Rebranding is more than a marketing gimmick

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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. 

JH

“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.

New services

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

About Richard Hattersley

Richard Hattersley

Richard is AccountingWEB's Practice Editor. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.

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15th Apr 2019 14:57

I have never met a fee paying client who actually cares what a firm's strapline, logo, etc. says or looks like etc. and I doubt I ever will. Indeed, I almost invariably use engagement letters etc. devoid of any logos etc. as it occupies less storage in email inboxes and no-one has ever complained let alone commented on that.

Perhaps it has some subliminal subconscious effect, but I doubt it's significant if positive at all.

I recall when I worked at Deloitte the senior partner justifying huge marketing expenditure on the green dot in their logo and extolling the virtues of that green dot. Completely dotty I thought.

It's just really a way for senior partners etc. (and marketing firms) to justify their existence & huge pay packets and only in that regard is it more than a marketing gimmick.

Thanks (1)
to Justin Bryant
17th Apr 2019 11:51

There's plenty of that I'm sure, but also it's about making sure the outside reflects the changes that have happened internally too.

These are not often about grabbing a new logo, but an overdue acknowledgement that practices (their clients, staff, services, processes...) all evolve over time.

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17th Apr 2019 00:21

Rebranding is often for what I call the Sellafield Effect. When you have managed to make your old brand toxic, change the brand rather than change your practices. It cons a few people into thinking you have changed your ways or your products but often it's more of the same under a different label.

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