Q&A: Anna-Karin Birnik, Director of Business Consulting at SapientRazorfish


With a wide-ranging resume that saw her working as the Director of Brand Strategy at Interbrand to the Head of CVP Experience at Standard and Chartered to her current position with SapientRazorfish, Anna-Karin Birnik’s career has given her the opportunity to walk on both the client-side and consulting side of the aisle.

Birnik recently spoke with Branding in Asia from the SapientRazorfish offices in Singapore.


When attending the London School of Economics you majored in European Studies and Political Science. How did you end up where you are now?

I’ve always been interested in politics and understanding what happens around the world and the impact it has on people. During my degree I got a summer job with McCann Erickson in London working in a team that used neural networks modelling (now more well known as AI) to plan optimal media buying.


 

It was here I realised I wanted to pursue a career in marketing, but politics still remains a personal interest.

Before working at Standard Chartered you were with Interbrand. What was that transition like for you? And what were some of the contrasts and similarities in the two organizations?

I’ve switched between client-side and consulting roles throughout my career so the transition between Interbrand and Standard Chartered wasn’t too difficult. In fact, the roles are complementary.

In larger organizations you spend a lot more time navigating internal stakeholders to drive decision-making forward. My consulting experience helps me to manage all the different stakeholders across different teams, seniority levels and cultures.

Conversely, client-side experience makes me a better consultant because I know the challenges marketing leaders face in the region.


 

Client-side marketing and consulting focus on the same key questions; Who is the customer? What kind of brand and experience do we want to create for them? How do we get in touch with them and keep them engaged? How do we create an internal culture to deliver the experience we promise customers?

You’ve recently made the move to SapientRazorfish. What was behind the change and what has the adjustment been like?

Technology is dramatically changing how consumers find, buy, use and engage with products and brands in almost every industry across the world.

As a senior marketing professional, I want to help companies navigate through this new reality and change for the better.

SapientRazorfish stands out, it’s an organization with a strong customer focused approach and capabilities that combine creative and technology. This means that we always go beyond the initial ask and try and deliver against the greater business objectives and changing context.

Client-side marketing and consulting focus on the same key questions; Who is the customer? What kind of brand and experience do we want to create for them? How do we get in touch with them and keep them engaged? How do we create an internal culture to deliver the experience we promise customers?

I’m working on a large mobile payment project for a client in Indonesia targeting millennials and the unbanked.

While mobile and banking are not new to me, leading digital transformation with a cross-functional team in an agile way is new. It’s a much more iterative process, where we invite customers and the client to be part of the development. It’s less rigid, more fluid and faster-paced.

You have had the chance to observe the market in Asia in different industries over your career. What have been some of the biggest changes you’ve seen?

I moved to Singapore in early 2006 and one of the biggest changes I’ve seen both is the emergence and dominance of smartphones. A lot of mobile-first innovation happens here, WeChat and Line’s payment services are way ahead of their Western equivalents.

What are some of the projects you’ve worked on over the years that you are most proud of?

Before moving to Asia, I was leading the marketing launch for a new telco in Oman in the Middle East. I’m very proud of being part of the cross-cultural team working incredibly hard together to launch the first truly customer focused mobile operator in the country.  Within six months we reached a 15 per cent market share.

At Interbrand, I’m most proud of the variety of clients I worked with. It gave me insight and understanding of different types of businesses and people across the region. From family businesses that are making their marketing departments more professional to OEM manufacturers who want to create their own brands, and government statutory boards who want to communicate the benefits of the services they provide to the people and many more.

During my time at Standard Chartered I was leading many big initiatives to drive change within the organization. The project I’m most proud of was a global digital campaign to engage 90,000 employees with the brand promise ‘Here for good’.

It was a five-month long campaign executed across 70 markets and we achieved a 40 per cent participation rate which is huge for a bank. The project team I led was spread across three continents, several time zones and internal teams from corporate communications to technology and operations. It was a massive undertaking with an amazing outcome!

At SapientRazorfish, I feel I’ve come full circle, my career started with Neural Networks (now AI) and that’s now being blended with marketing and brand building to work on a mobile banking solution for the 65 per cent unbanked in Indonesia. It will give them access to financial services that haven’t had access to before.

 

 

Read More

Creative Work

Featured Spotlight

subscribe & get more brand in your diet

newsletter

get more brand in your diet

We never share your info,
we only share ours