This article is part of our October 2018 series about the state of design and creativity. Click here for more.
Appointed chief creative officer in the Nordics for Accenture Interactive in August, Adam Kerj is forging ahead with exciting plans to build the agency’s profile in a region where it plans to promote itself more actively.
During a long and storied career, Kerj has won awards at Cannes Lions and the One Show, among others. In early November, he became the first Swede to be named jury president of the digital jury for the Design and Art Direction (D&AD) Awards, part of the esteemed three-day event celebrating the world’s best in creativity.
Kerj sat down with CMO.com to discuss consumer advocacy and creating a new type of experience that will create truly engaged customers.
CMO.com: How do you think working with big brands has changed throughout your career?
Kerj: Now more than ever, everybody’s looking for more meaningful ideas and experiences that will help consumers find what they’re looking for to make their lives a little more interesting or simplify things for them.
I look at what my kids are interested in and what they do, and it’s changed so much. In the past I think it has been a big echo chamber, providing people with more of what they’ve seen over and over again. Brands have reflected and realised that’s not a growth strategy [and they] have a different role to play.
They can work together with their agencies to come up with new things, new products, and new services that advocate for their consumers. I think they’re in a position to create loyalty in different ways and reach out to a new kind of consumer.
These days, the great companies aren’t presenting ideas in a one-sided interaction—they’ve flipped that and are starting conversations rather than just transmitting.
CMO.com: What does great customer engagement look like to you?
Kerj: We have to start coming up with a new approach to connect with consumers and look at new ways of working. My business has experienced a huge shift in the last two to three years, collaborating more closely with companies to create a new kind of communication with customers.
I think brands are now much more inclined to take on consumer ideas and views when they’re in the ideation stage of creating experiences. That makes people feel good and lets them know that they’re a part of something.
CMO.com: How do you think that shift in approach is changing the way that brands operate internally?
Kerj: It used to be that the marketing department was, almost solely, responsible for the brand experience, but now it involves e-commerce, customer service, logistics, and countless other teams that help shape those experiences.
With all of these moving parts, I think it’s time to re-evaluate who is actually part of the creative team and put different talents together to offer fresh perspectives on ideas. You could have creative technologists working with an analyst, a data scientist working with a UX specialist, or a copywriter working with a CX analyst. By putting the systematic thinkers together with the storytellers, you’re creating a new type of creation process.
CMO.com: How do you view the role of the creative in today's industry?
Kerj: I think that creatives who work with brands have more opportunities than ever before, and there are so many new and interesting ways to work. There’s never been a more important time for agencies than now.
They can have a direct impact and move the needle for their clients’ businesses. I think the end product is more likely to be an experience that advocates for consumers or helps to inform them on issues or whatever it is that they’re interested in.
CMO.com: How would you advise CMOs operating in this environment?
Kerj: CMOs are under pressure because there are so many KPIs, so many things are changing, and I think they need someone to look at these ideas with a different lens. If you can attract talent and bring those people together in a collaborative environment, in that intersection, that’s where things are happening, and that’s where the ideas are shaped that will form more valuable experiences.
This isn’t easy, of course. If there was one universal model that works, then every CMO would have the blueprint and know how to make the perfect experience every time. But consumer expectations are always changing, while at the same time, platforms and technology are evolving, with new and exciting things being created all the time.
CMO.com: How do you view the use of tech to reach an audience?
Kerj: Some of us do fall in love with tech, but it’s not enough on its own. It’s a facilitator for the big ideas that we have; it’s ideas that people really engage with.
You can start to combine technology with big ideas, thinking, and storytelling, and we’re at the point now where you can scale that. It’s about finding how you make the ideas relevant: Is it the right tech and the right platform to get your ideas across?
There is a race to use the latest tech and innovations, but if you look from a broader perspective, I think, more than anything, it’s pop culture that brands are competing with. It’s about finding out how you can insert your business into that culture and stay relevant.
Some brands are finding exciting ways of using the latest innovations to get their message across. It can definitely be a differentiator in a competitive marketplace.
CMO.com: Which pop culture-based campaigns stand out for you?
Kerj: Boost Mobile, a mobile phone retailer in the USA, really inspired me with its Boost Your Voice campaign, turning outlets (stores) into polling stations on Election Day. It offered people a place to have their opinions heard, providing a great service that is perfectly on message for the brand.
The company adopted a more meaningful role in society, providing access to an important right at a very specific, significant moment in time.
Another thing I really admired was Fearless Girl, created by State Street Global Advisors. The installation stood defiantly in front of the famous Charging Bull statue in Bowling Green, part of Manhattan’s financial district. The piece was installed to bring attention to an index fund comprising gender-diverse companies, with a high percentage of women among their senior leadership.
It’s a great way to empower young women and girls and let them see that things are changing. I think it was a brilliant move.