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Making some serious noise with Rowdy Studio | #CompanySpotlight

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Rowdy Studios is a full-service branding agency based in London and Dublin with over a decade of experience in building bespoke brands.

A tight-knit team with an enviable client list, Rowdy is an agency that “blends sound strategy with loud ideas” to build their brands and the results certainly speak for themselves. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing more we can learn about them and what makes them tick.

To that end, we spoke to Creative Director Halley Anne Kennedy to shine our company spotlight on Rowdy Studios.

How was your company born and where are you based?

Founded by Lisa Clarke in 2010, the recession presented an opportunity for her to build her own thing and Rowdy Studio was born. From its beginnings as a one-woman shop, I joined the team in 2015 as lead designer and grew into the role of Creative Director.

Today we work between London and Dublin and describe ourselves as a strategic branding agency specialising in strategy, design and activation—working with clients to define their space to own and unlock their creative potential.

What was the biggest challenge to the growth of your company?

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The last couple of years have been a challenge when it comes to recruitment. Between Brexit and Covid, there’s been a real shortage of candidates so there’s far more competition between agencies.

Getting the right person for the team is important for any agency but on a smaller team, it’s essential. We work so tightly together and heavily rely on each other to maintain the standards we strive to set, so everyone who joins us makes a genuine impact on the company. 

Which was the first huge success that you can remember?

There’s a few but I think working on This Time Next Year was a real moment. It really showed the potential of the kind of work we could deliver. It was a fantastic, well-rounded creative brief with an enthusiastic and generous-spirited client.

It still feels really satisfying as a project and gave the team a lot of scope to play and develop. It was also the first time we chose to submit work for awards, and we picked up a few so that was a nice pat on the back.

What’s the biggest opportunity for you and your company in the next year?

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Naturally, we want to grow. But at the heart of that it’s about the team - getting the right people in the right place. That's where you build from. We want to be able to offer our clients a range of experience and skills and diverse perspectives.

The opportunity is to channel those perspectives to cross-pollinate ideas from one sector to another. There’s real value in this for brands, especially as lines blur between sectors - take retail and banking. It means we need to work with leaders who expect to be challenged. And that spirit keeps us pushing forward in return.

Can you explain your team’s creative process? What makes it unique?

Our approach is rooted in our belief in noise & order. It’s all about blending sound strategy with loud ideas. The big thinking with the practical outputs. Generating the noise that helps brands stand out, with the order that makes it tangible. All in all, building brands that drive business objectives and make meaningful connections with audiences.

As a tool, Noise & Order enables us to set the right volume for our clients and understand when and how we need to dial up or dial down their identity. It helps create a framework for us internally and gives us a foundation to benchmark ourselves and our clients against.

Culturally we’d describe ourselves as loud thinkers. Logic lovers who do the leg work and know our stuff. We love to challenge the norm and dare to think differently and we’re real goal getters. We’re relentless about helping our clients achieve.

How does your team remain inspired and motivated?

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Getting back out and about to museums and talks and shows has been great. Everyone is reintroducing themselves to the city - and finding new inspiration in it - having been kept inside for so long!

We’re real magpies for collecting bits of great design. Books, magazines, lego, stamps, prints, stationery and beer labels - there’s a steady supply of gorgeous references.

We also have a new routine - we play classical music to ease everyone into the day. It’s surprisingly effective after a hectic commute…

In terms of motivation, we’re a pretty ambitious group with a willingness to get stuck in. But good communication and even better banter help us stick together and keep driving when the pressure is on.

How has COVID-19 affected your company?

It was a very unsettling time and with so much distance created through working from home, the team’s mental health became a real priority. It was easy to get lost in Slack channels - regular check-ins and conversations had to be actively planned as they happened less naturally from home.

Now we continuously work to try and balance the best of working from home with being together in the office.

A real positive that came out of it was a sense of a step change and drive in our ambition as a company. Not really knowing how the pandemic was going to pan out, we took a now-or-never approach and repositioned and rebranded ourselves. We now have a clear vision and direction of travel that we’re all aligned to.

Which agencies do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?

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Too many to mention! We have an inspiration channel on Slack and I would say that Strelioff & Co, JKR, Collins, Ragged Edge and MultiAdaptor are regularly shared.

I’m a big podcast listener so Creativeboom is a great source of inspiration with some brilliant insights.

In Ireland, Droga5, (previously Rothco) are setting an incredibly high bar and it’s so amazing to see that quality of work coming from Dublin.

What is one tip that you would give to other agencies looking to grow?

Take people on the journey with you. Being smaller, we rely on real graft and teamwork to push us forward. Keeping everyone aware of the vision and direction of travel is so essential to maintain that ambition. The team is everything. They’re the bedrock of the business.

How do you go about finding new clients/business? (Pitching, work with retainers, etc.)

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We’ve had some great long-standing partnerships that continue to develop and grow alongside us. We get a lot of referrals which is always a compliment, but we also have a brilliant new business team driving how we diversify our offer and portfolio.

We normally target new clients based on sector, business state, or alignment with our mission and values. We’re lucky to have a great heritage and relationships in sectors like tech, sport, property and hospitality, but we also take that cross-pollination approach and apply our experiences to new areas.

We’ve had particular success over the years with businesses in fast or hyper-growth, who are looking to build their brands to create consistency and competitive edge on that path.

What’s your one big hope for the future of the industry?

Less ego and more accessibility. It’s a real privilege to do the work we do but it’s not the easiest industry to break into and succeed in. There’s a wealth of talent out there but more work needs to be done to break down barriers and shine light on more diverse voices.

Katie Cadwell is doing a great job of challenging some unacceptable norms on her NDA podcast. It should be on everyone’s playlist.

Do you have any websites, books or resources that you would recommend?

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Our top recommendations, crowdsourced from the Rowdy Team:

For the ears:
NDA podcast: Katie Cadwell focusing on the more difficult conversations needed in the industry

Creativeboom: Katy Cowan having great conversations with some truly inspiring people.

Creative Capes: Insights and stories from industry leaders run by Future London Academy.

For the eyes:

Designing Brand Identity: An Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team by Alina Wheeler - Essential reading for starting out in branding.

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE by Phil Knight - A really interesting story about resilience in creating a business.

Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman by Yvon Chouinard - The founder of Patagonia outlines the principles of how every company should be run.

OMGLord - Cool, interesting and helpful things that things that make G–Lord say OMG.

The Gentlewoman - Brilliant and beautiful content.

Colossal - The “Tate Modern of the internet”

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