accenture: building a B2B brand

“Do your ‘Grow the Core’ principles work for B2B brands?” is a challenge I got when I started teaching executives at London Business School. And it was a fair challenge. I’d fallen into a common trap: using only consumer brand examples to bring to life brand strategy principles. To fix this for future classes, I looked for good examples of B2B brands who had built distinctive ‘memory structure’ to grow their business.

One great example of a distinctive B2B brand is accenture. The brand has created 15 years of ‘fresh consistency’ with an integrated global communication campaign that runs in 35 countries: ‘High Performance. Delivered. During this time revenues have doubled, from $10billion to $20billion. Below are some insights on how they have created a marketing campaign that is Branded, Relevant, Amplified and Distinctive or BRAnD for short.

Brand as hero

The  brand plays a heroic role in the campaign, especially in the latest version which tells stories of how accenture has delivered improved performance for leading companies including Unilever and Visa.

The marketing team have also pulled off a tricky balancing act when launching two new services, Strategy and Digital, to respond to changing client needs. Each of these two new offerings has its own ‘chapter’ of brand support, with colour used to help each one stand out: yellow for Digital, black and red for Strategy. At the same time, the overall excecutional style and structure of the campaign has been consistent.

Relevant

The power of this idea is how it delivers both functional ‘sausage’, delivery of tangible bottom-line results, but also emotional ‘sizzle’. The campaign taps into the power of ‘social proof’ by portraying leading companies that have successfully worked with accenture: current clients feel proud and potential clients reassured. Billboard advertising at airports play a key role in the media plan, allowing accenture to connect with executives during business trips, a time when the brand message is relevant.

The longevity of the brand idea and campaign reflects the fact that it is builds on an enduring need of all companies and organisations to deliver improved performance. The business challenges have clearly changed over the last 15 years, but the need to boost performance has remained relevant if not more so.

Amplified

The ‘High Performance. Delivered’  idea is amplified by driving initiatives beyond just communication. For example, the accenture Institute for High Performance is a global research centre creating a stream of fresh insight.

Distinctive

accenture should be applauded for 15 years of consistency, no mean feat for any brand. Distinctiveness has been built through consistent use of the brand idea, and also the same logo and the little arrow that suggests progress and forward motion. The campaign has also used the same basic executional structure, in landscape with the brand bottom right. It is interesting to observe how the campaign has been refreshed over time.

  • Stage 1 of the campaign featured golfer Tiger Woods and came to an end when the sports star we embroiled in a domestic drama that hit the headlines back in 2010.
  • I posted at the time, here, that I found Stage 2 of the campaign lacked the distinctiveness of the Tiger Woods version. The evolution used photos from nature to communicate messages in a rather oblique fashion, divorced from the world of business. For example, one ad featured a surfing elephant with the headline, “Who says you can’t be big and nimble?” Whoops.
  • Stage 3 of the campaign saw the brand get back on track, featuring the ‘heroic’ stories of accenture and its clients, as mentioned earlier. A bit of extra distinctiveness was added here. First, a bit of intelligent humour was added, with headines such as “€1billion in savings for Unilever. Without any tangles”. Second, the “>” brand property was made more prominent.

In conclusion, accenture have shown how a B2B brands can also build distinctive memory structure to drive brand and business growth, by creating a big idea and amplifying it over time and over the mix.