Sweden Summit 2022
It wasn’t so long ago, coming into the office and seeing all your friends / colleagues for meetings, coffee, work and idle banter was an everyday occurrence for most of us.
Then 2020 happened.
Despite the difficulties and sadness brought about by the pandemic, some good materialized. One was our expansion to a more global team.
We realized that – as we’re working from home, we could look for even more talented folk who aren’t local to us.
And so it was; post pandemic Sweden became a multi-national agency – almost overnight.
So as we eased into 2022 it quickly became apparent that – some of us had never even met in person – which meant only one thing. A Sweden global gathering. Or, The Sweden Summit as we named it. We were fairly serious about it – there was even a T-Shirt….
Arriving in the Big Apple
So on April 27th, 14 people traveled into NYC from all over the USA, France and England to gather for 3 days of meeting, greeting, some spirit lifting team games and just possibly, the odd drink.
The first day kicked off with some of the team making ‘IRL’ acquaintances at Sweden HQ, which of course, some had never seen and had an opportunity to admire Richard, Leja and Alex’s vast collection of curiosities and beautiful “objet d’art”…
Then it was early to bed as we prepared ourselves for the next two days of challenges, chatting, eating and drinking.
To give the office dwellers a break from the office, the team decamped to a beautiful rented house in Greenpoint used previously by the likes of Ghostface Killah and Dolly Parton for recording sessions.
Sweden – as an electro rock band gigging around New York in the 90’s which eventually evolved into a creative agency.
This was to be our home for two days for some good old fashioned team building sessions. Clearly, we were walking in the footsteps of greatness. No pressure then for extraordinary ideas…
We began the day with a wonderfully detailed (and often hilarious) presentation by the Sweden founders as they took us back to where it all began: Sweden – as an electro rock band gigging around New York in the 90’s which eventually evolved into a creative agency. Like you do.
We adjourned outside for lunch and exchanged stories of our best and worst agency experiences. Too many to mention, but rest assured, if you’re a client reading this, don’t ask Kate to coordinate your photoshoot. (ask her).
After lunch we proceeded headlong into the first team challenge : The Marshmallow Challenge.
The team was divided into 3 groups and each was given several boxes of spaghetti (uncooked), sticky tape, a ball of string and 45 mins. The goal was simple, build the tallest structure you can and balance the marshmallow on top.
TLDR; Designers : yes, structural engineers: no.
A betting man (or woman) would place their money on the team with more of the creatives to win, but it turned out the winning team was the one led by the more pragmatic folk (although they did have one designer in their team – which, I’ll argue is why they won). The heroes of the hour built a simple structure based on stacked squares fixed together with tape; Unconventional, but you can’t argue with results.
The other teams? The less said about them the better. Despite careful drawings and concepts that appeared to adhere to traditional building structures, their attempts were thwarted by our old friend gravity. I believe team 2 took the award for the most sticky tape used though. Every cloud…
The evening soon rolled around and we packed up and headed off to a local grill-style restaurant a short walk from the house for cocktails and burnt eggplant. (more delicious than it sounds).
The next challenge for the team was a Conflation Pitch: a two part affair designed to test our limits of creativity, decision making prowess and teamwork. The first part was an all-hands (heads?) brainstorm session. The team were asked to shout out random things to add to a two column list on a whiteboard . The two columns were titled:
- Platform / Technology / Action
- Household Items
What began as a sensible exercise with the sort of suggestions one might expect from a modern creative agency (NFTs, Banking, Blockchain and Remote control) swiftly descended into all out joviality as minds began to think outside of the box (Birthing, self-medicating, and pooping).
a breathtaking concept which, quite frankly – astounded everyone as to why nobody has created something as critical for humanity.
Once the board was complete, we broke for lunch and awaited Part two where we were to discover what possible challenges lay in store for us.
With our list of technologies, platforms, actions and household items complete, we were briefed on the main objective; take one (or more) items from each list and combine them to create a (as far as we knew) new business idea. Divided back into our previous teams, in one hour we had to present our idea in whatever format took our fancy.
The three ideas were equal in merit with the first being a breathtaking concept which, quite frankly – astounded everyone as to why nobody has created something as critical for humanity.
Designed by our predominantly female team, the ingeniously titled ‘SOFIT’ was a simple concept – a sofa and gym combined. What’s not to like? Simply pick the sofa style you like and then bolt on the gym equipment in a kind of ‘lego’ format. Weights, rowing machine and even a fan to keep you cool were optional extras. Strategy had been considered, and to encourage early adoption the product could be purchased on a subscription basis. Touche Peloton, let’s see if you can eat chips and watch Netflix while cycling…
The second idea, from our Round 1 champions, delivered an extraordinarily forward thinking idea combining aerial drones and household plants in order to solve your watering conundrums. “BotBot” (The Botany Robot) is a friendly looking ‘flying gardener’ you control via your phone. Simply fill BotBot with water and plant nutrients and he does the rest. With a built-in ability to detect when a plant needs refreshing, it’ll fly to it and deliver just the right dose ensuring healthy, happy botanicals. Special mention goes to the brand strategist in the team who not only created a wonderfully apt name, but managed to shoehorn in an extremely stylish look to the whole package.
Our final pitch was team 3 with a revolutionary concept based around communicating with people that have passed. That’s right. Talking to the dead. In the Metaverse. The aptly named “Ouija”, isn’t half as creepy as it sounds when you start to think of the infinite potential. Picture this; you’re unable to solve a space rocket-based physics equation. Elon seems rather busy, but what about a chat with Albert Einstein?. To be frank, a lot of the tech behind it went over my head, but how powerful an idea. Learning to play guitar? Ask Jimi. Need guidance on living well in our modern age? Drop by Socrates’s for a coffee.
Whether they were listening in or not remains to be seen, but it appears Microsoft have actually patented a similar concept which they plan to introduce in the future. Which isn’t at all concerning.
The important thing about this challenge was that there were no winners (our team won). It was a rare opportunity to see how we all came together, shared ideas and enjoyed the process of taking part in a group exercise (our team definitely won).
There was but one final act in store for the team as we edged towards the final evening.
After a glorious dinner in a restaurant atop a hotel with stunning views of Manhattan, we took taxis to a karaoke bar in town. There we were treated to an eclectic mix of heartfelt renditions of Adele, Liam Lynch, New Order, Oasis and Lou Reed to name a few, along with an ongoing Eminem rap battle between Leja & Marina. Talent swung between beautifully sublime and – let’s be honest, outright terrible, but with the help of cocktails, energy, spirits and confidence was high.
It’s safe to say, the goal of building bonds between the team was successfully accomplished. After all, once you’ve performed a duet of Aqua’s Barbie Girl with a teammate, what is there you can’t handle together?
Roll on Sweden Summit Part two.
Agency Promotions: Muña Qamar
We are pleased to announce the promotion of Muña Qamar to Senior Product Lead.
Muña Qamar celebrated her fifth year at Sweden with a promotion to a new role as Senior Product Lead. Muña has proven herself to be a consummate project management professional, exhibiting a great passion for her projects and being a trusted partner for clients such as Lunya, Sarah Flint, First Aid Beauty, Petrossian Caviar, and Lenox, among many others. In this new role, Muña will apply her gift for balancing process and instinct to lead the way we develop Products at Sweden as a whole
A New Ecommerce Experience for Living Proof
We are thrilled to be chosen for the redesign of Living Proof’s ecommerce flagship site on Salesforce Commerce Cloud utilizing the SFRA framework. We hope to highlight the brand’s rich offering through a more comprehensive content strategy, introducing new storytelling modules, educational content and diagnostic features.
Sweden Featured on Wix
Sweden Unlimited was featured in the new series from Wix Partners’ Views of Visionaries where Wix writers talk to today’s most influential creatives about their journey, work, and secrets to success.
“We used to design a flyer, make a bunch of copies, then go out and walk around town to promote,” Agerbeek says. “The most significant paradigm shift is that every person or company is their own media outlet or publishing platform. You used to rely heavily on a magazine to be the cultural epicenter of influence, trends and content. But now, brands are that.”
Click here to see the article: https://www.wix.com/partners/post/sweden
Happy End To a Terrible Year From Boy George !
We asked an old friend (well, more of a new wave icon from the 1980s. That we never actually met) to help us send a Happy Holidays message in a fitting remote ending to a dumpster fire ? of a year.
Cameo-by-Boy-George.mp4 from Sweden Unlimited on Vimeo.
Thank you to the Sweden (not “Swedish”) Unlimited team and all the clients, partners, freelancers, and friends who stuck through all this with us. Together we proved that every day is like survival. (Sorry, those in their twenties that may not get that reference)
Here’s to 2021 and a new year of possibilities and fresh starts.
Love, Richard, Leja, and Alex
Leja Kress Joins Tim Richardson on Your Basket Is Empty Podcast
In this episode Leja and Tim share their passion for 80s new wave and post-punk music. Tim sat down with her to learn how the band she formed with her husband and twin sister led to the creation of the agency, what they’ve learned in 20 years of operation, how to maintain relevance, building culture, and who would be in her ideal line up for a show at CBGBs, circa 1985.
Agency Promotions: Kate Williams
We are pleased to announce the promotion of Kate Williams to Head of Finance and Operations.
A longtime Sweden friend and collaborator in her previous career as a content producer, Kate joined Sweden in April of 2019 as Studio Manager and quickly became an indispensable member of our team. Kate has helped us to navigate some tricky operational challenges as we became a fully remote studio this past March and her promotion is well deserved. In her new role Kate will focus on further building out our content production offering and helping the agency scale and navigate the post-Covid world.
Our Core Values
We are happy to share our company values with you.
Talent, intelligence, and experience may sometimes seem like the most important traits in a company, but you can’t get anywhere without grit. For us, the key to creating thoughtful end results is born from that primal passion and die-hard perseverance to make things happen. Grit is the self control to think things through to find the best way, not just the most attractive way. Grit is the willingness to grow as the industry grows around us. Grit is the inspiration we take and give from the people and projects around us, working hard to let passion lead us all forward.
Though we would all love to lead with positivity, our industry and our world needs realism and decisiveness. Positivity can be a hard thing to muster since our brains are hard-wired to look for and focus on threats, so we strive to act positively towards every person’s ideas but practice cautious positivity with every project. We believe a healthy dose of pessimism and cynicism will keep your brand sharp, mitigate risk, and help you stay ahead of the curve, but the willingness to stay positive, and say “yes, let’s try” is an essential step in keeping us all working hard towards the same goal.
“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” Contrary to many big business values, we think being humble, unpretentious, and even a little introverted can be a real value. We create a service around benefiting our clients and their customers, so it’s important to have empathy for each client. They know their product, landscape and industry, and it is our job to listen, absorb, and create what they need.
For Sweden Unlimited, life and work are not about proving yourself –it’s about improving yourself. We don’t believe you are stuck with the talents you are born with, you can always get better, learn more, and grow towards a goal. For us, it’s not about demonstrating skills but developing skills, not performing better than others but performing better than you did in the past.
This mindset is vital for our particular industry involving tech and the ever-evolving digital landscape. In our world, tech changes fast, but strategies, user adoption, and UX patterns change faster. We are constantly in meetings where someone says, “oh, that’s not possible,” but then googles it, revealing that it now is. We strive to keep growing even if it sometimes feels uncomfortable and to always stay positive about what may be possible.
Collaboration is something we value resolutely. What we do can be complicated, and there is no way any one person can have all the answers. A team of two will double the chances of problem-solving, and a team of ten will increase those chances tenfold. Collaboration is the interfacing of our varied experiences and skills. It is the ability to communicate with the client. Above all, collaboration is the key to creating unique, successful outcomes and solutions.
At the core of accountability are reliability and personal responsibility. We value the ability of our staff to honor commitments and be reliable to clients and each other. The idea that “showing up is 80% of success” may be true, but if you are not dependable, dedicated, and accountable, the trust is off – and so is the whole deal. We value those who show up and continue to show up with passion and perseverance.
Style what makes us excited about the clients we work with. It’s a determining factor in how we hire, and it’s essentially what our clients come to us for – a new style, a better style, a unique style. Everything from our work, to our way of communicating, to the feel in the office – having style is crucial. But style isn’t the superficial things that you own or how you dress, it’s how you stand out, how you make things look, so people look twice, and how you tell a story that keeps everyone listening.
A Note from our Founders
Dear Friends of Sweden,
The past few weeks have been a time for listening and reflection. We firmly stand with the Black Lives Matter cause and condemn the injustices inflicted upon George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Mike Ramos, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, David McAtee, and countless others. It is also vital that we raise our voices and take action to fight for economic equality, equal opportunity & representation, and criminal justice reform.
Our past silence makes us complicit in the injustices that have been inflicted upon people of color and the LGBTQIA community for far too long. While our company is small, we feel it is our obligation to give back for all the privileges that have been afforded to us. We need to take accountability for any ignorance we’ve taken part in, and look at our own misses when it comes to equality and diversity.
To support this mission we plan to:
- Donate to Black Lives Matter and other organizations that are committed to causes like police reform and opportunity creation for BIPOC in the creative industry.
- Invest in diversity and sensitivity training for us and our team.
- Update and practice our company values and codes of conduct until we can be sure we have a positive and inspiring culture.
- Ensuring that our team members better represent the diversity in our society.
- Offer pro bono services to Black-Owned Businesses that are experiencing financial hardship due to Covid-19.
- Support our hard-working team by declaring Juneteenth a company-wide holiday, as well as encouraging more mental health days to reflect upon the current unrest in our country. (more…)
Agency Promotions: Paul Trinchero
We are pleased to announce the promotion of Paul Trinchero to Product Director.
As Project Director, Paul will be responsible for leading our Project Management practice and ensuring that we, as an agency, are doing our very best to deliver the best possible service to our clients. Paul’s ongoing demonstration of Sweden’s core values and as well his skills at displaying empathy towards both team members and clients have made him the natural choice for this important role at Sweden.