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Business Observer Friday, Oct. 20, 2017 11 months ago

Big Thinkers

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An ad agency launched in the downturn grows rapidly — and to multiple markets worldwide — through its devotion to client connections.
by: Ted Carter Contributing Writer

Suggesting Scott Qurollo's eight-member Fort Myers advertising agency is punching above its weight class would draw a grin from the Pearl Brands founder.

If size matters in his business, Qurollo hasn't noticed.

What is noticed is that his 9-year-old full-service agency is fattening revenues by building a selective list of local and regional clients, in addition to global clients such as Bayliner and Heyday. The firm even recently worked on a project in a famed French wine destination — an uncommon destination for a Fort Myers small business.

“Four years ago, we were probably three people,” Qurollo says. “We've had to move to new offices twice the size in the same building.”

Revenues grew 55% last year “and this year we are on track for a 30% increase,” he says. He declines to give specific revenue figures.

The prosperity, Qurollo says, stems from a mix old and new. One part is from expanded services to earlier clients such as Bayliner Boats and Heyday Wakeboats. Another part is new business that came after Pearl Brands won Gold ADDYs from the American Advertising Federation Suncoast for three years running and a Judge's Choice award this year.

“Most of our business comes to our door because they have heard about us,” Qurollo says.

“We are brand experts” who can initiate brands or build on established ones, he adds. “OK, you've got a good brand. The next step is A, B and C.”

He started Pearl Brands out of necessity after he lost his job at an ad agency in the recession. His calculation: survive the hard times and grow from there.

Today's regional clients include IGY Marinas, Southwest Florida Marine Industries Association, Pink Shell Beach Resort and Marina, University of South Florida's Federal Credit Union, the University of Florida and Salt Island Seaplanes.

Qurollo says one key lately to the success is a business founder truism, in being sure to get out of the way and let his creative people do their thing. An assist to their efforts, he says, comes from analytics the agency applies to gauge what works and what doesn't.

“We can put messaging out there and watch it very closely, and ask ourselves, 'Why isn't it going the way we thought it would?' We can shift gears.”

Pearl Brand's management of the multinational marketing and brand management contracts for fiberglass recreational boat maker Bayliner and Heyday Wake Boats starts with an annual strategic planning meeting with the company's senior management. Business objectives are laid out.

From there, it's up to Qurollo and the Pearl team to develop marketing strategies and related tactics for the model year, says Keith Yunger, president of Bayliner and Heyday, in an email.

“This relationship is very important and special to us, as they are our marketing department,” says Yunger, whose company, a division of Brunswick, generates over $125 million in annual revenue globally. To that end, Pearl Brands graphic designer and videographer Matt Galbraith recently completed a six-day photo and video shoot in Bordeaux, France, for Bayliner and Heyday.

The relationship started when Bayliner visited Pearl Brands to get help signing up new dealerships in Florida.

To show it could be a good fit, Pearl presented Bayliner executives with iPads featuring customized splash screens and a video message from Yunger. “Plus, we created a custom wrap for the iPad to show them what we wanted to do for them and who we were,” Qurollo says.

A year after landing the regional work, the firm became the agency of record for Bayliner/Heyday. Yunger says he is especially impressed with Pearl Brand's focus on solutions “while having an appreciation to our budget pressures throughout the year.”

Qurollo, a 25-year ad man who came up on the creative side of the business, including marketing work at Bass Pro Shop's Missouri headquarters, chose the name Pearl Brands partly to avoid his name on the firm. He also wanted a name that reflects thinking “deep” to find that “rare brand.”

Methods of advertising and media content delivery will change, he says, but “not the need to take your client and connect him with a customer.”

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