Grant Thornton marketing leader defends value of branding

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Chicago—Brand awareness breeds familiarity and trust, and is a crucial step for capturing the attention of potential clients, said Edmond Russ, chief marketing and sales officer at accounting and consulting firm Grant Thornton in his luncheon keynote speech Wednesday to the Chicago chapter of the Business Marketing Association.

“[A company that] has the brand awareness and trust level is likely to get the appointment,” said Russ, who received the CPA Marketing Forum’s Accounting Marketer of the Year award in 2005. “This is why brand awareness is so important before the sales call, because it’s the first stage in the client’s buying cycle.”

As the marketing strategist for Grant Thornton, Russ has helped boost the company’s net revenue from $359 million in 2001 to more than $1 billion today. A multiyear brand campaign launched on his watch positioned the firm as a place where employees are passionate about their service.

One memorable ad, developed by CCFC, Chicago, in 2003, featured an accountant with a rose in his teeth and read: “Grant Thornton: A passion for the business of accounting.”

The successful campaign, which included national TV and radio spots, lifted the firm’s brand awareness to 27% from 5%.

When speaking about effective marketing channels, Russ said public relations is successful in reaching out to prospects but has a low level of personal interaction. Direct marketing, on the other hand, is effective in both reaching out to prospects and having a high level of personal interaction, thus helping to build the brand, he said.

“As a marketer, I need to find out what our target market thinks about our brand, figure out what I want them to think about our brand and get them from point A to point B,” Russ said. “And that’s all there is to build a brand.”

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