Creating Magic with Marc Rust, VP of Creative & Brand
Being a creative genius is challenging, mainly when clients rely on you to blow them away with authentic content. You may see an ad, read a story, or watch a video and think, “Wow, how did they come up with that idea.”
Creating a life-lasting impression is about thinking outside the box, developing ways you’re unique compared to your competitors, and not being scared of failing and starting over again.
We sat down with Marc Rust, VP of Creative & Brand, to discuss how he finds inspiration to create “magic,” his process for getting there, and how he was born and grew up to be the creative professional he is today.
How did you get into this industry, and what specifically intrigued you about it?
I’ve always wanted to be in marketing. When I was nine years old, I moved to France. I did not speak a word of French, and I had to learn a new language while going to a bilingual school. But you know, you’re still lost as a kid when you live in a country in which you don’t speak the language!
When my mother watched TV at night, I insisted that she call me over to the TV when the commercials were on. So when she’d call me, I would rush over and watch the commercials in French. And I loved it because you can understand a commercial no matter the language. It has a jingle; it has photography; it has video; it has animation; it has a message.
I’d go back to my room when the commercials were over and play. It taught me to love commercials, the message, the mystery, and the power of a message. Some were better than others; some jingles are still stuck in my head all these years.
Nothing gives more power than design to a message. It creates magic.
I also fell quickly in love with posters. I would rip posters off the subway walls in Paris and put them on my bedroom walls. I’d lie in bed, looking up at my walls, and they’d be covered in rock bands and advertising posters. This was how I started learning typography at 9—just looking at posters, analyzing the space between the letters, and the relationship between different fonts.
What’s your process for starting a new creative project?
First, you can only start projects from a blank page. It would be best if you had an inspiration. No artist in the universe creates from a blank canvas, so you need to do research.
I like to do the unexpected, meaning doesn’t only look at their competitors. Look at things that are different because branding is finding what makes you different and then amplifying that.
That’s one of the things we ask clients. What do you do that other people don’t? That gives you answers. When we find those answers, we amplify them; we make that the focus because that will make them stand out.
Then we find the inspiration behind that focus. I find inspiration by looking at clients’ sister brands. For example, you’re selling a phone. Don’t go and look at other phone companies for inspiration. You look at the sister brand. You look at the people buying the phone and then at what other products/brands they’re purchasing. The person who buys the phone drives Volkswagens, shops at Macy’s, and buys HelloFresh meals. Those are the brands you want to look at for inspiration because you need to build an environment that fits your brand.
How else do you find inspiration?
It would be best if you appreciated things no matter what they were. I wouldn’t say I like rave music, but I will listen to it to enjoy it.
If you try to appreciate things that might make you uncomfortable, it forces your mind to think differently. It would be best if you exercised a muscle of creativity.
I’ll make sure to give you an example. You might be in school learning trigonometry in math class, saying, “Oh my gosh, I hate trigonometry±I’m never going to use this skill. Why am I learning this? I know that I’m not going to become a mathematician.” It’s not that you’re going to use it; it’s that you’re forcing your mind to learn something hard. You’re using a muscle in your mind that requires you to do something that you hate, something you’re unfamiliar with. This is excellent training.
It’s good that you did that because that muscle will teach you later on in life how to troubleshoot. It’s going to teach you how to think about things differently. So as much as you’re doing that for math, I try to do that for design.
What advice would you give someone building a new brand or rebranding a current one?
- Get to know your audience. Branding is what you stand for in the minds of the people you are trying to reach.
- How are you different from others? Build on that.
- Get advice from your target audience. No one cares more about you than the people who will use your product or service.
Could you tell me about a particular project you are very proud of?
I enjoyed redesigning Harvard Medical School. The reason is that we connected from the first time I met the client. They understood what good design was. So I knew we were on the same team before starting the project.
And it was a perfect project because they were very receptive to change. They were ready to look different. And we made them look modern.
We reduced their color palette, strengthened their website messaging, and changed their design. Only some people would be receptive to that, but it looks fantastic if you go to the website. Super strong. It’s bold. It’s what you would expect from Harvard.
How does the dynamic nature of Isovera move the needle for its clients?
We help clients understand that their digital presence is the epicenter of their brand, whether they’re a manufacturing company, a university, or a brewery. The heart of their brand is digital.
Next, we open their eyes to opportunities in marketing, strategy, messaging, and technology that they never saw as possibilities before. We allow them to grow, to move the needle to grow their business.
Another advantage that Isovera has is we’re a very diverse team. You need to get a good strategy by getting similar-minded people in the room. You get a good plan by having different people in the room.
At Isovera, we hire people who are different from others on the team. When I interview somebody, I want to see what they do that’s interesting about them, not necessarily just their job, but also what makes them tick and their passions.
What are three things you try to bring to every client engagement?
- Entertainment: Clients want to enjoy the ride, and this is how we get to know clients on a deeper level.
- Hunger: I want to show clients that we’re hungry for the project and can do something extraordinary for them.
- Strategy: We bring the strategy, which comprises two things; their objectives and their audience. We research, find out where their audience is, then build a strategy to meet their objectives with marketing tactics and Je ne sais quoi.
What does it take to succeed in the agency world?
Knowing what the deeper story is.
For example, you might be building a website for a senior living organization. But this isn’t the story.
The story is that you’re helping people with a tough decisions in their life. You’re helping children with aging parents who’ve noticed their parents need additional care, and neither the kids nor parents know what to do next.
Or, in the case of one of our clients, CAES, an industrial technology company that builds all sorts of components used on planes, rocketships, and radars. These engineers have a fascination with the big picture and the innovation it takes to put people on the Moon or even one day Mars! Knowing this changes everything. Now you are engaging with a company that is creating components that are changing the course of humanity.
The brand experience you’re building for them isn’t just about the colors, shapes, and logo. It ends up being so much more than that.
So to be successful is to know that and try to figure out the story behind the product or service; when you do that, you will create a better experience.
What advice would you give someone officially starting their career in the creative field?
- You need to show initiative. The spirit of the industry will get you ahead in life. Show that you can do things without being told to do them.
- Bring new ideas to the table
- Ask questions and give your opinion
- Don’t be afraid to try new things.
- It’s boring to be like everyone else, so don’t be.
What’s your favorite curse word, and why?
I like holy schnikies because it reminds me of Chris Farley, who was hilarious.
Is there anything else you want to share that we didn’t cover?
This is the worst meeting I’ve had by far.
I was kidding. Only a few agencies have had the opportunity to hit the reset button, like Isovera.
Three years ago, Isovera hired a very different kind of CEO. Matt pressed the reset button on the whole thing, and we changed from a development shop to a full-fledged digital marketing agency.
We are the modern agency. We’re innovative and elegant and can outsmart other agencies in a heartbeat because we only have a few of the heavyweights these agencies have. We don’t have a structure we’ve depended on for years; we’re hungry and willing to learn, change, adapt—do whatever it takes.
Our structure is highly flexible because we’ve understood how to define an agency for the 2020s. This agency was founded in 2000, but we don’t think like a 22-year-old agency; we feel more like a two-year-old agency.
Everything’s fresh. It’s new. We have unique perspectives and unique insights, which are important things to factor in. And we have new leadership and new team members, and we care.
These are all critical factors why our clients choose us.