Nutshell Creative is an integrated marketing agency in Milton Keynes that “delivers the full spectrum of creative, digital and print services.”
While many would have you believe that print is dead, brands that underestimate the effectiveness of print do so at their peril. And Nutshell will be the first to tell you that! They are passionate about print and can easily explain why paper and ink should be a vital, sensory aspect of multichannel campaigns and packaging, even for Gen Z!
To tell us more, we spoke to Managing Director Lucy Swanston to crack open the nutshell and see what creative wonders were waiting inside.
How was your company born and where are you based?
I’ve been in the industry all my life, working for design agencies and creative printers. 17 years ago, I took the decision to set up my own creative agency, and the rest is history. Nutshell Creative is based in the market town of Stony Stratford on the edge of Milton Keynes.
What was the biggest challenge to the growth of your company?
Two key things; firstly, learning exactly what type of customer best suits our agency. In the early days, we relied quite heavily on existing relationships and referrals; when looking to grow, we have spent a considerable amount of time marketing our agency to varying scales of business from local to SME owner/manager types, larger national and global companies, with varying levels of success.
It takes time to understand the best fit, how to reach them and where you can really offer value. The second thing is people; getting that blend of talent with people that present the right character and behaviours to ensure the team flourishes is always important.
Which was the first huge success that you can remember?
I guess these things are always measured by client wins. We love them all, of course, but I remember the day that the Nation’s favourite, Costa Coffee became a client, which was pretty special. From small beginnings to supporting them with engaging and inspiring teams across all business functions and channels for over a decade. It continues to be a very successful relationship.
What’s the biggest opportunity for you and your company in the next year?
We have an exciting opportunity to support a global client with a large-scale event in the US next year. We’ve worked very hard to deliver outstanding work and demonstrate our creative, technical and people expertise, which has ultimately led to this growth opportunity.
Can you explain your team’s creative process? What makes it unique?
I can’t hang my hat on it being unique, the practical steps of research, creative briefs, idea generation, creative development and bringing ideas to life will be familiar to most. I would say however, that we are very big on immersing ourselves in the client to maximise creative output.
In some cases, we undertake value proposition exercises to really understand client’s value from their customers point of view. This gives us an edge when developing creative ways to connect with an audience. Oh, and our creative team are definitely unique!
How does your team remain inspired and motivated?
For starters, I would say Nutshell is a place of warmth and passion, where we care for each other and everyone has a voice. Our workplace culture is incredibly strong. When you add a diverse client roster, where we have opportunities to work on a wide range of exciting and challenging projects together with personal learning and development, it’s hard not to stay inspired and motivated.
How has COVID-19 affected your company?
Like a lot of agencies, we have clients in sectors that were hit hard and we felt the effects of that for sure. Our approach was to roll up our sleeves, support our team, maintain the work we had and use the time to develop creative and innovative ways to support our industry through unprecedented times.
As a result, we were able to launch a trade services arm of the agency, which has gone from strength to strength. Yes, we had some tough months and a creative team working from home is far from ideal, but we survived and are back to BAU.
Which agencies do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?
I admire the creative work coming out of agencies such as Mother, Bullet Proof and Wieden+Kennedy. In terms of people, Mark Ritson, Marketing Professor, always offers a great perspective on marketing, Peter Docker, Author, has inspired me to improve my business and personal performance, and my close friend and mentor Marian Stefani, entrepreneur and ex CEO of the Independent Print Industries Association has always been a true role model.
What is one tip that you would give to other agencies looking to grow?
Be ready for it. Make sure you have the right people, processes and appetite. You can’t grow on your own so make sure everyone is included and on board with your strategy for growth so you have a shared goal. Be brave, go for it and celebrate success!
How do you go about finding new clients/business? (Pitching, work with retainers, etc.)
We start with the low hanging fruit and look to generate more work from existing clients who already know and trust us. We’ve figured out the type of client that best suits our agency set-up so we target those where we can have experience and can have meaningful conversations with.
We get out there, networking, attending events, joining relevant associations, we’re highly visible. We use all our know-how and market our agency like we would a client (easier said than done). We’re happy to pitch our credentials and demonstrate our capabilities but we don’t work for free!
What’s your one big hope for the future of the industry?
That it continues to be curious, exciting, passionate and fun; that it drives innovation and excellence, inspiring young people to get involved and take it forward.
Do you have any websites, books or resources that you would recommend?
Peter Docker – Leading from the Jump seat
Total inspirational read on how to lead from the ‘Jump seat’, when we no longer have our hands on the control and instead have the backs of others who we’ve trained and lifted up so they may lead. It’s a ‘life’ recipe book and, between the covers, you’ll find sound ingredients on how to enhance your performance in normal business, at times of crisis and life in general.
Peter Fisk – Business Recoded
Change is dramatic, pervasive and relentless. Leaders face a maelstrom of challenges - stagnating growth and uncertain futures, environmental crisis and social distrust, demanding customers and disruptive entrepreneurs. Companies struggle to survive, and leaders are under pressure to find new ways to succeed. The old codes that got us here don't work anymore. Moving forwards needs a new mindset.
It dives deep into the minds of some of today’s most inspiring business leaders, including Anne Wojcicki and Jeff Bezos, Satya Nadella and Emily Weiss; and learns from the innovative strategies of incredible companies, such as Alibaba and Amazon, Babylon and BlackRock, Patagonia and PingAn, Spotify and Supercell, and many more.
Mitch Albom – Tuesdays with Morrie
Maybe it was a grandparent, or a teacher, or a colleague. Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and searching, helped you see the world as a more profound place, gave you sound advice to help you make your way through it.
Wouldn't you like to see that person again, ask the bigger questions that still haunt you, receive wisdom for your busy life today the way you once did when you were younger? Mitch Albom had that second chance.