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A Talk with Fjord's Olof Schybergson

This trend spotter and globetrotter creates digital experiences that will rock your world.

Fjord has been pioneering service design since 2001, making millions of people’s lives a little better every day. Fjord recently became part of Accenture Interactive.

Tell us about your career journey.

I’ve always been interested in design and had an eye for end user delight and experience. That curiosity has led me to live in different places all over the world. I started a company focused on creativity and design, and a year ago, we became part of Accenture. We now have 250 employees in nine locations focused on using our skills around customer experience and design to reimagine our customers’ businesses.

How have your experiences all over the world shaped your perspective?

I’m from Finland originally. Coming from a small county, but being curious, leads you to want to explore other places. I’ve spent most of my time in London and New York. As a curious guy in a mega city, I experience a wide range of art, culture, food, fun—and I see first-hand how digital is adopted in society.

How do you connect your personal experiences to your design work?

What I enjoy is a service that helps me cut through the noise and get to something valuable that fits in my life. Or, I like a brand that helps me to aggregate things. For example, media are trusted aggregators—offering film reviews, shopping recommendations. Over time, businesses can build a reputation for making good recommendations.

What industries interest you most?

I’m interested in the ones that are rapidly transformed and shaped by digital. In the past, it was telecom, then media. Now, every domain is affected by digital in fundamental ways.

How is digital disrupting the CPG marketplace?

Going direct to consumers is a big disruptor. CPG companies can bypass traditional retailers and have a direct relationship with consumers. Many think it’s about margin when they don’t have to work through a retailer, because setting up your own distribution chains and customer service is costly. But equally important is the ability to understand target consumers. There are new opportunities to gather data and insights about consumer behavior, likes, dislikes. When a CPG company is one step removed, those data insights don’t reach them. The ability to collect data and use it for decisions and to evolve product lines is increasingly important. Those who have data and an appetite for innovation will prevail.

At Fjord, you’ve identified a trend that “every product is a service waiting to happen.” How does this apply to the CPG industry?

As interactions become increasingly digital, it’s important to create services to remain relevant. For example, one skin care line has created a bracelet that is so small that you can embed it in a magazine. The bracelet is connected to your mobile phone, so if you put the bracelet on your child and they walk too far away on the beach, you get an alert. This company is providing something more than lotion to put on your body. They are providing a service—and a sense of safety around your children on the beach.

What advice would you give to a brand that wants to engage with consumers?

The problem is that a lot of marketers still think that the way marketing used to work, still works. You used to put a brand on a pedestal and send messages through controlled channels. It was one-way messaging. Now, it’s two-way by default. It’s people to people, not just brands to people. You can’t control what people are saying, but you can hope to influence what they say. Companies should think about participation and creating a level playing field in having an open dialogue with its consumers.

Tell us about a technology you are excited about.

The mobile phone has become your digital hub. In the past, it was your computer. Today, sensors are increasingly in environments such as stores or work, in your smart watch or activity bracelet. Information is out there, and you are able to connect with it to speed up transactions. The mobile phone is a universal Swiss Army knife that connects to the cloud and connects you to what’s around you. CPG companies need to remember that mobile is the de facto hub. You must know what you’re doing in mobile. Take it seriously as a platform for engagement and relevance with your audience.

What challenge should CPG companies tackle next?

It’s key to have a lasting, beneficial relationship with consumers. Amid the abundance of marketing noise, the best route forward is to focus on longer-term relationships with products. Figure out how to add a smile, remove friction, anticipate needs and stay close to consumers. Think beyond the unit sale to how you can be relevant to consumers for a long time.

What is the best advice you’ve received?

One scary piece of advice was, “Just when you think things are going really well—they are not.” That has always kept me paranoid, and it has been true at times. It’s a good reminder that leaders must be proactive and not take their current success for granted as it may change if they aren’t prepared for the future.

What personal achievement do you value?

We work in a fast-changing field with a lot of pressure to move quickly. I’m very proud that Fjord is constantly looking for real value for real people—trying to bring something that will directly or indirectly help their lives. It could be as simple as saving them time or making them laugh. We offer a sense of humanity in a field that is highly commercial, hyper-competitive and technical. I’m proud of that.

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