Behind Deloitte's first global brand campaign

How the consulting firm eradicated a 'feudal approach'

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In the bad old days, large consulting firms were famous as fiefdoms, with each office and the specialty practices within those offices controlled by territorial partners. These partners defined the customer experience and the local branch culture, caring little about the master brand. Customer loyalty was to "their" local partner. Clearly, this approach was problematic, especially as the economy and the clients served became more fluid and global.

Deloitte, which employs approximately 286,000 people in 150 countries, has essentially eradicated this feudal approach. One key was to establish a shared brand purpose ("make an impact that matters"). Another was to create Deloitte University, which trains every consultant on critical skills like empathy, listening and leadership. One of the final pieces of the puzzle was a global marketing campaign, orchestrated by Global Chief Marketing Officer Diana O'Brien, who in our conversation below shares some critical insights for just about any modern marketer.

What does it mean to be the voice of the customer at the leadership table?

It means I need to bring insights that help us differentiate ourselves. I need to bring thoughtfulness into the strategy on how we're going to grow. I can't just think of the brand and promotional campaigns, I have to think of what's our business strategy. Moreover, I need to bring competitive insights, differentiating ideas, new business models to that strategy so that when we choose to do something in the marketplace, the customer is at the center and we focus on what the customer needs.

So, your role is a lot more than message management, right?

I think of marketing not as the message anymore but as the mindset and the meaning in the organization. I put a big umbrella over it. It used to be this little 'm' that was the message. Now it's about the big "M"s, which I think of as the customer mindset at the executive level. Is that customer mindset in the hearts of all of our people so they can go out and be a brand ambassador? Do they understand who we are? What is our purpose? Connecting to that meaning is critical.

I've seen Deloitte ads at several airports. As a B2B brand with long sales cycles, how do you measure that kind of program? Do you have brand health tracking?

We do brand health surveys and have assessments around that. We absolutely look at the impact of our advertising in the airports and our brand survey helps provide quite a bit of insight. By the way, that is the first global campaign that we've done. We've had outdoor campaigns in key markets like the US, UK and Australia, but this was the first global one. So, we wanted to understand who is seeing it. What I would tell you is that some of the best elements have been the feedback we've gotten directly from CEOs who are interested and prompted to talk with us.

This is about more than basic name recognition, right?

Yes. It's thinking more strategically about the issues we want to own and where those issues are in the marketplace. Sometimes the issue isn't even as mature as it needs to be for us to be able to close a sale on it. So, part of it is also educating the marketplace on the issue. When you think of what we're facing in digital transformation that would be a perfect example. It's not about siloed digital solutions and projects going on now; it's enterprise-wide thinking that has to go into your digital investments.

One of the things that you talked about is a having "center brain" versus a left-centric (art) or right-centric (science) brain as a marketer. What do you mean by center brain?

I think of it as having a business brain. You need a business mindset to be a marketer today. You've got to bring the data and the analytics, and you need to bring creativity to the table. In the past, I'd say we had some folks that did analytics and some people that did creativity, but they didn't come together. They weren't thinking about it and centering on business issues, client problems, what are we trying to solve. When you think about it, you've got to get both sides of your brain in the conversation about clients. You can't just say I have a great idea; even if it seems exciting and provocative, it has to be grounded in data and insights, connected to where you're going and what markets you're serving, what your client needs.

Is there a clear path from customer insight to real innovation?

The customer insight piece I think is understanding who the customer is, where they're going, the platforms where they want to be connected with you, and the experience they want to be a part of. Then co-create with them. It's part of an iterative feedback loop with them and, to be honest, it's not the role of the CFO, the CRO, the chief strategy officer. The people in marketing and the CMO need to be doing that.

So, marketers drive the innovation internally?

I'd say that marketing should provide the deep understanding of the customer that helps drive and inform the innovation coming out of R&D, or out of one of the business units. We're the feeder to them.

Is there one thing you hope marketers won't be talking about in 2019?

I guess I hope they're not talking about just the distraction of technology. I think we've had too much of that. I want to get back to the basics of marketing. I do believe it centers on the question: Is the customer at the center of your organization? Are you looking at all the moments that you have for a client and creating an experience that's world class? Are you using strategic moves that are reflective of creating that? Are you linking it to meaning? So, those are the "M"s in my mind: it's mindset, it's moments, it's moves, and it's meaning. It's no longer the small 'm' of message, it's those things, and if you pull those four things together, I think you'll be a world-class marketer.

What's your top priority for 2019?

Well it's interesting because we've been on this three-year journey of transformation—we wanted to establish Deloitte as a destination marketing organization, and I think we've met that expectation. I think that we've accomplished that. What we now need to do is ensure that our key messaging around our global platforms are consistent around the globe. We've built the infrastructure, we've become a destination for marketing. Now what I'd like to see is our global campaigns and the things that we're doing across all of our businesses and sectors be more unified, so it ties it all together.

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