How Fjord Guides Clients Through Digital Maturation

About five years ago, marketers eagerly launched pilots across all kinds of emerging technology. Now that their digital businesses are maturing, they’re growing out of that shiny object syndrome and are looking to turn projects into revenue streams.

For design innovation agency Fjord, that has shifted the focus with clients from experimental work to consulting and educating marketers on how to implement better digital and design strategies, said Olof Schybergson, Fjord’s founder and CEO.

“Overall, our clients [are] moving from digital and innovation excitement to digital and innovation being embedded in the fabric of their organizations,” he said.

One such client is Carnival, which is working with Fjord to implement a digital payment and ID chip system across its cruise ships. The device not only personalizes the experience for guests but allows for marketing integrations on board that don’t feel intrusive, Schybergson said.

“Over time it starts to know your passions, interests and habits and suggest things to you,” he said. “Marketing becomes embedded in the experience and drives efficiency on the ship and for the guests.”

Since being acquired by Accenture Interactive in 2013, Fjord has grown from 200 to 1,000 people across 30 global offices. The agency gets roughly 98% of its client engagements from Accenture, either in the form of project work or ongoing agency of record type relationships.

“We can take advantage of longstanding relationships and master service agreements between Accenture and the client,” he said. “Most of the work that we do is touching other parts of Accenture Interactive.”

Schybergson spoke with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: What’s new at Fjord?

OLOF SCHYBERGSON: In 2018, we tried to slow down and consolidate to make sure we have the highest quality team, output and thinking. We’ve turned down opportunities or found other parts of Accenture that can help deliver on them so we can ensure things are in a good place.

There’s still a huge amount of activity and innovation. Clients are starting to move from pilots and ideas to bringing value-add services to their customers.

What kind of things are they doubling down on?

Once our customers understand what they want to bring to market, they turn their attention to their workforce. They’re asking, “Do we have the culture [and] skill sets in advanced design, technical innovation and digital product?” Often, the answer is no.

The opportunity starts with inventing and commercializing new services and products. Recently it’s moved to educating and training and shifting their culture. It becomes design from within, rather than outsource high-end design and innovation work.

Do you work with other parts of Accenture to do that?

It depends. There’s a P&L talent and organization part of Accenture used to service process and talent-related matters and training. We might partner with them.

It might be more specific within the design team and then Fjord goes in and teaches those skills. We have a learning organization focused on helping clients integrate [design] approaches, skills and practices. It works with our internal team, but also our clients.

Fjord was one of Accenture Interactive’s first acquisitions. How has its role changed as the group has expanded?

Fjord has a very clear role within Accenture Interactive. It’s about imagining new services, products and ways of engaging and shaping those to meet people’s needs and fit neatly into their lives.

Four years ago, we used to do a lot more standalone work. But now that we understand the other capabilities around us and Accenture Interactive has acquired and built more capabilities, there’s more richness for us to reach into and collaborate with. We’re bringing broader skills ranging from data, to technology to platform implementation.

Do you work with Accenture’s programmatic services group?

Fjord hasn’t really been working that closely with the programmatic unit. We’re focused more on reinventing the experience itself. Programmatic and marketing capabilities we now have in Interactive are a very nice synergy. With the help of programmatic, those experiences can be more easily discovered and you can feed in marketing more naturally.

Who is in your competitive set? 

If it’s a narrow brief, we find ourselves competing with agencies that are very good in narrow sectors. Karmarama won work in the United Kingdom recently for Lidl and they competed with other creative agencies for that.

For broader work where we bring in capabilities from Accenture Interactive, we compete with consultancies likes Deloitte or SapientRazorfish. And in Fjord, which is a little bit upstream, we come across McKinsey and design innovation consultancies like Ideo.

Is Fjord an agency? Has that changed since you joined Accenture Interactive? 

We don’t care so much how we’re labeled. We’re shaping a new type of firm and we don’t fit neatly into traditional segments. Agency looks more creative, so at Fjord we lean a bit more agency than consultancy. The industry tends to obsess a bit with labeling, but we don’t care as long as our clients get value from our services.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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