Still Day One
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Still Day One

Accenture Song — Why we skip our iconic agency brands

I’ve been repeatedly asked two questions over the last week. Why Accenture Song, and why are we doing this at all? The first question is surprisingly easy to answer, and the second is essential to discuss.

About the name: I don’t think it’s the best name in the universe, but Song is okay. It’s associative, catchy, upbeat, and fresh. Plus surprising in the context of Accenture. At least our peers are talking around it eagerly and giving us reach. Everyone in the industry knows the name now. Nice hook.

What I find more stunning is how names are often massively overrated, even by marketing people. While Apple is the most valuable brand name globally, names like Pear or Banana don’t even have the value of a polishing cloth for Apple’s new Displays. It’s not the name but what people associate with a name. To give Accenture Song meaning, we must deliver spectacular products and work. What’s not enough is to talk about how we could make great things. We have to create and ship them. It’s on us — forget the name.

But why are we sunsetting iconic agency brands like Fjord, Kolle Rebbe, Mackevision, and SinnerSchrader? We’re taking this radical step because our world has radically changed.

The explosion of channels is blowing up traditional agency genres.

Our clients’ world is changing dramatically. Over the last thirty years, marketing departments have fanned out along the customer touchpoints. For their specific needs, the agency industry has carved out corresponding genres: TV & print Creative, Content, Design, Direct, Event, Media, PR and, of course, Digital. The different agency categories have each offered a clearly defined product: i.e., a campaign or an e-commerce platform. However, the web has compressed these customer touchpoints to a few inches of screen size. The smartphone absorbs all traditional channels as a universal simulation machine and continuously blends up-and-coming media such as games, social, messenger, and metaverse. Our clients’ marketing departmental walls are shrinking accordingly, and every agency category is transforming into a full-circle digital agency today to stay relevant for the CMO. The boundaries between agency genres are becoming blurred. Therefore, it is not without reason that we merged the content teams of Kolle Rebbe and SinnerSchrader this fiscal, for example.

Every digital touchpoint becomes a point of sale.

Furthermore, clients are crushing the frontiers between marketing and sales. Every digital touchpoint is becoming a point of sale, and businesses transform themselves into direct-to-consumer brands. The new trilogy of branding, performance marketing, and commerce is reorchestrating the corresponding teams in the client organization, and agencies have to rearrange their talent with the same beat. The revisited sales funnel must be designed, created, built, and optimized in a close loop. Any boost in optimizing the experience and achieving relevance in brand, product, and targeting ensures excessive growth in a media world that regulates customer access via an auction mechanic. Only the agency model that masters the close-loop in this marketing/commerce game will grow. The more significant the digital sales channel becomes for our clients, the more we have to say goodbye to the agency classics of yesterday in our industry.

Tech rules. Period.

Not only traditional agency genres are merging, but agencies also must incorporate technology services. Marketing, commerce, and product innovation are technology plays. Many businesses face the challenge that they have often lost their technology expertise by becoming used to purchasing tech services as a standardized offshore product at the lowest possible price. In front of the customer, nevertheless, standard means commodity. And commodity brands are drowning in the sea of mediocrity today.

Relevance to the customer can only be achieved through innovation and differentiation — spoken in tech terms, a high degree of custom software is mandatory. Most CIO offices and procurement people have unlearned this. Instead, bespoken software engineering is still too often confused with agile methods. As a result, many companies are trapped in dysfunctional process monsters from hell. In parallel, in-house technology expertise comes through the backdoor via marketing and progressive business units. More and more clients are emancipating themselves from the sweet drug of standard software.

At the speed of life.

The requirement for a cross-channel view — and therefore infrastructure — of all data plus global roll-outs of our solutions for the clients in our region also gravitate toward a unified brand presence beyond our local labels. But much more important is another driver: speed.

The pandemic has radically changed customer behavior. The e-commerce volume has grown as much in the last 20 months as it did in the first 20 years of the Internet from 1995 to 2015. We also see tectonic shifts in qualitative terms. The aggregate market share of small and niche brands has exploded from under 20% in the physical world to over 60% in digital channels. Last data point: Shein has unseated Zara and H&M within two years as a pure player from China — but without a business in China.

The world is changing at a breathtaking pace right now, and David Droga calls it “at the speed of life.” That’s exactly how our clients are changing and why we have to shuffle our playlist.

Shuffle and play a new song.

We’ve spent the last few months analyzing the clients we serve in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. There are no two businesses that buy the same things from us. Each client tries to find its answer to the above challenges, for example, which services are built internally as a core competency and which things are cast externally. There are also many discussions about joint ambitions to overcome the traditional procurement processes, which usually boil down to standardization, commoditization, and irrelevance in the customer space.

Furthermore, our analysis uncovered that we are working together in more and more client engagements across all parts of FKA Interactive. In new business, this share continued to grow strongly last year. At the same time, we discovered that the halo of our strong agency brands implies a limitation in the perception of our capabilities as a group. As I described before, this happens because the agency brands are cut along the buying patterns of the clients’ historical marketing organizations. Yes, the agency brands continue to have their fan base, but that fan base is ageing and shrinking.

With the fast-forward transformation of the marketing world — expansion of the channels and implosion on the small screen, merging of marketing and sales, the incubation of innovation, delivery of tech platforms and services, and the force of data — the landscape of agency habitats as we know it is diffusing. We have to shuffle our offering for each client across all our capabilities every time. We might have called it custom agencies in the past. Today, I prefer the definition crossover instead: cross capabilities and over the edges of what agencies do (especially in consulting, innovation, and deep tech).

That’s why we decided to skip our previous agency genres and brands.

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Digital Transformation keeps transforming. We host ideas, plans, tools, point of views and all things of interest on the age that feels familiar, but has just begun today.

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Matthias Schrader

Matthias Schrader

Co-founder & CEO of SinnerSchrader, now Part of Accenture Interactive. Founder & Host of NEXTConf. Live & work in Hamburg.

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