerful cocktail of youthful exuberance, adrenaline, and caffeine, I spent what seemed like every waking minute outside of my day job (VP at a traditional PR agency) building a dream.

I loved the agency I came from, but I had become convinced there was a better way. I feared that if I stayed where I was and continued to follow traditional marketing agency methods, then I would always regret not taking a chance on something in which I so passionately believed. Besides, what did I have to lose? I was young, and my wife and I were happy living a modest lifestyle. At the time, I was making just enough money to pay our bills, put away a few dollars in a retirement account, and have a little left over for travel. The worst-case scenario if the agency did not flourish was that we would struggle financially for a while, but at least I would have given myself the chance to fail.

So, at the tender age of 27, I left the comfort and security of my career to turn my own vision into reality. — The Marketing Agency Blueprint, Chapter 4

Logo Inspiration from Art

Once I decided that I was going to leave my career to launch the agency, I had the name secured, but needed to create a logo that captured the essence of what I planned to build. After going through dozens of design concepts and iterations that fell short, I found inspiration from a bottle of wine and an evening hanging in my wife’s art studio.

I recalled a concentric-circle series she had painted at Ohio University that I loved. I ran to the basement (aka the downstairs studio) and started filtering through dozens of old paintings and drawings to find the one I had in my mind. The next day, we mounted the artwork to plywood, snapped a digital photo and sent it to the designer.


And just like that, I had the foundation for my agency brand. I think my wife’s name for the original piece was something like “blue circles 2,” but I came to call it, “Vision.” 

I had been inspired early in my career by a line from Howard Schultz’s classic, Pour Your Heart Into It: “Vision is what they call it when others can’t see what you see.” That was what the logo represented to me. Everyone who looked at it saw something different. For me, I saw beauty and simplicity (the center) within chaos (the clashing concentric circles).

What’s Your Brand Origin Story?

What was the inspiration behind your agency name and logo? What drove you to venture into the unknown and make your vision a reality?



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