IF EINSTEIN was right – ‘Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere’ – then George Belias – the brains behind brand campaigns from giants like Nike and Adidas – is living proof.
The Journal speaks to the Greek-American financial and brand maverick about his life-changing move from the States to Sunderland, as he launches a new firm that will bring big-brand-expertise, in an affordable package, to the region’s businesses.
George Belias is a ‘blue sky thinker’.
Visionary brand campaigns for some of the biggest and best-known businesses in the world have helped the 32-year-old from Chicago carve out a career that most people could only dream about.
“You know, big brands are not that much different really. It’s just that they can try different things. They have budgets that mean they don’t need to be scared to give things a shot. That’s what’s cool about working with them.”
With a roster of big name brands that reads like a who’s who of the consumer world among the clients he has worked with, George is a brand guru who is looking to shake up the North East’s creative scene.
In partnership with his brother Constantine – ‘the creative one’ – George is bringing his branding brains to the North East in the shape of new firm, Eunoia and Partners.
So, what brought him across the pond to the region?
“My good lady works in Newcastle, and I had to make the decision whether to move here to be with her. I felt there was an opportunity to set up a business in a really creative part of the world, and thought ‘you know what, let’s do it’. I knew James Ramsbotham from the Chamber well, and I spoke to him about it. We talked about the landscape in the region for creative industries and felt pretty excited by it. Sunderland seemed to be the right fit for me.
“In the US, everyone talks about Silicon Valley as being this innovation hub, but a little-known secret is that Austin, Texas has this absolutely thriving digital scene. In fact, it’s probably a more exciting place than Silicon Valley, in terms of some of the ideas and innovation coming out of there. Sunderland is similar.
“People talk about the North East, and Newcastle in particular, as being a creative capital, but Sunderland has this really cool vibe about it. There’s a great creative scene here and I felt like it would really work for Eunoia.”
George made the move to Sunderland, while his brother was called onto a project in Athens, working on a destination brand to help reposition the Greek capital, following the country’s financial crisis which saw many visitors turn their back on holidays to the country.
The brothers will work together, across the continent, to deliver brand campaigns for clients, something that they are vastly experienced in, having powered up campaigns for huge consumer brands.
“I remember working with Nike when they were really tapping into that underground scene. Taking their brand from sportswear – like basketball, which was one of their big things in the nineties – to streetwear. But real streetwear. They went after that whole scene in a big way. It was a huge thing for them. It was pretty amazing to work with them at that time.
“Once you work with a brand like that, there starts to be a bit of a buzz about what you do, and we were quickly working with some of the biggest names around and had grown a network of associates who were doing some really inspiring stuff.
“We ended up almost like a boy-band though, and the team broke away and started doing their own thing. The timing was good for me to make a move over to the UK and be with my partner.”
Eunoia and Partners is a branding firm that works to understand client needs to provide tailor-made brand solutions. But George is at pains to point out that this is not a business that will only work with big brands.
“I think sometimes people think ‘if they have worked for Nike, they must be really expensive’ or ‘they’ll only work with big names’. That’s just not the case. If I help Nike sell hundreds of thousands of pairs of trainers, then yes, I’ll charge for that! But if I work with a brand where they don’t have that scalability, then the project will be priced in that way.
“We’re looking to work with more North East brands and really start to make our mark here – we’ll bring that innovation that we brought to Nike and Vespa to them too. There’s a lot of talent and we want to create a buzz around it – we want brands throughout the region to matter.”
Eunoia is formed by a team of individuals from diverse backgrounds who work together to deliver brand strategies.
George said: “We’re a team of creative thinkers from an array of disciplines. My background was in the military, before I decided to move into private equity and investments over in the States. I then moved into branding and design and worked with my brother, who had always been a creative guy. We work well together. We come at things from different angles.
“Together, we understand our clients and develop a brand that works for them. Our range of expertise allows us to deliver creative projects that enable the businesses and brands we work with to grow.
“We cater for a huge range of clients, each time building a brand that suits individual needs,” said George. “But we’d never sell our services to someone we felt would not benefit from our work. If we feel like a client doesn’t need our support, we’d tell them.”
George believes the time is right for many North East businesses to concentrate on building their brand.
“We know that JEREMIE funding is coming and businesses that are keen to tap into that will need to look carefully at their brands – branding is not just about your logo. It’s about really drilling down to the substance of a business and then working up a look and feel that represents that business effectively.
“Brand exercises help businesses to really focus on what they’re about. And that’s something I am so passionate about. My experience of working with brands like Nike, illy Coffee and Citroen and other big companies means that I am used to working with businesses that really understand the benefit of having a clear identity – of evolving too.”
He adds: “I think there is a misconception of what branding is about – it’s not marketing. Branding is the umbrella and marketing is part of it, similar to design and the look of your website. If you’re investing in communications, but you haven’t done that brand exercise in the first place, then ask yourself why. And ask yourself whether you are concentrating your efforts in the right way.
“Brand is at the heart of every successful business – people buy into brands and what they are about, and I hope that, from my new base in Sunderland, I can take that message to the North East and inspire businesses to take a fresh look at their business – see if through new eyes and let their imagination run wild.”
To find out more about Eunoia and Partners, visit: https://www.thisiseunoia.com