The standard bearer who isn’t afraid to say no

Photographer, designer and brand consultant Gregg Sedgwick tells Richard Abbott why ditching a client can be good

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By  Richard Abbott Published  September 25, 2005

The standard bearer who isn’t afraid to say no|~|Sedgwick,-Gregg200.jpg|~|Sedgwick... ‘It is important that media consultancies like ours have standards and are not afraid to say no’|~|Gregg Sedgwick was the talk of Dubai Media City when his company resigned the prestigious Pearl of Qatar business last month. His company, Gregg Sedgwick, Creative Strategy (GSCS), had revitalised the prestigious real estate brand but dumped it after it failed to stick to the agreed brand positioning and, in Sedgwick’s words, diluted the impact. But he is keen to move on. “I don’t want to keep digging up the dirt,” he says. “Let’s just say it was something we needed to do. It is important that media consultancies like ours have standards and are not afraid to say no. “We are only as good as the work we do for our clients. We are in a very fortunate position in that we can be selective about who we work with.” Companies pay Sedgwick to give them a long-term brand positioning. The recent rebranding of Jumeirah International as Jumeirah was a case in point. Emaar is another brand that has received the GSCS treatment. These are big gun clients and GSCS is a profitable business with a 30-strong workforce of European and Arabic designers based in Dubai Media City. Sedgwick is a multi-faceted character, every inch the creative guru. A talented photographer and qualified pilot, he also runs The Studio Dog, one of the world’s leading suppliers to online photo library Getty Images. “I can be at an airport anywhere in the world and I will find one of my pictures in the magazine rack,” he says. Predictably, his images often crop up in advertisements too. It doesn’t stop there. He has published a book offering a pictorial perspective on the Jumierah Beach Road and even finds time to run a gallery at the Souk Madinat Jumeirah — one of the few arts venues in culture-starved Dubai. The father-of-two lives in Jumeirah with his family, splitting his time between Dubai and his home in Richmond, London. He admits that he finds it difficult to stop working, but when your hobby and your job cross over so neatly it must be of little concern. His first company in Dubai was brand consultancy Sedgwick Richardson, which he part-owned but no longer retains any shares in. Following a spell with the Al Tayer Group, he launched GSCS four years ago. “DMC afforded me that opportunity,” he says. The company now proudly claims to be the fastest growing independent brand consultancy in the Middle East. And judging by the rate at which the office is acquiring floor space, few could argue with that claim. “We are involved in creating new brands or evolving existing brands. We talk about meaningful, long-term brands rather than something superficial,” says Sedgwick. “It is an entire mantra through which a company operates. We are about big idea creation. “We create a value set and then add graphics, images, layers… a real solution that has the potential to create culture change. “We say to clients ‘we will create the map for your brand’. We give them the tools with which to work with that brand.” Not for the first time during our conversation, he adds: “Brands take time.” Does GSCS’s expanding client list mean that Middle East clients are beginning to realise the importance of building a strong brand? “Increasingly companies do understand the importance of branding,” he says. “They are recognising it as something that can make real change, a process that will set rules that people can adhere to.” He uses the example of Jumeirah — a case study that he is clearly proud of. “They are taking their time to get it right. They are investing in the guidelines. They are creating a global brand. They are obsessive, for all the right reasons, about detail.” The new Jumeirah logo is the most noticeable change to the brand, but Sedgwick is a passionate believer that a logo is only the starting point for a company image. Building a logo can cost as little as a few thousand dollars but Sedgwick says the investment is money wasted without the rest of the brand package. “So many companies get confused between logo development and branding. A logo is worthless unless it has all of the other elements around it. Those companies are wasting their money because they will have a logo but no brand,” he says. Clearly referring back to the breakdown of the relationship with the Pearl of Qatar, he adds: “Typically a client invests a million dirhams (US$272,000) with us, so it is frustrating to see it diluted or distorted to create a short-term campaign. We are prepared to have a voice. You either create a sales platform or you create a long-term brand with real value.” The GSCS logo is white against a red square. Sedgwick explains: “It is purposefully neutral. We don’t want to impose an overwhelming brand. We provide an objective service. Red is noticeable. It is simple because the best solutions are.” Good answer. Sedgwick clearly knows what makes a brand tick. For him, it is about identifying the big idea and building a framework around which a brand can flourish. He is focused, driven and knows instinctively whether he will be able to work effectively with someone. “I don’t think I am arrogant, but I’m certainly opinionated,” he says. “Because I am English I can intuitively judge a character. “I recruit at a very high level and invest in people.” Sedgwick has found a profitable niche and it is only a matter of time before his firm is snapped up by an international name. Indeed, he is open about his plans. “We will look to be acquired or we will look for a partner from the trade itself,” he says. “It might be an international name, it might be a client. We are a very profitable company and I think we make an excellent acquisitional target.” With that kind of confidence running through his veins, you suspect it won’t be long before the company is snapped up.||**||

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