Rebranding emerged as a growing trend amongst last year’s Accounting Excellence entrants. So why are so many firms adding a fresh coat of paint to their brand?
Last week, Taylorcocks was the latest in a long line of accountancy firms to give its brand a makeover. The top 60 firm has used the expansion of its operations through several mergers to zhoosh up its name. To coincide with the launch of financial planning, legal and HR services, the firm adopted the new moniker TC Group.
TC’s managing partner Richard Keyes told AccountingWEB why the rebrand was the perfect opportunity to hit the reset button: “There is an increasingly strong demand for hard advisory services. Our rebrand enables us to answer this client need and focus more on services, rather than echoing an older ownership structure.”
As accountants pivot into new services to meet clients’ business growth needs, more firms are following TC’s lead and splashing a new coat of paint on their brand. Among firms entering the Accounting Excellence awards, those undergoing a rebrand during the year jumped up from 5% in 2017 to 21% last year.
A fresh coat of paint
For many, a rebrand can be seen just as a marketing exercise. On the surface, it can be a simple, but effective aesthetic exercise. For 2018 shortlisted small firm Spicer & Co, a red-dominated website rebrand was needed so it “stood out against the sea of accountants using blue and grey”. On this level, the rebrand positioned Spicer & Co as a vibrant and supportive firm.
But for mid-tier entrant Jeffreys Henry, an updated version of its 20-year-old logo represented a flag of intent.
“Client expectations have changed, increased competition in the mid-market and the level of client sophistication has changed,” said Jeffreys Henry’s Bhimal Hira. “The brand we had wasn't a good reflection of who we are today.”
What rebranding means internally
Rebranding is often seen as a client-facing exercise, but it also presents an opportunity to refine internal messaging and ensure team members are all on the same page.
Nordens, a regular on awards shortlists, went through a branding exercise with an external consultant to reflect its new service profile, but the result also refined and solidified its internal culture. Nordens said this exercise encouraged its people to buy into the firm’s ethos and internal standards. As part of the process the firm introduced a staff “branding book” to record positive customer comments they receive.
But the effect of a rebrand digs deeper still. Like TC Group, rebranding can take on added importance when a firm has outgrown its previous incarnation. Inspire’s managing director and 2018 shortlisted Practice Pioneer Warren Munson, for example, rebranded the firm and its website to get a new service for entrepreneurs off the ground.
Similarly, Crunch’s Darren Fell, who picked up the practice pioneer award last year, felt a new brand was required after the firm expanded beyond its traditional services.
Fell was annoyed that so many of his contractor and self-employed clients were unable to get a mortgage. “I wanted to offer some incredibly useful products that would make Crunch sticky, but genuinely help them. Not just as a revenue-generating as a strategic plan and to lower some churn but to kill misnomers like they couldn't get mortgages easily.”
To deliver the new service, Fell recruited a mortgage broker to sit in-house with the team and an insurance broker. As a result, the old brand no longer represented its output. “It felt that the Crunch calculation symbol was old and we needed to grow up to this next bigger product range business, which is helping customers right across every number in their life requirement, from pensions to actually solving their mortgage,” said Fell.
What’s in a name?
For TC group the name change was prompted by a move away from its previous ownership model and the launch of new accounting, HR and taxation services. For 30-year-old Accounting Excellence entrant Watts Gregory, narrowing its focus onto the healthcare sector following an acquisition prompted a name change to HJE Healthcare Accountants.
It’s certainly easier to make this transition if you’re a new firm without any baggage. Last year’s new firm of the year opted to herald the next phase of its evolution with a new brand.
“Everyone thought we were a payroll company and not an accounting business,” explained PayKeeper founder and 2018 new firm winner Kieran James.
James had a lot to consider. Should he keep one company or split the services into multiple brands? That way he could keep the PayKeeper legacy. After listening to customer feedback, James decided to reboot the firm. “You've got to get customer feedback. That gave us a good foundation and made all our decisions easier, knowing who we are and knowing what we want to be and what we're not.”
Now that the firm is here to stay and has settled on their market, they’re now in final stages of rechristening the firm Stryde.
“If you think about how I started with a mission to help contractors, PayKeepers made sense. As we moved and evolved, tested and measured, we now lean towards franchises and small businesses. I think PayKeeper sounds as a payroll company across the board. So even our logo is an umbrella. We're getting on-brand a bit more,” he added.
“It needed to happen now so we could have a solid foundation moving forward.”
You’ve still got time if you want to enter the Accounting Excellence Awards. If you’ve seen your firm grow through rebranding or something else, you have until 23 April to tell us about the amazing things you’re doing. Click here to find out more