MD Communications Partner Katherine Howbrook has been extensively quoted in an ICAEW Insights article on Brand Finance’s annual brand value index, looking at why mid-tier accountancy firms are not currently using brand better to elevate themselves above their competition.
Katherine explains that one of the big issues for mid-tier accountancy firms, like the Big Four decades ago, is that the firms operate in a marketplace where they essentially offer the same services.
“The Big Four realised this years ago and they devoted a lot of time into identifying what their brand and their identity is; going right back to the basics, but also acknowledging that they needed the time and the resource in the form of brand and communications experts when it comes to communicating what they’re about and why they exist,” she says.
On a positive note, Katherine says that the mid-tier are beginning to recognise the need for change in marketing and branding. “We are seeing firms putting out requests for proposals as they are increasingly looking at what their brand identity is and moving beyond what the brand looks like in terms of websites and logos, shiny things.”
The article goes on to look at what firms should be doing in terms of boosting brand and demonstrating insights.
Highlighting the value of external input, Katherine notes, “Firms need to think more about what the brand feels like to the audiences that they depend on such as clients, potential clients or potential employees. Marketing can forget to actually ask the people they’re trying to target what they think of the firm and what they think would differentiate it. All the way through the planning and strategising, don’t forget to ask externally what their perception is of you because that will feed into your brand.”
Katherine also points to personal branding:
“People buy people, and often if you’ve got three or four firms that all offer the same thing, then it’s the people that you will be working with that will swing the deal.”