Digital marketing agency Evoluted began life in Sheffield as a web development agency over 17-years ago, transitioning into a full-service digital agency as the world of marketing evolved. Following some changes at the top, a recent rebrand and refurb, and the success of their hugely popular Sheffield DM events, unLTD’s Ash Birch caught up with the team to have a nosey about their snazzy West Bar offices…

For any company to have survived, let alone thrived for the best part of 20-years, means they must be doing something right, and Sheffield-based agency Evoluted, who turned 17 back in June, can point to huge successes and steady growth in that time. The key to their growth, which has seen the team grow from a handful of staff in the early days, to just under 40 today, has been their ethos of being a ‘people-first’ company, both with regards to staff and clients.

This is borne out by the fact that five of their staff have been with the agency for over ten years, levels of retention they tell us are unheard of in the industry, and they also proudly boast clients who have stuck with them from the very beginning.

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In order to keep evolving though, in the last year the company has undergone a restructure, with founder Ash Young stepping back to become Commercial Director, allowing Sam Biggins, who originally joined in 2012 and returned after a brief interlude in the world of tech start-ups, and Giorgio Cassella, who joined in 2017, to take over the reigns as Managing Directors in September 2022, setting the new vision for the company.

Giorgio explained: “The opportunity came up when Ash wanted to semi retire. He’s still involved as our Commercial Director, focused purely on business development and sales, which is what he’s great at and what he’s done all the way through his career with Evoluted, helping to build it to where it is now.

“We’ve taken everything else on, so setting the direction for the company; where do we want to be in five years? What does the company look like by the time we hit 20 years in business and beyond?

Sam added: “It’s been a good challenge, but chaotic at times. Ash has always been people-centric in the way he’s run the business. I remember when I first joined, everyone talked about the company as ‘we’, it had that community. Taking that on in the last year has probably been quite a lot of pressure – it’s big boots to fill.

“It has meant that there’s been an awful lot of change, and change can sometimes be scary, so it’s been important to bring on the team to make sure everyone sees our vision. It’s been a really good year. Challenging, but really strong.”

Part of that vision and change has been a rebrand of the company, right down to the logo, and a sleek and functional refurb of their office space on Lambert Street.

“It had been almost ten years since we had last done a rebranding exercise, so it naturally felt time to refresh that again,” says Giorgio, “We’ve got a lot of new blood in the business and new services that we offer, so we needed to rebrand to reflect that.

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“It was also about looking at our internal presence and how we spoke about each other, how we talk to each other, how the company was structured, all the way through to our digital branding, the website, social media, colour palettes, the tone of voice, and then through to that physical identity, which fed into refurb of the office.”

Sam added: “The main trigger for the refurb was that, after Covid, we found that the way we used the space had completely changed. We went from having everyone in the office four or five-days-a-week, to every now and again, more hybrid working.

“We needed more interactive spaces for when everyone comes into the office and it needs to be a collaborative space, rather than just a desk.
“That’s what this office is meant to be. It’s a creative and collaborative hub for everyone to come into and enjoy.”

Giorgio added: “Just today, we’ve had someone based in Huddersfield and someone based in Kidderminster come together to use the new studio we’ve built to record some TikToks and to create some recruitment videos to help with our new hiring plans.

“It’s blending that digital and physical, and knowing that you still want that central place for the team to get together on a more regular basis than just going to the pub once a month.”

Meeting up with their team isn’t the only gathering that’s important to Evoluted either. Over the past five years, they’ve steadily built up Sheffield DM, a bi-monthly event aiming to improve and build the Digital Marketing community in Sheffield. The event was initially dreamed up by Giorgio, when he became frustrated at the lack of marketing specific networking events in Sheffield after moving to Sheffield from Derby.

Giorgio explained: “We got about 30 to 35 people down to that first event, packed into this pokey little back room at the Sheffield Tap. There were diesel fumes flowing through the windows as well as smells from the brewery so there’s this weird mix of odours going on. It probably wasn’t good for anybody’s health! But that first event was a great success. Everybody loved it!

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“It’s a community meet-up and that was always the most important thing.”

While still heavily involved in Sheffield DM, over the last year Giorgio has handed over the reins, in terms of the organisation and growth of the event to Evoluted Digital Marketing Manager Dan Rawley and Senior SEO Executive Nicky Furness, who have overseen real growth of the event and focused on creating a safe and diverse space for people from across the marketing spectrum to meet-up.

The first of these bigger, paid events, was held at Kommune for 100-people. Dan told us more: “Kommune was the biggest event we’d done by a mile. It was very much an experiment, but it went down really well, so we did it again in the summer, at The Octagon Centre, and it grew to just under 250 people.”

Nicky added: “We want to cater for anybody in Digital Marketing and that’s why we had two stages at the last event; We had the main stage which was very much broader digital marketing, and then the second stage was a little bit more niche, so pay per click or paid social media, which we found worked really well.

“It’s about bringing the Digital Marketing community in Sheffield together, but also bringing that wider community to the North. A lot of the events are down South, and we feel like there’s so much that the North can bring, and we also want to promote Sheffield as a city.”

“My favourite part is the community that it brings. I’ve connected with so many different people in the industry because of Sheffield DM. Everybody’s so lovely.”

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Diversity has been one of the event’s key focuses since its inception, both in attendees and speakers. Dan said: “A lot of the marketing conferences we’ve been to, the line-up is basically all white men, and it’s always the same white men every time, and there’s no reason for that.

“Marketing is at least a 50/50 gender split, so we’ve deliberately gone out of our way to have a diverse line-up, including people from underrepresented backgrounds. It’s really important to us and 61 per cent of all speakers have been either female or non-binary. We’ve also given first time speakers an opportunity.”

Nicky added: “We’re also doing more work on audience diversity, because if we’re charging £100 a ticket for our big events that will exclude certain people. For the last event, we gave anybody who’s a student or works in any area of charity an 80 per cent discounted ticket.

“The event is not about making profit; we just try to cover costs while making it realistic for people to be able to attend, because we think it’s a worthwhile thing to do.

Dan added: “We want to keep scaling it and investing in it. The 5th birthday event is at the end of November and we’ll be inviting everyone that’s talked before and alumni, making it a celebration.”

“The work for next summer’s event has already started and I think that is a reflection of how much more time we’re putting into it.”

Off the back of conversations with other agencies at the Sheffield event, they are now looking to work together to bring the event to other cities in the North. The team’s ambition for Sheffield DM’s future mirrors the overall vision of steady growth for the company, while they continuing to evolve with the market by looking at customers’ entire processes.

Giorgio said: “Part of our written culture now is being a better agency and not having that reputation of snake oil salesmen and ad men doing whatever it takes to get the sale across the line. You know, I’m not Don Draper. I like the whiskey but it’s a much more relaxed and less cutthroat environment.”

www.evoluted.net