How Accenture found its purpose
During her nearly four years as chief marketing officer of Accenture, Amy Fuller reported to three different CEOs. It was with the arrival of current CEO Julie Sweet that Fuller was able to help the 20-year-old brand finally find and express its purpose. Working with Droga 5, which Accenture acquired in 2019, Fuller and Co. landed on “Let there be change” as the tagline for what proved to be a massive rebranding.
Having gathered input from 540,000 employees, the first challenge was to help this audience understand the new brand. As Fuller puts it, employees “are not brand ambassadors, they are the brand.” This warranted a carefully crafted rollout, starting with virtual training sessions with 8,000 managers. A few months later, in October 2020, Accenture unveiled its new brand with activations still continuing, resulting in a significant shift in brand perception both internally and externally.
How do purpose and business strategy work together?
Purpose is meant to endure kind of forever. Business strategy, on the other hand, is about fueling growth right now. I’m sure it varies by sector, but within a fast-changing sector which is so informed by technology as ours is, there's no such thing as the forever business strategy. It's about what clients need right now to grow. That's our answer to how we would grow as well.
What are the purpose and business strategy at Accenture?
Purpose operates on really three levels, and purpose done well really gets at three things: What you do, why you do it and then how you do it. Depending on the nature of your business, the sector, who you are, you might lean heavier on “why” versus “how.”
Our purpose ended up leaning toward “how,” to deliver on the promise of technology and human ingenuity.
Then the business strategy, by contrast, is about driving 360-degree value for our clients by embracing change. We do that by delivering on the promise of technology and human ingenuity. That’s how they fit together. In that way, the promise should last into the indefinite. Nothing's forever, but you certainly don't redo your purpose every couple of years. It’s meant to be your North Star for a good long period of time.
Can you describe the process of finding this purpose?
We had three primary kinds of input. The first was in-depth leader interviews. At the beginning of the process, our global management committee was about 18 of us. In roughly the middle of the process, we enacted a big growth model change. The 18 people became more like 40 and we had a lot of leader input.
The other thing that really mattered: We have 540,000 people. We invited them all to give us input and got good levels of participation. We made sure that we had representation and were capturing all the generations workwise and demographically in our workplace. Third was a good, healthy, external, impartial, expert view, think chief economists and the like, to make sure that we weren't being overly sequestered in our own pace.
How did you approach brand differentiation?
We started in September, workshopping in the fall with Julie Sweet and a smaller group. The idea was never “sell,” it was “share the thinking, share the language.” One of the most important criteria was it must be differentiating. We can't just describe the category. That will not work for us. We have a very mixed competitive set depending on what it is we are working on with clients from boutique on up, so defining the category would be tricky indeed.
We want to be an "of one." Differentiation comes from the specificity of the language. It was really interesting to see what it takes for that to happen. You need the room of people who really know the place and the space and are brainiacs in their own right, then to kick it around and sleep on it, then kick it around again.
How did you launch the new brand?
How we launched it was in some ways more important than what we were launching given that we have 540,000 people. We put together a series of events, starting with three-hour virtual meetings with all our managing directors, so roughly 8,000 people. We did everything twice because we're global. We did the evening and then the morning to cover all time zones.
Thank goodness we've got people in the organization who are experts in how adults learn, because guess what, it's not three hours of PowerPoint. We put together very dynamic panels, discussions, different pieces, videos. It got incredible response and participation. A couple of weeks later—the day before we launched—we presented a shorter, very dynamic virtual presentation to the entire organization about our strategy, our purpose, our brand.
How did you bring the new brand to the market?
After the virtual event, it was centrally led but locally brought to life. All the materials, the messaging, the thinking and the ideas need to be highly consistent because the ill of any big organization is fragmentation. But the strength is segmentation, and that applies to the internal population as well.
We’re organized by three markets—North America, Europe and then growth markets—and they did their own events. It was based on the same material, but with the freedom to do their own. It made it much more relevant and tailored to the people in the markets. That worked incredibly well. We have a series of additional activations that will go on probably indefinitely as well.
What changed at Accenture that made these things real?
Every piece of work product that I see, I see the purpose reflected. We've renamed and rethought, for example, some of our major award programs that we conduct internally. We went back to really look at our talent brand, which is all about creating the conditions for human ingenuity to thrive. They're very, very natural ways which I think are one side of, did we land on the right idea and the right language to help guide to how it’s real, how it’s beyond just words on a screen.
How did you measure the business value of this?
What we have always owed the board and ourselves are increases in brand value because we're a very well branded enterprise, so that is what we've been delivering. Because we had tripled our paid media budget, our brand budget, we needed to exceed that in terms of the metrics that we were able to deliver in the campaign. That’s how we look at the campaign in a variety of measures that get at preference shift and engagement and other things that should be affected by a brand campaign.
The gift of digital media is that you can see what is actually driving engagement and what's driving, for example, organic search volume, branded search volume. Who's coming to our website? What are they doing when they get there? We're tracking all of that very carefully to make sure that we're getting more than our money's worth.