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Differentiation By Design

International brand-design consultancy StartJG established its Asian headquarters in Hong Kong in 2009 and is now recognised as a regional leader. It was named Brand Consultancy of the Year in 2014

Jonathan Cummings was tasked with setting up an Asian hub for the British brand-consultancy StartJG in 2009. A Group Director, Cummings had led the agency’s entry into Dubai and Russia. He chose Hong Kong as an attractive base for the region. An impressive global reputation preceded the agency’s arrival, having worked with innovative brands including Virgin, for whom they developed the iconic “Script” identity and also created a host of group sub-brands. Other major accounts included adidas, Barclays and Dubai Airports.

Differentiation By Design

But moving into Asia without any clients in the region presented a major challenge. Cummings puts their eventual success largely down to a combination of timing, luck, perspective and the right choice of location.

“Our arrival coincided with an increase in understanding of the importance and place of branding,” says Cummings, who has guided the agency from its start to becoming a dominant force in Hong Kong’s marketing landscape. “Businesses were becoming clearer and more savvy about the commercial value that’s added though a strong branding strategy, and we were well placed to contribute to a refreshed outlook.”

A strong international track record, combined with enthusiastic networking, led to some early wins. In its first year, StartJG Hong Kong secured two major clients — Chow Tai Fook, a luxury retailing giant in Hong Kong, and the China arm of Procter & Gamble.

“When we initially set up, it was just myself in the office, but a couple of major successes enabled me to build a strong team and we’ve been growing ever since. Being in Hong Kong has given us a great platform for China, and also allowed us to stretch easily into southeast Asia, India and Australia,” Cummings said.

The company employs a team of 40 — a mix of local and international talent composed of 11 nationalities, and including brand, digital and environment designers, along with strategists, developers and project managers. What makes StartJG different in the region is its ability to develop brands seamlessly across multiple touch-points, creating differentiated strategies and executing them across both the physical and digital world.

“When we arrived in Hong Kong, there were few brand consultancies. They were typically small and limited in their capabilities, especially in digital design and development. We were able to offer a proposition that was appealing to clients, and also to talent. We’ve been able to recruit very strong colleagues locally, as well as attract international expertise to ensure that we stay at the forefront of the global industry,” Cummings said.

The team also works actively with major design schools in Hong Kong, helping them prepare the next generation designers.

Looking ahead, StartJG’s focus remains the same — to transform and elevate brands via powerful propositions and distinctive creative strategies, bringing businesses closer to their audiences, seamlessly and across all touch-points.

Friday, October 16, 2015

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Fast Facts

  • Established in 1996 in London, UK
  • Founded by Mike Curtis and Darren Whittingham
  • Employs 200 people worldwide, 40 in Hong Kong
  • Group businesses include advertising agency Hometown, artist management agency Breed, software business Connected Retail, and brand tourism business Discovery Partnership

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