‘Conversant and versatile’

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:21 pm

Hughes, Ruch & Murphy becomes Versant

Look at a list of public relations and advertising firms and personal names predominate.
A Brookfield firm has decided to take a different route. Hughes, Ruch & Murphy, at 12660 W. North Ave., is now simply called "Versant" – the name being a blend of "conversant" and "versatile".
"Hughes, Ruch & Murphy no longer reflects who we’ve become as a company," said Will Ruch, managing partner. "We are not a company of three, but a company of many. We are a growing team of forward-thinkers dedicated to exploring new ways of solving problems for our clients."
"We’ve evolved," said Dave Murphy, executive creative director. "To truly understand our clients’ objectives and respond to their needs, our team has become more versatile in our capabilities and more conversant in a rapidly changing field of issues relevant to their concerns. In short, we’ve become Versant."
"Versant is more than a new name for us, it’s a promise of what we provide – strategy, synergy and solutions," said Ruch.
The process was initiated about 18 months ago, said Murphy, as the owners sought to expand their brand image. To help them through the process, they hired Milwaukee-based Thiel Visual Design. "We thought we wouldn’t be objective if we handled it ourselves," Murphy said. Thiel, which does a considerable amount of company branding work, came up with the name after receiving input from the owners, key members of the staff and select clients.
It played well in focus groups, with the staff and with the firm’s advisory board, Murphy said, adding that the final selection was a team effort.
But Murphy admits that it was a challenge to switch names, especially to a type of moniker so non-traditional for PR and advertising firms. "It was a leap for us," he said.
The name was found to be registered to a few firms in other industries, but none in communications.
Versant isn’t the only such firm in town that doesn’t refer to itself by the names of current or past principles. When Andrews/Mautner, Inc., and Fuller Thiede & Luskin Advertising, Inc., merged in 1996, the combined entity took on the name Blue Horse. The selection of such a moniker was more driven by the factors of the merger, recalls Christopher "Kit" Vernon, chairman and CEO of Blue Horse. Andrews/Mautner was primarily a business-to-business agency, while Fuller Thiede & Luskin’s activity focused on consumer, financial, food and insurance business, and other areas.
The challenge, Vernon says, was dealing with Andrews/Mautner’s 50 years of brand image and Fuller Thiede Luskin’s 30 years. "Changing your reputation isn’t easy," he notes. "But neither name reflected who we had become." And combining the names would have presented a real tongue-twister, he observes. "So we decided to look for a short, distinctive name – one with a bit of an attitude and with some legs for promotion." Blue feathers and blue horseshoes were sent out to announce the new name.
Versant unveiled its new name via a targeted direct mail campaign supported by the company’s Web site, www.versantsolutions.com. The company also plans to use the revamped Web site as a resource for its global client base, providing both information (on topics such as employer branding and emerging business trends) and as a tool for interactive client communication.
Like Murphy, Vernon admits to having had doubts about the Blue Horse name. But the change has worked well for the firm, Vernon says, noting that the name has helped it stand out in its industry.
While the Versant name change is effective immediately, the leadership, ownership and operations remain intact. Jim Hughes, the other part of the former name’s trio, is in semi-retirement, serving in a consultant role to the 35-year-old firm.
Versant will continue to operate as a "full-service, new scope-organization" according to Ruch. "Versant will continue to offer clients effective branding and inventive marketing solutions using traditional disciplines, but we’ll do so by integrating them with emerging tactics that reach beyond the scope of the traditional agency model," said Ruch.
Versant’s "non-traditional" capabilities includes interactive services from strategic planning and development of Web sites, multimedia and CD-ROM, to audience development via Internet marketing and branding, electronic public relations and e-mail marketing campaigns.
"We’re dedicated to helping our clients strategically expand their initiatives in technology and weave the Internet more thoroughly throughout their overall marketing efforts," said Ruch.
Other "non-traditional" services include employee recruitment and employer branding, for which the company is recognized nationally.
According to Ruch, the rules of the employment game have changed. "Nowadays, companies are the ones being interviewed. As a result, recruiting and retaining the best employees has become a daily challenge for most companies.
The firm’s clients include Kohl’s Department Stores, Allen-Edmonds Shoe Corp., Northwestern Mutual, Marshfield Clinic, Mutual Savings Bank and the Milwaukee County Transit System. It reported 2000 revenue of more than $29 million.

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