Cover Story: Marketing – Dogged by image problems?

Cover Story: Marketing - Dogged by image problems?

How can consultancies ensure that their message is clearly communicated to both clients and staff Harriet Lane-Fox and Guy Matthews talk to the experts who have mastered the art of salesmanship through a variety of media.

A brand is more than a fancy logo. It embodies a set of values,unicated to both clients and staff Harriet Lane-Fox and Guy Matthews talk to the experts who have mastered the art of salesmanship through a variety of media. heavily marketed, which overlay rational benefits with an emotional pull.

It is what breeds long-term consumer loyalty. Until now most management consultancies have left such high profile touchy feely stuff to their fizzy drinks clients. But competitive pressures are forcing a rethink.

All the big firms are bidding to provide a global service but the pool of potential clients big enough to fit with that ambition is shrinking.

The traditional low-key emphasis on technical expertise just isn’t a guaranteed sell. Instead, firms are turning to consumer-style marketing to differentiate themselves.

“There is a whole new buying dynamic,” says James E Murphy, global managing director of marketing and communications at Andersen Consulting. “Now clients are looking for a contribution to their business on a value basis.

There is a big trend away from individual projects to long-term relationships.”

Andersen has been a hard-nosed brand-builder since its inception in 1989.

The firm boasts having pioneered the strange idea of TV advertising to a narrow client audience. This year, the total sector spend on brand-building is $500m with Andersen at $100m. It brought its $44m international ad campaign to the UK in October. The voiceover intones that, with the firm’s help, “when you reach for the moon you might actually get it”.

It is the culmination of a repositioning exercise. This spring, Andersen launched a new corporate identity and “tweaked” its market values. Murphy explains: “We have moved away from offering simple change to far-reaching change as clients’ challenges get bigger. It is anticipatory as to where the market is going. We have a very good positioning currently: the question is how to remain in that position.”

The total budget is more than double the brand-building and includes seminars, conventions, white papers, art and sports sponsorship. Andersen doesn’t use the term brand ambassador but each partner who markets and delivers the goods is expected to embody a single firm culture.

PricewaterhouseCoopers is grappling with this at the moment. Its new identity centres on three words. “People” says the firm only succeeds through individual staff, its own and clients’. “Knowledge” is about sharing best practice. And “worlds” is the antithesis of global, which implies the same all over; instead, the firm is a big player which tailors solutions to local markets.

Charlie Keeling is global human resources leader for management consultancy: “When we’re looking at potential recruits, it’s not just their technical skills and experience but our interpretation of their ability to live those values,” Keeling says. “Mass campaigns don’t hit our relatively small client base so we use consultants to deliver a consistent message.”

Job ads themselves have a corporate message – we’re doing well and only take the elite. Aggression has been growing in the candidate-driven market.

PwC has taken sideswipes at rivals with recruitment posters near their offices. There could be one soon contrasting lay-offs, at Merrill Lynch for example, with the firm’s hunt for a 1,000 new staff a month.

Neither Keeling nor Geoff Dodds, European marketing director for consultancy, will comment on plans for January. But the campaign will be multi-layered, communicating the overall PwC brand and then consultancy within it. Dodds adds: “We will use all marketing channels but in a pretty focused way. The question is about the wider mass market media. A lot of money poured into the marketplace is not very well targeted and is probably quite wasteful. There’s a bit of a herd mentality.”

The firms do measure the effectiveness of brand-building through staff and client research. Some have decided advertising isn’t for them. AT Kearney relies on impressing clients with its intellectual capital. The firm sends out monographs and a new magazine, Executive Agenda. It holds seminars and spends much of its seven figure budget on sponsorship and hospitality.

Vice president in charge of UK marketing, Philip Banks, says: “You have to consider the size of your market and how much you can afford to hit it in a way that makes sense to the recipient.”

But AT Kearney is a rare example. Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu launched a #9m worldwide ad campaign in March to push its consulting arm. Ernst & Young is putting $100m behind its first global brand advertising. And KPMG kicked off a $60m push, global again, last month. Is this a dangerous spending spiral or are consultancies finally waking up?

Murphy’s retort is sharp: “Is Coca-Cola trapped into building its brand? This is about staying in front of your clients.”

Harriet Lane-Fox is a freelance journalist.


Consultancy practices divide between those whose websites are one globalised resource, and those where content and web policy is decided on a local basis. KPMG falls into the latter category. Its 30 odd websites all share a similar look and feel, but their operation is firmly decided on a country by country basis.

Internet manager Robin Oakley runs KPMG’s UK web affairs. He has clear views on the site’s purpose: “It’s important that it should be genuinely useful, and not just an on-line brochure.”

To this end, he has built content and functionality into the UK site that he feels best serves local needs on a practical basis. “We demonstrate our thought leadership with a variety of reports, surveys and business guides. Much of the content has been specifically developed for the site, not just converted from elsewhere and put in.” The site is hosted externally, and is independent of internal networks, adding a degree of security.

Otherwise, Oakley oversees all development in house. “It is a constant challenge to ensure that all departments and activities are represented and information up to date.”

One of the most developed functions of the site is recruitment, both for graduates and mature professionals. “Graduates are invited to visit, and answer a series of questions interactively to test their suitability. Suitable candidates get an online application form. We will then contact applicants as appropriate.”

Oakley says the site is proving increasingly useful for generating business leads. “Lots of people read our reports online and say ‘I’d like a bit of that’. We did a network security survey recently, for example, and on the strength of what it saw on the site, a major pan-European company is now working with us on security over eight countries.” Cross-selling of services is also enabled by the web.

The site is also accessible via KPMG’s intranet as an internal information resource.

Oakley envisages updating databases to enable the site to deliver more personalised content to individuals. In the shorter term, he is constantly adding new areas to ensure that it reflects the capabilities and reach of KPMG.

Deloitte Consulting

Deloitte Consulting, having toyed with the idea of the devolution of responsibility for content, now controls web matter centrally from its New York headquarters. Director of communications Peter Kilman explains: “My instinct is to decentralise content management to local countries, but in a global business like ours there really needs to be one identity and one message. An experiment with devolution was not a success, because there are always mavericks who have their own vision.”

There is still a small amount of local presence but how that is presented is guided from New York and made to adhere to strict templates and guidelines.

“Our clients and our competition dictates that.”

The site, though available to Deloitte consultants internally through a corporate intranet, is exclusively designed to reach outwards.

“It is entirely geared to how we want people on the outside to see us.”

An amazing 75 per cent of those outsiders are job seekers, both graduates and mature professionals. Kilman says that part of the global nature of the site is that a job applicant is able to apply to any Deloitte office in the world.

A source of interest that Kilman values highly, is from students and MBAs doing research. “They can access a lot of free information on the site. This works well, as down the line they might remember us when they want a job. Our research shows that students today spend a massive amount of time on the web.”

Kilman accepts that a major challenge of any web site is measuring its success. “You can just measure hits, but that can be misleading. We have adopted more sophisticated metrics, to determine, for example, how much time people spend and how often they return. And in focus groups, we always ask questions that test people’s familiarity with the site.”

Kilman plans to speed up the regularity with which the site is updated, ensuring that no information more than a year old is on-line. He also plans to deploy a more robust search engine and a simpler site structure to ensure that visitors are able to get the information they need more rapidly.

Guy Matthews is a freelance journalist


Big organisations can breed confused and disenchanted workers. They feel they’re out of the head office loop, that their futures are uncertain and nobody really cares. So business suffers.

This is particularly true in service industries. There, the people are the brand. If they neither know, understand nor believe in its values, they certainly won’t be delivering them. That turns the glossiest corporate identity into a movie backlot sham that breaks all its promises to customers.

At a time of major change, the problems multiply. Which is why more and more firms are taking a closer look at how they communicate internally.

Says Anne Gilbert, client director at specialist agency MCA: “Communications is often seen as a soft issue. We focus it as a strategic business imperative.”

MCA has worked with Ernst & Young, it is one of a number of agencies at PricewaterhouseCoopers and last year KPMG called it in to help communicate the hows and whys of its restructuring. The process started in audit and tax, and spread into management consultancy.

External marketing principles

The agency applies external marketing principles internally. It starts with baseline employee research, looking for what Gilbert calls the “matches and disconnects”. This tells senior management where they’re getting it right and disabuses them of any self-delusion.

“It’s very personal stuff,” Gilbert says. “The basic thing (at KPMG) was that communication was important to them but before then they hadn’t done anything about it. Frankly, doors were shut half the time.” MCA started “team listening”. This is a three-way process, spreading the corporate message downwards, collecting feedback and exchanging best practice.

It all hung on a publication called Towards the Advisory Firm, now renamed The Journal.

Certain managers became trained facilitators for meetings in which people responded to what they had read. Those views then fed back into the next edition. This overcomes the common view of such magazines as “crap” and propagandist. MCA also trained communications staff in motivational writing – not happy clappy stuff, but “here’s what’s happening and what it means for you”.

Consultants are a cynical bunch. Yet, in research, 87 percent of staff involved said they understood what the firm was trying to achieve.

MCA rival Banner McBride boasts equally impressive measures for the effectiveness of work it has done with global parcel distribution company TNT. The Dutch Post Group bought the company in 1996 and made several similar acquisitions after that. Prior to floating this summer, it decided to realign all the constituent parts under a new TNT brand.

The internal communications job broke down into phases and is now in the final one. So far, it represents between 5 percent and 10 percent of the marketing cost of rebranding.

Research shows that, while only 60 percent of staff were happy with information on the brand coming from head office before the whole process, that has risen to 89 percent. And 82 percent understand the need for change as opposed to 73 percent before. Business Development Research Consultants developed the tracking questionnaire.

Pre-launch took in a senior management conference, a letter from the CEO to the 55,000 staff, the appointing of project managers and weekly telephone conferences. Videos explained the change, as did articles in newsletters and internal poster advertising.

Another video came out for the launch, with presentation and desktop packs, staff brochures, newsletters and roadshows. TNT also gave staff liveried toy trucks. “We realised we had to communicate emotionally as well as intellectually. It was a token of prestige for everyone,” says Stefan Nerpin, TNT’s corporate identity internal communications and design manager.

The maintenance phase gave staff a preview of new external advertising.

Longer term, the legacy will be a more devolved internal communications strategy with tools supplied from the centre and applied at local level.

A true measure of success is whether actions taken in special circumstances can be sustained over time. MCA helped KPMG consolidate what was going on into a simple message, a USP to help it turn staff into brand ambassadors.

As internal communications hits the boardroom agenda, all kinds of firms are jumping in to offer the service: advertising agencies, change management people and brand consultants.

Nerpin says a job this important needed someone who understood media and the message, could provide strategic vision and get their hands dirty.

There are still only a few real specialists, and TNT chose one: “Failure was not an option”.

Harriet Lane-Fox is a freelance journalist


English National Ballet dances to new tune

When Richard Shaw, deputy executive director of the English National Ballet, was looking for a consultancy to do a strategic review of marketing, his options were limited. “We have odd rules in our world,” he says wryly.

“We can’t pay for consultancy work and that rules a lot of players out of the reckoning.”

Shaw knew Ian Kirk of The Berkeley Group, who was setting up in partnership as marketing consultancy Darwin. “I offered him a huge amount of pro bono work on the grounds that it would be a good portfolio piece.” After some deliberation Kirk agreed and Darwin began work in October 1997.

“The project took longer than we had thought,” says Shaw, “Darwin projected an accelerated timescale but once they got into it, they decided that delivering the job in a way they would be pleased with would take more time. Instead of signing it off early they decided to carry on and do it properly – for which I am enormously grateful.”

The systematic approach to being a Virgin

When Virgin started its cosmetics and toiletries business, Virgin Vie, from scratch in May 1996, it planned to open the first store in October 1997. Finance director Ratan Daryani recalls: “It was an aggressive plan, we needed products developed, people, processes and technology in place in just over a year. And it was going to be tough.”

The company asked partners at consultancy firms with which Virgin had dealt before to tender to provide implementation and system design support.

KPMG and Arthur Andersen made the shortlist and Virgin Vie chose the former. “We felt KPMG had a better understanding of our culture, a first-rate team and really understood what we were trying to achieve.”

A very good working relationship was established from the outset, says Daryani. “They were very frank with us on the aggressiveness of the timelines but were committed to working to them. They had to design against thought, identify potential issues and then communicate that at all levels.”

He concludes: “We wouldn’t have got it off the ground without them.”


British Aerospace seeks solace from Druids

Since late 1997 consultancy Druid has been working with British Aerospace Airbus on the implementation of Scamp, a supply chain and manufacturing project, based on SAP R/3 modules.

“In a way Druid was selected for us,” says Chris Brautigam, Scamp programme manager at BAe Airbus. At a pre-project evaluation session SAP fielded some Druid people, he says. “Their ‘can-do’ attitude impressed us and the firm had specific aerospace and defence SAP experience.”

The company looked at other consultancies but in the end, says Brautigam, went with SAP’s recommendations. “One criterion was ‘can we work with you?’ We had an aggressive timescale for configuration and expected to be going through a tough time. People are an important aspect of it.”

Lorien centralises its millennium effort

In June chemicals group Laporte chose consultancy Lorien to help it establish a Millennium Programme office to give a central focus to its 40 separate Y2K projects. A shortlist of three, two big five firms and Lorien, was drawn up on the basis of previous work and interviews were held with the managing partners and teams on current Y2K work – and, as a measure of openness, where problems had occurred and how they were addressed.

Davis Hunter, group logistics manager responsible for managing Y2K projects at Laporte, says pre-ordained criteria determined the choice: “Lorien had a proven methodology in place; very good reference points in terms of other clients and with Laporte itself; the ability to tap into additional resources, such as engineering skills; and a more tight, close-knit feel to its team than the big five type of environment.”

Four months on, Hunter is convinced that Laporte made the right decision.

“There is a very honest sharing of views: things are challenged in both directions and there is no ‘yes sir, no sir’ mentality,” he says.

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