Teresa Poggenpohl was one of the architects of Accenture's affiliation with golfer Tiger Woods, which began in 2003. The partnership is widely viewed as one of the best uses of a celebrity pitchman in b-to-b marketing. Woods' commitment to excellence has become a metaphor for what Accenture claims to do: deliver “high-performance” results for its customers. The campaign has also gone a long way toward embedding the Accenture name in the minds of customers and prospects while erasing any ties to the old Andersen Consulting brand. In the Q&A below, Poggenpohl discusses how Accenture has integrated Woods into almost every aspect of its marketing and how the company has altered the campaign to reflect a different mindset of the market during the recession.
BtoB: How have you adjusted your marketing plans to the new economic reality?
Poggenpohl: Last fall, after we launched the Tiger campaign for the year [created by Y&R], we stepped back and saw the volatility in the marketplace. We wanted to change the ads and evolve the message in light of the huge economic problems spreading globally. Essentially, what we did in three weeks was create and launch a new campaign that addresses the uncertainty in the marketplace. We changed the images to show Tiger in more challenging situations. The launch ad has Tiger against a background of storm clouds, and the headline reads, “Why high performers shine even when the sun doesn't.”
BtoB: Where are you running this campaign?
Poggenpohl: We know our target market is senior executives of very large companies. We do a lot of proprietary research, and we know what they read, what they watch; and we know they travel a lot. That's why we put this campaign in airports around the world. So the media was the same, just the message was changed. We used these new ads to reach our target audience in print and TV—mostly CNN and Fox News Channel. We're online, too.
BtoB: How important is speaking directly, mainly via digital means and databases, to your customers and prospects, rather than simply relying on paid media?
Poggenpohl: We're very, very interested in talking to our market directly, but it's not just online. We take a 360-degree approach. We publish a magazine called Outlook. You can find the magazine on Accenture.com, and it also publishes (in print) three times a year. It includes thought leadership on a variety of topics. We mail that to thousands of executives each time we publish. While it's still offered on Accenture.com, it's equally important to reach them with something meaty that has very relevant business topics offline. We like reaching them online—and with paid and organic search we can reach people online with specific content. Search is fascinating to me. It's like being able to see when someone raises their hand about a topic. It's something you just can't do in the offline world. With e-mail, you have to do it in the right way. If you're anything like me, you get so much e-mail that you probably open 10% of it.
BtoB: Has Accenture done any marketing via social media?
Poggenpohl Social media is kind of like the wild, wild West. We haven't used it to reach our primary target audience of senior executives, but we have used social media for our other audiences, such as recruits. We hire anywhere from 40,000 to 50,000 people every year, and social media gives us a great way to talk to that audience—whether it's on Facebook or LinkedIn.
BtoB: Talk about how you've integrated Tiger Woods into such a wide array of your marketing communications.
Poggenpohl: I would say that the story is clearly using Tiger as the metaphor for high performance. He embodies the message and what the brand position is. It's all about helping or building high-performance companies. We do use Tiger some with clients. We have him appear at conferences and do a talk about high performance. When he talks about his game after winning a tournament, he talks in terms businesspeople can relate to. When he talks about playing at a high level, there's the same exact correlation to business. He's not talking directly about business, but everything he says and how he is approaching his game is relatable to business.
BtoB: Is there an area where you haven't used Tiger?
Poggenpohl: We didn't use Tiger originally in recruiting advertising. We recruit a young target audience, and we thought Tiger might not be as important to them as he would be to middle-aged men interested in golf. But Tiger has a unique appeal outside of that group, in part because of his heritage, which includes an Asian background. People around the world, across generations, know who he is whether they follow golf or not. And they understand the message he embodies of high performance. He works great.