Why I Rebranded & Repositioned My Agency During A Global Pandemic
I am Michael Gietzen, Managing Director of Identity, a global experiential events agency based in East Sussex. Amid a global pandemic and within one of the hardest hit industries in the UK, I decided to invest further in the business and embark on a large-scale repositioning of my agency.
Here’s why I did it.
Over the past three years Identity has witnessed numerous changes. In 2018, we implemented our strategy to be recognised as one of the leading events agencies in the UK and internationally. Our ambition was, and still is, to be THE name for strategic thinking, creative innovation and delivery of major events and campaigns for global brands and government departments.
The changes we implemented have been in infrastructure and offices, talent, size of client and project and most recently a major repositioning of the agency.
Clients & Projects
We have taken a discerning approach to work with clients that match our company values. These clients share our aspiration to deliver world class events that we work collaboratively on to demonstrably move the needle when it comes to return on investment. We now work on projects for some of the world’s most recognised brands, such as Apple, Siemens, Leica, Harley-Davidson, New Balance, Formula E, NATO and Her Majesty’s Government.
Over the years our focus was to:
- Increase the average order value of the projects
- Ensure that we put the best teams possible on projects for our clients
- Deliver our added value
This has become the key to our success. Through our 100 strong team and a combination of best in class freelance support, Identity has delivered some of the biggest and most high profile projects in the UK in 2019.
Over the past few years we have increased our office space, meeting rooms and staff facilities. We’ve also expanded our workshop, storage and warehousing capacity to in-excess of 30,000 square feet.
We are proud of our roots on the south coast of England, and this year we are excited to announce the opening of our London office. Even during these unprecedented times, we feel it is advantageous to be geographically near our clients. By expanding our footprint, we can also keep attracting the best talent that the industry has to offer.
Talent is the single greatest development at Identity over recent years. Without the talent, dedication and passion that the team has for our clients, their projects and our company’s ambition, none of what we have achieved so far would have been possible.
In 2018 we announced internally that we would be proactively looking to attract more of the best leaders within the events industry. These leaders were to play a significant role in our company growth and would serve to develop our client relations, our ability to deliver even larger projects and provide a foundation for learning and development for our existing and future recruits.
By late 2018, we welcomed Janet Dodd to Identity’s board of directors. As Director of Live Events, Janet’s pedigree and expertise in the delivery of government projects is unrivalled in the industry, with over 20 years of experience in some of the world’s largest and highest profile events.
Soon came further account management and project management appointments, where personnel with top London agency and global brand client-side experience joined us. More recently, Neil Mason our Executive Creative Director, previously at Jack Morton and George P. Johnson, joined to head up our creative department. Neil now leads Identity as the creative powerhouse for this new era of events.
Finally, to support our project delivery, James Shirley our Head of Production, joined the team to oversee a stable and strategic growth model for experiential delivery. With 15 years working at Imagination, James is an experienced pair of hands to adapt and maintain project delivery to the highest standards.
2019 was an incredible year of growth for Identity, both from a commercial perspective and a feeling of belief. Some 18 months into our strategy of becoming ranked as one of the leading event agencies in the UK we ticked off many of our company objectives, picking up some great clients and projects along the way. Most notable was making it onto the C&IT TOP 50 Events Agency in the UK as well scooping several other international awards, including being ranked in The Sunday Times Virgin Atlantic Fast Track 100 list. This is the league table that ranks Britain’s 100 private companies with the fastest-growing sales over the three year period and fellow alumni of Fast Track include Gym Shark, Brewdog and Tropic. Finally, in early 2020 we were honoured to receive a prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade.
From all these achievements, Identity gained a strong sense of belief and the self-confidence that we are capable and actually very good at working at this level. In an honest and open admission, on a journey to get to the top you often second guess your approach and ask yourself are we making the right moves and are we ready for this next type of project. Now, having delivered these major and significant events, there is certainty throughout the team that we can and will reach our ambition. Unlike many of our competitors we are a relatively young agency, often referred to as “The New Kids on the Block”. Yet, it is precisely this incredible dynamism and agility that has helped us carve a new path – a path where we constantly seek out new ways of delivering projects more efficiently and more effectively.
Growing a business, particularly one that is people driven and highly creative, in a fiercely competitive landscape (the UK is home to some of the world’s best event agencies) has not been without its challenges. I liken 2019 to a rollercoaster – the overall feeling is one of thrilling excitement with the highs of achievement, but at times has been sprinkled with trepidation and low points. Many of the projects that we delivered were televised in 2019, so it is a fantastic feeling seeing your work when you get home and across social channels during live days. Nevertheless, I do have to say that the best bits about 2019 have been the relationships we have built with our clients.
I work across many government departments and I get a great sense of fulfilment, knowing that we have been able to deliver incredible events often with challenging budgets, generally under intense scrutiny, but all of which have made an impact and a difference.
DFT – Get Ready for Brexit
In 2019 Identity worked with the UK’s Department for Transport to deliver the outreach programme for the haulier industry as the nation prepared to Get Ready for Brexit. The project was a phenomenal logistics operation with 120 live sites across the UK and EU simultaneously. Our team worked alongside DfT to ensure that communication around border readiness was clearly explained to a traditionally difficult to reach target audience. The project is the single largest event-staffing contract of the past decade and was incredibly successful.
Then came time for a bit of a reset amidst the far rumbles of an outbreak of a virus in Asia. Not initially fully on my radar but watching its wake from afar, we were soon to understand the full impact and devastation it would cause nationally and internationally. Clearly, since the outbreak of COVID-19, we find ourselves in uncharted territory. The impact of such disruption to the events industry has meant that we have had to significantly review our objectives, business planning and financial management. There are over a million professionals working in the technical side of the entertainment industry who have either lost, or are at imminent risk, of losing their jobs – 600,000 of whom deliver live events. Unlike other industries, events, festivals and performances have been unable to reopen to any scale and may not re-open until well into 2021. The industry has been decimated by disruption and cessation of events; yet, and I say this with an enormous sigh of relief, through careful management and a clear and strong strategy for success, Identity is one of the least effected agencies.
Yes, our turnover has been hit by COVID-19 and forecasted projections for our next financial year have had to be adjusted. However, our recent financial results will show a 105 percent uplift in sales and a significant increase in retained earnings. We are a strong and resilient agency with a broad mix of clients and sectors across both public and private sectors. Fortunately, our retained clients were quick to pivot to digital experiences and we have been able to deliver some of the industry’s largest and most ambitious digital outreach campaigns. Identity has visibly been one of the most active event agencies over the past six months and has continued to actively recruit the best talent in the industry.
By our very nature, we spend a lot of time working on risk management, resilience planning and the development of strategies to mitigate project exposure. We have invested significant management time to plan and forecast, then plan and forecast again, to ring-fence the safeguarding of all our staff and ensure absolute business continuity. Identity is fortunate to have heavily invested in digital and creative technologies over a year ago and as a result we were able to pivot at speed to virtual events and digital experiential solutions for many of our clients’ needs.
When asked what gives Identity it’s competitive advantage, I would say it’s the sheer scale and depth of industry talent combined with our passion to deliver. We have managed to pool a team of over 100 people with vast experience of working with brands such as Nike, Adidas, Cisco, Jaguar Land Rover, the Olympic Games, marathons, opening ceremonies and other major international events. Now, there is not single type or size of event project that I do not have the confidence in our ability to deliver flawlessly.
We often must pitch for our work and what separates us from the competition is the profile and quality of our people in the room and back at our offices and this comes across in our presentations. We are an exceptionally motivated, dedicated and experienced team. If you are a client reading this then I hope you will share the same thoughts as I do; when I say that our passion runs throughout the business from the individual on the ground to the project director, we want your event to be the best it can be and always with a smile on our face.
It is imperative that our clients deliver on the objectives for their events and we put this front and centre on all our operations making it easy for our clients to demonstrate their event success to internal stakeholders.
So, rebranding now felt right. This is not a name change but a repositioning of our brand to fully represent and showcase our achievements and our future ambition. We have invested significantly in our repositioning to better reflect the personality, vision and offering of Identity. We have combined our years of event experience with customer experience and user experience to create our pioneering philosophy of human experience.
It is essential that we showcase Identity as an agency of talent and expertise and one that is ready for the future. Identity’s clear road map to becoming the UK’s No 1 event and experiential agency is really shaking up the status quo and this rebrand and repositioning is part of the process.
Identity is very well known for its production and event infrastructure capabilities, having worked on some of the most complex and large-scale projects in the UK in recent years. We now want our clients and industry peers to see exactly where Identity stands in the marketplace and to showcase us as the leading strategic thinkers and creative powerhouse.
Our creative and data driven teams stand ready. We could not be working any harder for our clients and our team to position ourselves as the major player in the UK.
We are very clear about our strategic approach to sales, customer service and event delivery. We will continue to expand our client portfolio with significant national and international events and experiential campaigns. We have positioned ourselves as the “go to” creative experiential events agency in the UK. It is an amazing prospect really and one that inspires all the team to go and just do it!
I am incredibly proud of our journey so far and even very excited about Identity’s next chapter.
So, that is why I decided to reposition my agency during a global pandemic.