“Everybody promises fresh thinking but in my experience Sword & Stone really deliver on that promise.”
“If I had one strategic brand initiative that I absolutely had to get right, Sword & Stone would be my pick.”
“Sword & Stone saved us thousands and made us millions.”
We find insights and new opportunities for our clients that don’t get them raising one eyebrow, but get them raising both eyebrows. Those are the insights that change things. Those are opportunities you can’t ignore.
Strategy is about problem solving. Innovation is about ‘new and better’. We’re about both. Comfortable with the board, polyboards and whiteboards. Multi-disciplined. Multi-sector. Multi-ples of three.
If ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ then it starts the day right. We help clients embed strategies and skills inside their organisations to create the culture necessary for change.
We have a rule that our project mix should always span a variety of categories, sectors and cultures. This cross-fertilization is just one of the reasons why we can promise our clients solutions that go beyond the predictable ideas they’ve seen before.
Breakdown cover provider and insurer The AA was planning to launch a new mortgage product, and needed a consumer-facing proposition to go to market with.
We developed a strategic proposition for the new product based on insight from customer calls and the outputs of our Idea Accelerator™ workshop run with key stakeholders.
We found that consumers generally make mortgage enquiries based on rate, not realising that lower rates often meant higher fees overall. In a market shouting about rates, rates, rates, we created a proposition based on the better long-term value that mortgages from The AA deliver for their members.
Strategic Skills Audit
Pharmaceutical company GSK wanted to identify the skills gaps across their marketing department in order to implement a training programme. By looking beyond specific skills gaps to consider what was needed for development in the long term, we turned a department audit into a broader strategic plan intended to transform GSK’s marketing into a high performance team capable of leading the industry.
“John Howkins delivered everything that we hoped for on this project and a lot more too. He brought real insight into our opportunity as a marketing organisation and a highly strategic recommendation on where we should focus to not just improve but to transform from good to industry leading.”
Anna Hale, Area Marketing Director Northern Europe, GSK Consumer Healthcare
Innovation and Proposition Development
BGL is one of the UK’s largest consumer insurance groups. They own companies such as Comparethemarket in the UK, LesFurets in France and hoyhoy in the Netherlands, with the group turning over a combined revenue of £507 million in 2014.
Our work with BGL has spanned several projects and brands with different purposes: from creating reward mechanics which ensured consumers completed their purchase journey, to articulating go-to market propositions.
'I’ve been involved in a number of strategic projects, and have found that the most powerful ones are not always those with the most innovative thinking, but those where the team are most enthusiastic about it. With Christian and the team, however, we get both. Their approach creates the perfect blend of creativity and engagement, they are my go-to place for anything that’s a little bit difficult.'
Dominic Holton, Associate Director, LesFurets.com/BGL
In late 2015, the management team at Majestic were formulating their future business strategy and they wanted their employees to contribute to the direction of the company.
Sword & Stone ran ‘Have Your Say’, an initiative encouraging Majestic staff to voice their thoughts on the future of the company. From stores to head office, from Falmouth to Edinburgh, ideas and opinions were generated through group workshops, diary studies and surveys.
This project engaged hundreds of employees across the company, and the findings significantly impacted the shape of Majestic’s business plan.
'Working with Sword & Stone on the Majestic "Have your say" plan was a fantastic experience, great facilitation and running of a step-change program that looks, feels and has been received by the organisation in a very positive way. Look forward to the results.'
John Colley, Managing Director, Majestic Wines
Brand Positioning and New Product Development Guidance
Cartoon Network is a global powerhouse of children’s entertainment brands. Its portfolio boasts some of the most recognised cartoons in the world, with their audiences spanning generations.
Over the last few years, Sword & Stone has been asked to help the network define what sits at the heart of several of its global franchises, aligning the business around each brand’s distinct place in its portfolio, ensuring their longevity and value.
Along the way we’ve helped the network develop an evergreen brand, turn a cult phenomenon into an iconic property for kids and adult fans, reimagined a cartoon about a family as a cartoon for the family, and positioned a key property for a global brand launch.
Insight, Business Strategy and Brand Positioning
Which? is one of the great British brands.
We have worked with Which? consistently over the last two years on projects ranging from helping to develop future business strategy to positioning the Which? legal services offer, from bringing the mortgage consumer to life, to helping to recruit new members.
We’re really proud of our association with Which? and the work we continue to do for them.
'Everybody promises fresh thinking but in my experience Sword & Stone really deliver on that promise.'
Chris Gardner, Managing Director, Which? Publishing
Innovative new fundraising models
WaterAid, the UK's dedicated water charity, had optimized its fundraising model to the limit, which left a £5m gap. We were asked to fill that gap.
We lead a WaterAid and agency working team to generate new giving models. We did this by looking at ‘levers’ of giving models, not just brainstorming ideas.
As a result of our thinking, WaterAid rejuvenated its fundraising efforts and were able to present strong business cases to the board.
Brand Creation and Naming
Braas Monier Group is a worldwide leader in roofing materials. In 2014 the company had global sales of €1.211 billion, with offices in 35 countries and over 7,300 employees.
In late 2015 the company developed an innovative technology capable of producing new strong concrete tiles that weigh 40% less. This is an innovation that allows hundreds of thousands of European homes with light sub-construction to have a real tile roof for the first time. After winning a competitive pitch, we were asked to produce a name and a story for this technology.
What we created, over a period of just 6 weeks with a process that involved and aligned key stakeholders, was the proprietary ingredient brand Aerlox. Since then the group has invested in building the brand, ensuring that it generates increasing value for Braas-Monier in each European market it is introduced to.
Bacardi Limited is the largest privately held, family-owned spirits company in the world.
Brand Ambassadors for Bacardi spend their days and nights out and about in bars, talking to the trade about the brands they represent. For them, presentation skills are a must.
So over six weeks, Sword & Stone ran a comprehensive presentation training programme for these ambassadors. Covering topics from performance skills, presentation construction, storytelling and media training, the course took a practical, collaborative approach which made huge improvements to the skills of the group.
'The programme was life changing. Initially I wasn’t convinced that a course like this could dramatically change my confidence, skills and my understanding of how I can apply this to what I do.'
Bacardi Brand Ambassador/Programme Participant
Insight and Advertising Strategy
Sword & Stone was brought in by OgilvyOne Business to help develop the strategy behind a communications campaign for accreditation organisation Investors in People (IIP). The strategy used the idea of ‘Outperformance’ to create a campaign aligning IIP with high levels of business improvement. The campaign saw IIP’s Net Promoter Score increase by 8 percentage points, and it was awarded winner of Best Brand Initiative at the 2015 B2B Communications Awards.
'The insight, commitment and practical help of Christian and the rest of the Sword & Stone team played a significant role in developing the Outperformance campaign for IIP. I would wholeheartedly recommend Sword & Stone to any prospective businesses looking for creative help at any level.'
Richard Watkins, Executive Director, Ogilvy
Brand Positioning, Vision and Mission, Design Briefing
Foolproof wanted to reposition itself: to shift from a UX agency to an experience design agency, whose image better reflected the client experience and agency output they offered.
We facilitated a two day workshop that generated a vision, mission, values and goals. We also acted as strategic consultant for a new brand design, overseeing a pitch process and the creation of a bold, iconic identity that reflected the new positioning.
'Sword & Stone saved us thousands and made us millions. We’d built a thriving business over 10 years but our positioning and brand identity was lagging the reality of our capabilities. Sword&Stone helped us work through positioning strategy and arrive at a brief for brand identity so that we didn’t waste time or money with the visual identity partner they recommended to us. The resulting work transformed the public face of our business and gave us access to contracts and revenues that would previously have been out of reach.'
Tom Wood, Founding Partner, Foolproof
Columbia University, an Ivy League, in New York City is one of the finest universities in the world.
Our relationship with the university spans a number of years and a variety of projects. From developing the university’s fundraising campaign in 2012, to renaming and positioning The Data Science Institute. It allowed Columbia University to secure real world big data contracts, to developing the vision for Columbia Magazine which reaches some of the most powerful people on the planet.
"Sword & Stone can align senior clients who have different perspectives/agendas by providing actionable, insight driven strategies. If I had one strategic initiative that I absolutely had to get right, Sword & Stone would be my pick!”
Tim McGowan, Deputy Vice President, Alumni and Development, Columbia University
Optimizing Fundraising Efforts
Princeton University, an Ivy League, in New Jersey is one of the finest universities in the world.
Princeton University wanted to increase their fundraising efforts, and needed compelling stories to engage in conversations with media and donors. Through role-play scenarios we armed frontline fundraisers, support staff and other influential Princeton voices with skills and stories to drive conversations towards engagement and giving, and ensured they spoke as one.
The work we did together with Princeton University was awarded a Bronze Award from CASE (Council for Advancement in Secondary Education), which is the leading international trade association for higher education.
“All of the work we did with Sword & Stone has been invaluable in helping us not only identify key messages, but also in unifying people from many different skill sets and positions.”
Erika L. Knudsen, Associate Director of Marketing, Princeton University Office of Development
We worked with New York agency Hudson Rouge to develop a brand strategy for Sprout baby food. Running focus groups, we heard about the judgment and dishonesty moms receive daily from the media, their peers and even themselves. Sprout prides itself on honesty – it uses only natural ingredients and displays them clearly on its transparent packs. So we positioned Sprout as the ‘Honestly Good’ brand, helping modern moms.
“Sword & Stone is a group of very smart people who are passionate about the power of creative strategy. I’d recommend this team highly whether you need fresh insight into a familiar problem or pointed inspiration to tackle a new challenge.”
Kris Shaffer, EVP Director Brand Planning, Hudson Rouge
Brand Creation and Positioning
As a result of a merger, Forces Financial became Forces Mutual – one of the largest specialist insurers of the British forces. In collaboration with Foolproof we were asked to create the brand, with positioning work driving identity and web design.
Our research with personnel on base revealed that their needs were often misunderstood by ‘civi’ companies, and that the perceived unique strength of Forces Financial was its staff’s ability to really understand their needs (due to a workforce made up largely of veterans and people from military families.)
This lead to us positioning Forces Mutual as the financial ally to the armed forces, a thought which has influenced all aspects of design, communications and company culture.
Launch Strategy and Creative Development
Simplyhealth is the largest health cash plan provider in the UK, owning nearly 50% of the market. Having worked on a number of significant projects for the organisation, Sword & Stone were asked to help with the launch of its new eldercare product – Simplyhealth Care for Life.
With limited eldercare services available in a nation that has an ageing population and no organisation championing the issue, we created a thought leadership strategy that would define Simplyhealth as its champion. This in place, we assisted with the launch of the service by producing the sell-in collateral for sales teams as well as a communications plan and key messages.
ISBA is Britain’s industry body for advertisers. It looks after advertisers’ interests and helps raise standards in marketing through training and consultancy.
Sword & Stone have worked with ISBA for many years and provide training courses including:
Increasingly we are helping clients take training into the heart of how they do marketing in order to create culture change within their organisations. Projects have included helping one of the leading UK supermarkets with their learning and development programme, a big pharma company with how to develop marketing skills strategically, and a food retailer with how to re-organise their approval process for creative work.
“John Howkins was brilliant. A perfectly pitched course, great at bringing people in, but also at holding the room. Very knowledgeable, engaging and personable. Would definitely recommend”
Department Head, Leading Supermarket Company
General Assembly is a pioneer in education and career transformation, specializing in today’s most in-demand digital skills.
We were asked to help coach students pitching to clients on a live brief, in two specific areas: firstly, how to think when answering the brief and, secondly, when formulating and presenting their final presentation back to the clients.
“The pitches went so well that two teams were offered full-time roles almost immediately after presenting. They all reframed the original briefs and got some good storytelling in there too. Clients were all blown away. The feedback from the students from your session was awesome. You guys made a massive difference.”
Andrew Godfrey, UX Design Lead Instructor, General Assembly
From day-to-day thoughts to thinking that's a bit bigger, these are the things that have come out of our heads recently.
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