Who’s the top dog: the great debate

When Deloitte’s John Connolly announced the firm’s latest UK results in July,
which put it within touching distance of PricewaterhouseCoopers, his comment
that ‘maybe we have already overhauled them [PwC] in terms of our standing in
the marketplace’ clearly rattled cages at PwC.

Last week in an interview with Accountancy Age Ian Powell shrugged off claims
that Deloitte had overtaken it in terms of reputation, saying it was something
that was ‘pretty difficult to prove’.

Nonsense. As anyone involved in professional services marketing knows ­ and
I’ve been in the sector for more than twenty years ­ it’s pretty straightforward
to measure the relative market standings of the major accountancy firms.

In the nineties, when I worked at one of the Big Six, they clubbed together
to commission an external market research agency to carry out a market
perception study which they used to benchmark their relative market positions in
the UK. This once-every-two years survey usually saw FDs, chief executives and
financial controllers take part.

They would ask these respondents which firms they used and for what services;
which other firms they were aware of and how well they knew them; and which they
regarded as market leaders both overall and for individual service offerings,
then analyse the findings.

I’d be very surprised if the major firms were not still buying into this, or
a similar, syndicated study as well as conducting their own polls.

During the last year Deloitte has spent millions running a very extensive
advertising campaign to boost their profile, encompassing press, outdoor poster
and other advertising, including adverts on London taxis.

For such a campaign, it is normal practice to track your firm’s market
position before, during and after the advertising has run to see what impact
your investment has had.

My guess is that John Connolly’s marketing people have already told him that
the firm is now ahead of PwC on reputational measures in the UK, and that this
is what prompted his comment in July.

I also suspect that round at PwC they are also aware of how market sentiment
is shifting. So, come on PwC and Deloitte, tell us what your polling is
revealing, or we might just conduct our own survey to resolve this matter once
and for all.

Kevin Wheeler is principal at marketing consultants
Wheeler Associates

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