Accenture was launched as the Administrative Accounting Group in 1942 and was the consulting arm of accounting firm Arthur Andersen. In 1989, it became a separate business unit focused on IT consulting and bearing the name Andersen Consulting. At that time, though it was earning $1 billion annually, Andersen Consulting had low brand awareness among information technology consultancies and was commonly mistaken for its corporate parent. To build a strong brand and separate itself from the accounting firm, Andersen Consulting launched the first large- scale advertising campaign in the professional services area. By the end of the decade, it was the world’s largest management and technology consulting organization.
In 2000, following arbitration against its former parent, Andersen Consulting was granted full independence from Arthur Andersen but had to relinquish the Andersen name. Andersen Consulting was given three months to find a name that could be trademarked in 47 countries, was effective and inoffensive in more than 200 languages, was acceptable to employees and clients, and corresponded with an available URL. The effort that followed was one of the largest and most successful rebranding campaigns in corporate history.
The company’s new name came from one of the company’s own consultants at its Oslo office. As part of an internal name-generation initiative dubbed “Brandstorming,” he submitted the Accenture name because it rhymed with “adventure” and suggested an “accent on the future.” The name also retained the “Ac” of the original Andersen Consulting name (echoing the V
Ac.com Web site), which would help the firm retain some of its former brand equity. At midnight on December 31, 2000, Andersen Consulting officially adopted the Accenture name and launched a global advertising, marketing, and communications campaign targeting senior executives at its clients and prospects, all partners and employees, the media, leading industry analysts, potential recruits, and academia.
The results were quick and impressive. Accenture’s brand equity increased 11 percent the first year, and the number of firms that inquired about its services increased 350 percent. Awareness of the company’s breadth and depth of services reached 96 percent of its previous level, and awareness of Accenture as a provider of management and technology consulting services already topped 76 percent of its previous level. These results enabled Accenture to successfully complete a $1.7 billion IPO in July 2001.
Accenture believed its differentiator was the ability both to provide innovative ideas—ideas grounded in business processes as well as IT—and to execute them. Competitors such as McKinsey were seen as highly specialized at developing strategy, whereas other competitors such as IBM were seen as highly skilled in technological implementation. Accenture wanted to be seen as excelling at both. As Ian Watmore, its UK chief, explained: “Unless you can provide both transformational consulting and outsourcing capability, you’re not going to win. Clients expect both.”
In 2002, Accenture unveiled a new positioning statement, which reflected its role as a partner that helped create strategies and execute them. The tagline “Innovation Delivered” was supported by the statement “From innovation to execution, Accenture helps accelerate your vision.”
As part of its new commitment to helping clients achieve their business objectives, Accenture also introduced a policy whereby many of its contracts contained incentives that it realized only if specific business targets were met. For instance, a contract with British travel agent Thomas Cook was structured such that Accenture’s bonus depended on five metrics, including a cost-cutting one.
In late 2003, Accenture built upon the “Innovation Delivered” theme and announced its new tagline, “High Performance. Delivered,” along with a campaign that featured golf superstar Tiger Woods as spokesperson. When Accenture sought Woods as its spokesperson, the athlete was at the top of his game—the world’s best golfer with an impeccable image and an ideal symbol of high performance. Accenture’s message communicated that it could help client companies become “high-performing business leaders,” and the Woods endorsement drove home the importance of high performance.
Over the next six years, Accenture spent nearly $300 million in ads that mostly featured Tiger Woods, alongside slogans such as “We know what it takes to be a Tiger” and “Go on. Be a Tiger.” The campaign capitalized on Woods’s international appeal, ran all over the world, and became the central focus of Accenture-sponsored events such as the World Golf Championships and the Chicago Marathon.
That all changed when the scandal surrounding Tiger Woods, his extramarital affairs, and his indefinite absence from golf hit the press in late 2009. Accenture dropped Woods as a spokesperson, saying he was no longer a good fit for its brand. Indeed, focus groups showed that consumers were too distracted by the scandal to focus on Accenture’s strategic message. Accenture found itself in familiar territory and worked on developing and executing a groundbreaking campaign that not only resonated across the world and translated appropriately into different cultures but also elevated Accenture’s brand to the next level.
In 2011, Accenture launched the “Greater Than” ^ campaign to an international audience across 35 countries. The campaign highlighted successful case studies from clients like Unilever, Starwood Hotels, and Caterpillar and focused on Accenture’s capabilities in areas such as emerging technologies and globalization. The company conducted extensive research to ensure that its brand positioning—“High performance. Delivered.”—was not only effective but also still relevant to business leaders. Lastly, Accenture created a new marketing twist to the campaign. The “greater than” symbol, >, which had always appeared in the Accenture logo, was pulled out and used as a major element of the campaign. It appeared on cabs and billboards in major cities and became a critical unifying element across all Accenture’s print, digital, and social media as well as among employees.
Today, Accenture continues to excel as a global management consulting, technology services, and outsourcing company. Its clients include 99 of the Fortune Global 100 and more than three-quarters of the Fortune Global 500. The company ended fiscal 2013 with revenues of $28.6 billion and has a brand value close to $9 billion.
Source: Kotler Philip T., Keller Kevin Lane (2015), Marketing Management, Pearson; 15th Edition.