Telum Talks To… Jennifer Dembitz, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Upcycle Communications
Telum spoke to Jennifer Dembitz, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Upcycle Communications, newly rebranded from The Mango Agency. Jennifer shares her sustainable vision for the agency and how COVID has accelerated her plans.
Tell us more about the rebranding - with the change in name, what are Upcycle's plans in mind for the future? Does the change in name reflect any new strategies the agency will be employing in the coming year?
It’s undeniable that 2020 was devastating for the travel and hospitality industries. We aggressively pivoted our client portfolio in 2020. Historically we focused on a more diverse mix of lifestyle clients than our UK counterparts at The Mango Agency. COVID accelerated the changes already happening within our offices and shone a light on the ways in which our teams were different. When it came time to separate in 2020, we wanted to open ourselves up to more sectors. Focusing on sustainability and purpose gave us our own renewed purpose and sense of urgency. Helping brands communicate their mission in order to achieve sustainability is what inspires our team at all levels and allows us to think more positively.
Along with the change in portfolio we are committed to upskilling and upcycling ourselves as well. We’ve implemented monthly trainings - a mobile photography workshop in February, team activities; Willing Hearts in March, in order to improve ourselves as professionals and do good for the community and the environment.
Given your extensive years of experience, how did your strategy evolve over time? Did you get a eureka moment, or did you have to adapt to the media landscape?
For us, business strategies and media strategies are constantly evolving. Experience and learning inform these strategies, as do the ever-changing economic and informational landscapes around us.
Choosing to focus our energies on sustainability and purpose was more about connecting the dots than anything. We saw a green thread emerge in our work across sectors. Some of our most exciting work and meaningful outcomes had been in this space - for Six Senses Hotels & Resorts, The Conscious Festival by Green Is The New Black, and Beyond, Ocean Recovery Alliance, Finnair and myriad CSR programmes and hotel sustainability programmes - before working for the first time with Mini Electric, Green Monday and Eat JUST in 2020. It was a question of following our personal passions and what felt good, but being aware of where business investment was taking place as well.
In terms of the scopes of work we deliver, we adapt to the media landscape and evolve with it. Doing so helps us provide the best results for our clients and improve our relationships with journalists, media titles, KOLs and other partners.
How do you feel about the rebranding while still being in a pandemic and what are the challenges you expect to face?
I think 2020 was a year of tremendous transformation and opportunity. We faced greater questions and challenges than we’ve encountered ever before in our careers. Almost every agency and client questioned which vestiges to cling to and on which bets to place our fortunes. Yes, we rebranded the business, though I think we were all happy for a fresh start. But more than that, in 2020 I became a business owner, and I also gave birth to my third child three days after the end of the circuit breaker on 5th June.
Entering the pandemic as a travel and lifestyle specialist agency, we gave ourselves a lot of credit for surviving 2020 and coming out the other side with our whole team intact. We celebrated every client win and small victories. We were hungry for something fresh and dynamic, so rebranding provided a lot of hope and enthusiasm. We’ve had really positive responses to our new name and new niche.
Like many of our peers, we expect to face uncertain budgets for 2021, as well as client priorities and COVID restrictions that shift with the rhythms of the pandemic. Like everyone, we expect to face a highly competitive agency landscape, COVID fatigue, WFH blues and issues in achieving work-life balance.
Can you share your vision to help your travel and hospitality clients adapt to the current situation?
We still represent several travel and hospitality clients, and we are eternally grateful to these clients that stuck with us through 2020. In a nutshell, our vision is to build back better and focus on new customer preferences. Overall, I would say travel and hospitality have seen a significant change for the better in terms of consumer consciousness, brand creativity and technology adoption.
Consumers are more conscious than ever - they’re buying less, travelling less and limiting waste. They’re willing to part with the extra dollar for a more sustainable stay, plant-based meal or ethical brand. When borders open again, travellers will be more selective about the brands they stay with, placing greater scrutiny on their impact on local communities and the greater environment. It’s our job to help clients align their message to their values and use it to drive conversions.
Hospitality has always been a creative space, but brands are coming up with more and more creative ways to engage target audiences physically when allowed, digitally or through at-home experiences. We focus on working with our clients to strategise and shape offerings that pull us out of the everyday; offerings that balance safety with experience and are still exciting enough to create demand.
In terms of technology, we work with our clients to complement their digital transformations, then create and communicate unique content that rises about the noise, all the while offering advice and insights that help keep them one step ahead of the curve.