Honing Razorfish's brand edge

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Back in 1999, Razorfish Inc. co-founder Jeffrey Dachis was a fixture on the Silicon Alley scene, often gladhanding at frenzied Greenwich Village recruiting parties. At the time, the New York-based Internet consultancy's stock price was stratospheric, and it had more b-to-b business than it could handle. Indeed, Dachis' antics and get-ups, detailed by the press in flattering articles, were pretty much all the marketing help Razorfish needed.

Today, Razorfish's stock is trading at around $1 a share, it recently announced it was laying off about 400 people, and just last week it began offering employees what it calls a “voluntary termination” program—basically letting its workers know that if they want to leave, they should.

The consultancy recently brought in Gerry Berton as VP-marketing programs to help reverse Razorfish's fortunes. Berton, former VP-marketing of Key3Media Group Inc., discussed how he plans to do so in an interview with BtoB.

BtoB: Razorfish's stock has been hit hard. It recently fired 400 people and is facing stiff competition from the Big 5. Why did you join up?

Berton: Razorfish has an amazing brand. Pretty clearly Razorfish was at a stage where it had to be aggressive about marketing.

The whole marketplace has changed a lot from the factors going on before March 2000. All the Internet start-ups were getting lots of funding and the Fortune 1000 companies were feeling threatened.

What that all boils down to in the past for our sector is that no one was aggressive about marketing. Razorfish had more people coming to it than it could handle, and so did everyone else.

But the market for what we do is still expanding, though the big companies feel less pressure to do something. So it's a healthy thing.

BtoB: What is your job?

Berton: I provide business development with marketing support—direct marketing, Internet marketing, event marketing. Based on our employees' industry experience, my job is to make sure that their content gets out to the right people so we have a commonality.

Razorfish will be giving C-level presentations—the Opportunity Series. We'll be starting out with briefings on information services, technology and finance. Next month, we'll do one on the subject of mobile payment networks in Boston. Someone from Visa will be coming.

The idea is to get external speakers, all really talking about their industries.

I really want our first interaction with them to communicate value. If we produce a Razorfish event, they won't just be pitches for Razorfish. We'll talk about where the opportunities lie.

We'll also be aggressive in direct marketing, sending out research reports on various industries. We're actually going out to external lists, bank systems and technology. They'll last three hours, breakfast or lunch, Q&A.

I feel that we're thought leaders. Our goal is to add value, and my thought is there's no better way to get someone interested in us than to share what we've learned. We're giving something of value and asking for nothing in return. We're selling million-dollar engagements here and need an interesting approach.

BtoB: How can you compete with a Big 5 consultancy brand?

Berton: Luckily Razorfish does have an amazing level of brand awareness, some of it good and some of it not so good. It's a starting point for us. We can't spend $175 million on marketing, but we don't want to.

Our whole universe is 50,000 people. Everyone else is secondary. My view is that Razorfish was born in the digital economy. It's all we do, and that makes us better at it. We're not looking to be the General Motors of [e-consulting], but the BMW or the Mercedes.

BtoB: A lot of clients are lumping Internet consultancies together, Razorfish included. How do you stand out?

Berton: Look at our track record. We've been around five years. We're pioneers.

I think that it's been tough times lately, but if I walk the halls around here, no one's talking about what their next job is going to be.

Razorfish is famous for its client focus. It's going to keep us together in these challenging times. Our message is true to our ROI approach. We want to be sure we're delivering value from day one.

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