‘Watch this space!’ The lowdown on Top Banana’s new Manchester office

“We’re definitely friendlier up here!” laughs Marc Hazelden, who heads up Top Banana’s new Manchester office. “It’s unfair to be quite so generic, but there’s a friendlier vibe in the north, more of an old-fashioned community spirit. People say hello to each other in the street, it’s a cultural difference.”

Hazelden’s entire career has been based in Greater Manchester, so the opportunity to head up the new office was too tempting to resist. Ever since joining Top Banana from The Fresh Group in 2017, the promise of a Manchester office has always been on the cards.

“We’ve got some really good clients in the northern region,” says Hazelden. “As a business, we identified the time is now right to provide them with the local service – and it’s a great opportunity for us to expand our talent base.”

The Manchester operation, based in St Peter’s Square, opened in May and is Top Banana’s third UK location, joining its regional office in London and headquarters in the Midlands. Hazelden explains the guiding principles behind the new office and why Manchester won out against other cities in the north.

“The idea is we can position ourselves to expand into a lucrative market in an ever-growing creative scene,” he says. “We also need to manage and service our northern-based clients. The second priority is growing and cultivating a client base in the region.

“One of the great things about Manchester is how cosmopolitan it is. There’s a great vibrancy and openness up here. Manchester is so recognised as the most creative city outside London. Those opportunities meant it made absolute sense for us to open here.

“It’s not just about business growth but recruiting the right people as well, tapping into the talent pool. With a northern base we now have a really good spread of services and locations.

Hazelden cites new client DFS as a “massive part” of the decision, after Top Banana won a competitive pitch to produce its annual conference last year.

“Off the back of that we’re working with key stakeholders and supporting with the group transformation and communications,” he said. “That’s starting to establish.”

Other key clients include Cheshire-based care providers Home Instead, for whom Top Banana delivered an annual conference at ACC Liverpool last year, as well as Thorntons, Wilko and Experian.

...and on the sixth day, God created Manchester

…and on the sixth day, God created Manchester

“When I joined it was always part of Richard’s (Bridge, Top Banana CEO) long term strategy. When I joined I commuted to the Midlands three days a week. Those two years helped me understand the culture at Top Banana, as well as proving my credibility by putting the hard yards in. I won’t miss commuting on the M6 though!

“It’s just me in the office at the moment, but we do have plans to expand this year. A big part of the plan is ensuring sustainable and organic growth, working with trusted partners and contacts.

“We have a staffing strategy of growing 50 per cent year on year for the next three years, which should see us at 8-10 people. It’s all subject to the success of the business strategy though. We’re looking for longer term partnerships – we’d rather have a lot of good accounts, that’s how we’re planning to grow the business. It’s quite ambitious.

“Where we come into our own is based on value and creativity – there are so many services we offer. We always call clients part of the family and we like to think that is reciprocated.”

He adds though, that the city itself was one of the driving factors behind the expansion.

“A big part of it is the opportunity in Manchester,” he says. “Here in the north the economy is booming, 2,000 international brands are based in the city, the talent pool is huge. There are 100,000 students across Manchester’s universities. It’s a great place to be and an exciting time for Top Banana and the north. It’s good to have a bright perspective. Watch this space.”