Matthias Schrader founded NEXT Conference and leads the newly christened Accenture Song in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. He is one of Europe’s most experienced marketers working in digital transformation and products. In the opening episode of the NEXT – SHOW series 4, he explored how the marketing landscape has changed beyond all recognition — and why Accenture Song is the perfect response to that.
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Why Accenture Song? Why choose to rebrand as well known a company as Accenture Interactive? Matthias thinks that that’s the wrong question.
“The interesting thing is not just that we’ve rebranded Accenture Interactive as Accenture Song, but also that we’ve brought all the acquisitions we did in the past. Iconic brands like Fjord, Mackevision and SinnerSchrader, are now under the umbrella of the Accenture Song brand,” he says.
The radical shifts in the marketing landscape
It’s a radical step – but one that’s necessitated by equally radical changes in the marketing landscape for their clients. Over the past 30 years, the needs of clients have fanned out into different marketing genres, from PR to events, campaigns to content. Every one of these departments manages a touchpoint between the customer and the brand. We have an explosion of channels. Social is not one channel, for example, it’s a whole range of them.
Clients are bringing all these teams together again. And so, we need to re-orchestrate our landscape and how we manage our agencies, he says.
“It brings more complexity into the game. You have different KPIs and different data realities, none of which are easy to manage.”
The touchpoint implosion
We don’t just have an explosion of channels, we have an implosion of touchpoints, down to a single one: the smartphone. Those five inches of magic glass absorb all these touchpoints into one. So, we have new ideas about how to manage all of this for our clients, says Matthias.
When you start studying marketing, in your very first year you’re introduced to the 4 “p”s: price, product, place, and promotion.
“We have now unlearned this. You have the product people, and the marketing people, and then there’s pricing and sales. With digital, all channels come together – but every digital channel is also a sales channel. And so all these disciplines come together on this magic screen.”
Entertainment as marketing
Increasingly, for many of Accenture Song’s clients, the product itself is a digital experience.
“I’m thinking of banking, for example – but also automative, with autonomous driving and in-car entertainment,” says Matthias. “We have an explosion of channels, and all the different angles of our clients becoming digital.”
There’s the traditional e-commerce space: where you search, browse, read feedback from other customers, and then put products into the basket. And maybe you start that journey at Google. That’s the traditional side of the e-commerce funnel. But now we have all these other digital funnels. For example, when you see an influencer on Instagram, that’s entertainment with a “buy now” button. We’re re-engineering things around digital entertainment as commerce.
Technology drives everything: the product, the commerce funnel, the marketing. Our clients have to break down the silos between product, marketing, and IT.
“This is what makes us different: we stand on the shoulders of the powerhouse that is Accenture, allowing us to do anything technologically possible for our clients,” he says.
Truly client-centric marketing
The need for change is not something that clients discuss: it’s obvious to all now. What they struggle with is knowing the talent and capabilities they need to manage this. The second issue is a more cultural one: they used to be the ones who managed channels, products, and technology. But now, the customer is in the driving seat.
“They use the phone as a remote control of their relationship with the world — and the brands,“ says Matthias. “So, you have to be customer-centric. And it can’t be lip service anymore. It’s mandatory. We empower the customer to manage our clients. You may be a big brand, a big company, but you service the customer, and you have to empower them every day. That means rebuilding your organisation, rebuilding your sales approach, rebuilding the product experience for the customer.”
You have to use the feedback from the data every day to monitor how you’re doing. This is not the typical top-down hierarchical management. It’s all about the customer and what they’re doing. “That’s a very interesting shift,” he says. “That’s the big challenge our clients face: rebuilding their organisation into a customer-centric one.”
Rethinking brand value
“You have to be super-relevant to grow your business,” says Matthias. “Two years ago — which feels like a different century now — 60% of brands shipping through physical distribution channels were big, well-known brands. Only a small percentage — 20 to 25% — were small brands. Now? With the shift into digital channels, 65 to 70% of the products delivered are from small or niche brands. It’s flipped the picture in two years.”
To be relevant, and to have a differentiating feature, is now super-relevant itself. Simply put: every brand has to rethink the value it brings to the customer.
“We have all learned over the last two years that pretty much everything is doable remotely,” says Matthias. “This is a flip in our thinking that will never disappear.“
Is the metaverse next?
The metaverse could be the next big thing — the big question is ‘what is the definition of next?’. The optimistic view is that it’s in two years, and by then we have the cool devices and services. The worst case is that it’s 10 years before we have it, the high-definition, 8k LED screens surrounding our eyes.
“Some companies struggle to set their business focus for the next two or three years. That can manage six quarters, but 40 quarters is much harder,” he says. “How do you invest for something that may be big in four, eight or ten years? That’s the conversation we need to be having with our clients.”
He suggests making the first step one that’s into augmented reality — that’s more likely to be a reality in two years, in his view. He thinks that the more controlled, niche use case in the B2B space is likely to see adoption sooner. The time horizon for more open B2C is likely to be much longer, in the five years plus zone.
“AR is more practical: it’s an additional layer on your life, the glasses are lighter, and the CPU power is there,” Matthias says. “We could see Apple opening up this market this year. And let’s remember, the smartphone is already adding another layer to our everyday lives.”
The market for marketing is about to explode
Everything goes in the agency industry. It’s all about talent and ideas. We have a very fragmented landscape, and you can participate in these changes from every angle. And there’s no clear pattern that suggests that every client will go into the full-service agency model. Many will, but not all.
For the first time, we can do product, promotion, and commerce together. This market for the marketing service industry will explode — it will be huge. There will be opportunities for all of us because the cake is growing so fast.
- Channels have exploded, but touchpoints are imploding towards the phone
- Customers now define the relationship, and you need to adapt your business to that
- In a digital-first world, brand differentiation will be key
- AR will open up the gateway to the metaverse
This is a summary of an interview with Matthias Schrader conducted by David Mattin and broadcast on the NEXT Show on 2nd June 2022. You can catch up with Matthias and his work by following him on Twitter and LinkedIn.