From computer to carpentry: how Freddie Coltart is putting his agency skills to the test with Kubb Brothers

Branching out of his day job, Colenso BBDO senior creative Freddie Coltart is channeling his inner artisan with his two brothers to bring the Swedish outdoor game Kubb to New Zealand.

Kubb – pronounced ‘Koob’, but the brothers don’t mind either way – is played with wooden blocks, with the objective being to knock them over by throwing batons. It’s a popular pasttime in Sweden and now Freddie, Sam and George Coltart hope to make it a Kiwi summer staple by producing a local premium version from New Zealand Elm.

It all started in 2012, when George saw the game being played at a music festival in Europe and, having grown up in a family that enjoys outdoor games, he joined in and became hooked, instantly.

George then brought the game home to Tukituki behind Havelock North and called on his dad to make a set in his woodworking shed from online specifications. It wasn’t long before all brothers were hooked and curiosity about what a professional set would look like kicked in. Unfortunately, at the time, there was only one person making sets in New Zealand and they weren’t what the brothers had hoped for.

“Dad designs furniture, so he has an eye for it,” Freddie says. So instead, they decided to fill the gap in the market with Kubb Brothers, to produce a product that looks beautiful and crafted.

Although its origins are Swedish, he says Kiwis have embraced it because it fits so well into the New Zealand lifestyle. Beaches, backyards and barbecues all make for a great setting.

Now, four years on, the brothers are working together to manage the business, with Freddie taking the reins of the social and PR side of the business and looking for leads.

In good Kiwi spirit, Kubb Brothers has been involved in brand collaborations, with cider so far proving the perfect match for the outdoor game.

For the last two years, the brothers have hosted a National Kubb Open, and Rekorderlig has been on board as a sponsor. Kubb Brothers has also been involved in an in-store giveaway with Zeffer Cider.

Both Rekorderlig and Zeffer approached Kubb Brothers for a collaboration, and Freddie says it’s keen for more. And while he says beer, wine and cider are a great fit, it would also like to hook up with a brand with a Swedish heritage in keeping with the game’s heritage.

Building up the Kubb Brothers brand has been “hugely helped” by his work in agencies he says. While Kubb Brothers has a smaller budget than those he deals with day to day, he has been able to call on that experience as well as copywriting, social and the ability to build a clear brand that knows what it stands for.

“People don’t understand the importance of trying to be your own thing and the strength of a brand and I think it’s going pretty well so far.”

He also says he’d like to do some bigger creative executions and put some of the ideas he’s had at the agency to the test when it has a bigger budget.

“Hopefully, in the future we will be able to dust off those ideas.”

He also says in the future it would like to expand into Australia because they too have a culture of getting outdoors and have “300 Kubb-friendly” days a year.

While working for Kubb Brothers may seem a huge task on top of his job at Colenso, Freddie credits George for designing and developing an automated website that takes care of orders for them. It then allows Freddie to reply to email queries and posts on social at night after work.

He also gets down to Tukituki over the weekend when he can, something he and his brothers all do to see the product and make improvements to it.

He says they are always working to make it better and gives the example of a recent change of the blade of the saw to one that cuts the New Zealand elm wood that extra bit smoother.

“Premium and craftsmanship is what we hold upmost. We’d never skimp on quality for cost,” he says.

It’s that attitude that he hopes will set Kubb Brothers apart from some of their competitors, whose versions of the game are made out of cheaper, lighter wood. One imitator company went so far as to use Kubb Brother’s photos when selling their product on Alibabba.com. Luckily, he says, it was skimping on quality as it was making the sets out of Chinese Pine, which is light and no good to play with.

Getting into the craft of the product and working with the wood makes for a refreshing change he says, after working on the computer. However, he admits he still needs some help with the carpentry.

For creatives looking to use their skills on a project outside of an agency, Freddie suggests considering what can be feasibly handled after hours, because advertising has long hours and there is a tendency to go above and beyond those for clients.

He also suggests having business partners who can pick up work that can’t be achieved, something he and his brothers have found works well for them—“we are often just passing the baton between us”.

But aside from the technicalities, Freddie says “it’s nice to be your own client for once and chose your own direction and where you want it to go”.

“I definitely encourage it in that we are professionals and building people’s brands and we get so much practice, why not utilize those skills for yourself in something you really enjoy.”

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