Waterford brand agency Totem plots expansion after UK award wins

Irish firm plans to double in size over next three years

Totem, a Waterford-headquartered branding agency, is priming itself for expansion after winning two awards at an industry event in the UK last week.

Spurred on by the victories and an increase in demand for its services in recent years, the agency plans to double in size over the next three years. Totem is led by creative director Colin Byrne, who founded the business in his garage in 2002, and employs seven people in Dungaravan, Co Waterford.

Market research conducted in the UK and Europe has reinforced Totem’s commitment to expansion, Mr Byrne said. “Somewhere between 12 and 14 is the ideal size for an agency. It’s kind of the Goldilocks zone: you’re not too big, not too small. It’s kind of driven by getting the balance right because we’re driven by service. So I don’t want to get too big because I think we could lose that hands-on approach.”

Totem took home a bronze medal in the best naming strategy at the prestigious Transform Awards Europe in London last Wednesday evening and was also highly commended in the best brand development project category.


Both awards related to Totem’s campaign for French bioscience company Aton, formerly known as Hybergenics, for which the Irish firm led a rebranding process.

Last week’s victories will be a “catalyst” for the expansion process, said Mr Byrne. “It gives voter confidence and it’s a nice kind of feelgood factor. So that’s important.”

As well as Aton the agency boasts a client list that includes airport operator DAA – for which it has worked on campaigns for Cork Airport – and Luxembourg-anchored life sciences company Eurofins among others. “I think having that work with high-profile clients behind us allows us to pitch forward and give new clients a lot of confidence in Totem and who they are dealing with”, he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Byrne said there has been a noticeable decline in spending on branding within the market over the past 18 months as businesses slashed marketing budgets in the face of rising costs and macroeconomic upheaval. However, he said business levels had picked up in the early part of 2024, and the pipeline looks good across the industry.

“Definitely last year I noticed that projects were kind of slow to get going,” he said. “But the beginning of this year, kind of the opposite has been happening. There has been a little bit of a turn, certainly in quarter one. People who were kicking to touch at the end of last year they have decided they’re pulling the trigger, which is good.”

Ian Curran

Ian Curran

Ian Curran is a Business reporter with The Irish Times