KC in Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal

The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal did a nice write-up on the agency today.


Kruskopf & Co.’s recipe for growth: straight talk and wine

Photo and story by Meghan Holden, Staff writer, Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal

When clients visit Kruskopf & Co. at its trendy Minneapolis second-floor office they’re greeted with the words, “At the core of everything we do is truth,” painted in large letters right outside the elevators.

The advertising agency weaves that phrase, along with its favorite motto, “No BS,” into everything it does.

Kruskopf & Co., which calls itself KC, has held truthfulness at its core since its inception more than 25 years ago, but its leaders say they’ve only recently started to “own it,” and that has brought in new, big accounts and a boost in revenue.

The agency’s revenue grew from $5 million in 2013 to $9.5 million last year, and it recently landed new national clients, including Utah-based Vista Outdoor, an outdoors-products developer, manufacturer and distributor. KC also regained a former local client, St. Michael-based No Name Steaks, which KC worked with from 2001 to 2006.

KC founder Sue Kruskopf credits her company’s growth to a leadership change, with Dean Huff joining as president in 2013.

The new leadership team directed its focus on emphasizing the company’s “No BS” platform and collaborating more closely, she said, noting that sometimes her and Huff finish each other’s sentences.

“When you have everyone rowing in the same direction, it’s amazing what that can do for growth,” Kruskopf said.

“We all believe in being bold. We all believe in being smart. And we all believe in no BS,” Vice President and Associate Creative Director Mike Cronin added.

The agency even recently changed its website’s URL to kctruth.com to emphasize the re-devotion to its motto.

While its quest to find the truth may sound a bit cult-esque, Huff said it boils down to understanding what its clients are truly about and what their customers want, then having the marketing campaign embrace that.

On the way to finding that truth, clients casually talk with KC about their companies, often over wine in a glass engraved with the company’s logo. If any of KC’s growing pool of 29 employees get caught up in business jargon in those meetings, they have to put a dollar in the BS Jar.

Clients usually find that to be a refreshing change of pace from the typical business meeting, Vice President and Creative Director Robb Burnham said. “They like no BS. They like the truth process. They like the fact that they can come in and have a conversation, whether it’s over a glass of wine or whatever.”

Indiana-based Nautic Global Group, which builds boats under brands like Hurricane and Polar Kraft, started working with KC last December to re-brand its line of Godfrey pontoons.

KC vigorously researched Nautic Global Group and its industry, then let NGG know what it needed to do to re-brand, while making sure it wouldn’t become unrecognizable to customers, Nautic’s Marketing Vice President Kathy Adams said.

“They’re very tactful about it and they’re very sincere about it,” she added.

Bob Thacker worked with Sue Kruskopf at Minneapolis ad agency Campbell Mithun in the late 1980s, when Kruskopf was just starting her career.

Thacker’s now executive director for the nonprofit AdoptAClassroom.org, but he still works closely with the Advertising Federation of Minnesota. He said KC’s truth strategy is smart, especially for this day in age when consumers are sick of companies lying to them.

“They’re embracing where the world is. … The world is fed up with hyperbole. I think honesty is a refreshing change of direction,” Thacker said.

And as the old saying goes, the truth never hurts — “and it oftentimes can lead to profit,” he said.