A brief history of ilk.


As you’ll know if you’re reading this, Manifest is no more. As of today, we’re ilk. We’re also very relieved. As anyone who has ever gone through this process before will tell you, it’s a very intense process. Sidestepping the irony of a branding company being surprised by the challenge of redoing its own, the dynamics of being both client and agency still took some getting used to – and so did the realisation of just how emotionally invested in the project we all were. To quote a bad film with a brilliant tagline: ‘This time… it’s personal.”*

And it really was. For my co-founder, Shaun and myself, Manifest has been a huge chunk of our lives (nearly 17 years), so the decision to rebrand was a big one. Once we’d made that call (for reasons I’ll go into a bit later), we scrutinised every decision. Every little thing just seemed to matter so much. This ident or that ident? This line or that line? This font or that font? This colour or that colour?

Perhaps it was because we were so aware of the creative talent we have within the agency, or because we knew this work would help define our future as a company, or even because it was such an opportunity to do something great, but the pressure of making key decisions of design, copy, strategy and comms ratcheted up to a level that was both a new experience and a really valuable insight (more on that later too).

But gradually all those decisions were made. Long meetings in hot rooms (the new office has air con thank the lord!) gradually gave way to good ideas, and slowly the ilk brand was formed. In fact, like so many things, once it arrived – once we could picture the concept on the website and in the office – it quickly became hard to imagine it being any other way.

But why did we do it? Well, lots of reasons. The most boring and pragmatic of them is that we’ve sold our shares in Manifest London and therefore need a new identity in order to re-establish ourselves there. But the most interesting, and most fundamental to the company, was the fact that while the Manifest name had stayed the same for the best part of 17 years, virtually everything else has changed. It’s not just that the way we work is different, but actually what we do is different. When you consider that Manifest used to offer MySpace as a service (back when Twitter was just a twinkle in Jack Dorsey’s eye), you get a sense of what we mean. We used to offer two areas of expertise, whereas now it’s six, (seven if you separate video and photography). What’s more, the best projects require them all.

And that’s at the heart of it. We’ve found that our clients rarely want a single service anymore. They just want the answer or solution. Whether that answer is PR, digital, strategy, video or anything else is irrelevant, just so long as it gets results. Not only have we naturally evolved to work that way and meet those needs, but the more we thought about it, the more we thought that it should be the cornerstone of who we are and how we identify ourselves. In a nutshell – and without giving you the ‘full ilk’ treatment – that’s the drive behind our new brand. It’s why we’ve focused so much on the value of collective, connected and integrated work. Hopefully, you’ll be able to see that idea throughout the content on our new website.

Before I go, I just want to come back to something I mentioned earlier. While the whole team was working so hard to create this new brand, and myself and Shaun were feeling the pressure of signing-off on the new name, logo etc, it occurred to me that we’d never, ever had such a good insight into what it must be like to be a client; will all those business-y considerations that can be all too easy to dismiss from the other side of the fence. And yet, in a roundabout way, that thought actually ties back into what we are trying to achieve as a company. After all, ilk is about creating a collective ‘culture’, and while that’s about our staff and ideas and creativity and methodology, it’s also about hopping over that fence, bringing clients into the process with us and making it clear that they are of our ilk too.

*Jaws: The Revenge, since you ask