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Flintlock Offer ‘Outside In’ Consulting Spark To Consumer Brands

Established in 2014, Flintlock is “an active marketing consultancy” according to owners Tasha Gladman and Graham Appleyard, whose teams “work from the inside, roll their sleeves up and get their hands dirty.” And in three years, this fresh proposition together with a breadth of specialist capability has led to the business sharing its expertise with an enviable portfolio of clients; offering brand strategy and positioning, communications development, product innovation and ‘go to market’ execution for the likes of B&Q, Costa, Dulux, Baileys, Hovis, Barratt and Coop.

The Flintlock concept – its name deriving from the ignition mechanism found in firearms, where the action of flint striking steel creates a spark — is the brainchild of Tasha and Graham, who founded the consultancy after identifying a gap in the FMCG and retail market. Each with careers spanning over twenty years in the industry with an impressive list of former employers, they began to understand how brands and complex projects often require accelerated and transformational change, rather than long-term permanent executive level solutions and in so doing they conceived Flintlock’s Load-Aim-Fire model.

Tasha and Graham admit they offer a nice blend of strengths. Both are strategy, positioning and communications experts and while Tasha — a former director at Unilever, Mars, Young’s Seafood and Tesco — is the go-to person for product innovation, Graham takes on commercial and customer marketing assignments, leveraging insight gained from two decades growing Diageo brands around the world. Their large combined industry networks also enable them to cherry-pick reputable senior associates for project teams, if other specialist skills are required.

But the most important factor behind Flintlock’s “hectic three years in business” is a proposition which sets them apart from a typical consultancy. As Graham explains: “We’re marketers not classic consultants. We’ve spent the last twenty years working client-side, delivering strategy through to execution. Most marketing consultancies will usually take a brief then disappear for six to eight weeks before providing a strategic perspective and a few complicated charts. Our unique ‘outside in’ approach provides pace and flexibility. We’re prepared to embed ourselves within a business and co-create with teams to build momentum, deliver at pace and transform performance.”

Unlike an interim solution, Tasha highlighted, Flintlock doesn’t adopt client email addresses, emphasising their collaborative role over one of an employee, while avoiding unnecessary distractions allowing better focus and pacey delivery. This also means they can build capability as projects progress through showcasing a fast and effective working style and getting others in the team to follow it. In Tasha’s words: “We work collaboratively with teams to identify problems and develop solutions, before disseminating those across the business. We achieve this by doing a lot of stakeholder engagement; interviewing people and building a strategy from the inside before presenting it at an ideation based workshop to ensure we take people on the journey.” Their approach, Tasha claims, helps re-energise teams, something that businesses struggle to maintain over time. She added: “Co-creation is a key part of our process methodology but it’s also a philosophy for engaging with people, that works really well.”

Starting at newly formed Hovis limited in 2014, their first brief, as Tasha explained, was broad — a true Load-Aim-Fire assignment — encompassing strategy development, new positioning and packaging, a three-year innovation pipeline and execution of the day to day marketing plan. And as promised, Flintlock concluded the project within an eight-month time frame, as the team embedded itself at Hovis and worked at pace, bringing strategic rigour and a fresh perspective to the business. Other assignments followed, enabling Flintlock to showcase its capabilities across all aspects of its Load-Aim-Fire approach with Graham and Tasha working together, as well as separately, depending on their clients’ needs.

For example, when asked to develop a new marketing strategy at B&Q, shifting the business from DIY to Home Improvement, Tasha took on the role of Customer and Marketing Director, managing a team of 60 people. The project was a success as she relates: “After establishing a ‘needs based’ segmentation model we completely repositioned the brand, created a new visual identity, developed a whole new marketing department and delivered the B&Q Let’s Create campaign.”

At Dulux Decorator Centre (DDC) Graham explained the business needed help articulating what it should stand for in the eyes of its customers. The three-month project consisted of outlining ways to bring the new proposition to life across DDC’s network of 200 UK stores, as well as the resources required to embed the work across the entire business. An early investigative phase combining situational analysis, desk research, trade visits and interviews with key stakeholders revealed a key issue. In Graham’s words: “DDC’s key differentiator was to be found in its service offering but that message was not consistently communicated. We needed to find a way to shout about the array of services on offer as well as develop a range of more future facing solutions.”

Following a second phase of cross-functional workshops — a key aspect of Flintlock’s proposition — Graham brought to life the proposition for all employees across DDC, developed an external communications campaign, helped establish and embed a new commercial team structure and developed an exciting growth plan for 2017.

Similarly, at Baileys, following the recent conclusion of an eight-month assignment, the brand is performing ahead of the market for the first time in over five years. This was a global commercial project that involved building relationships with brand teams in Europe and North America; as well as further afield in Canada, Mexico and Nigeria. The challenge this time was to change customer perceptions of the drinking conventions of Baileys. As Graham explains: “Baileys is predominantly associated with the after dinner drink occasion but we wanted to broaden its ‘occasions’ by getting people to think about the brand differently — shifting the perceptions from an alcoholic drink to an indulgent treat and positioning the brand alongside ice cream, brownies, coffees and shakes”. Flintlock’s solution was to use a combination of beautiful photography and enticing copy lines to position Baileys as ‘a sweet finish’ to the meal or as ‘an afternoon treat’ added to coffee’.

When asked about which services were most in demand, Tasha was clear that e-commerce and digital are “massive” areas for clients as companies seek ever more sophisticated ways to engage consumers online, while delivering cost-effective in-store experiences. Costa, William Grant and Barratt Homes have benefitted from Flintlock’s expertise in these areas. Flintlock is also becoming increasingly involved in helping clients define and embed their purpose as they look to truly differentiate themselves and as Graham added; “if you can get everyone in the business to understand their role in delivering that purpose you’ve got a good chance of driving business transformation”.

Flintlock’s focus is predominantly FMCG and retail but they have also been engaged across other industries leading strategy and positioning projects – specifically looking at why you exist, what you offer and how you show up. They have developed trademark processes to enable success and now have a proven track record of quickly understanding their clients, creating a spark and transforming performance.

Currently, Flintlock has projects running with AkzoNobel, Coop, Costa Coffee, Pizza Express, Kingfisher, Bywater Properties and Besmoke and are always on the look out for high calibre associates to support new projects.