CMO interview: The new economy approach to brand participation

Deloitte’s CMO David Redhill reveals how to take organisational branding to the next level through a culture of participation

Deloitte CMO David Redhill
Deloitte CMO David Redhill

Mobile technology and social media have undeniably changed the customer purchase journey, expectations of engagement and how products and services are delivered. As a result, organisations are now under increasing pressure to better leverage their brand strategy if they want to remain competitive.

Deloitte CMO, David Redhill, reveals how the professional services giant salvaged its organisational branding strategy through a culture of participation.

Embracing the knowledge economy

“About a decade ago, we had lost a lot of direction, we were losing talent in droves and we really had to embrace the precepts of the new economy,” Redhill said. “We had to do something different. We could see we were losing talent and credibility within the market.”

This meant embracing ideas and concepts distinctly different to traditional mindsets. Redhill distinguished between the old economy, characterised by hierarchy and top-down decision making, and the new economy, which is about knowledge sharing and collaboration.

“It is much more about shared wisdom, innovation and unleashing that force of the collective and flattening the hierarchy,” he explained. “We embrace that whole-heartedly, introducing a structured sort of innovation program.”

One way Deloitte did this was by making it very clear that it wasn’t just people’s right to innovate at all levels within the business, it was their responsibility. To support this approach, Deloitte looked to foster a culture of participation.

“It was about our brand becoming a concept and reflection of the outcome of people,” Redhill said. “In professional services, the concept of people being our brand is more real than many other sectors.

“When you have a brand that walks, talks and makes its own decisions, you have to get those staff to support your idea, and believe they add up to something greater than the sum of their individual parts. You have to acknowledge they have a role in creating that brand.

“As a result, you have more than a brand that people can be proud of, you have a brand they want to be part of. That’s what we looked for: People really wanting to be part of the bigger idea.”

Getting social

To achieve this, Deloitte realised it had to really engage its people and embrace social media. The company became an early adopter and first mover in the business world in terms of embracing various social channels including Facebook and Twitter, as well as enterprise collaboration tool, Yammer.

“We were first in our sector and the financial services in fact, to disseminate commentary on major events like the Federal Budget through Twitter and we were the first to keep the Prime Minister, the Opposition Leader and the Treasurer following our tweets in Parliament while the story was unfolding,” Redhill claimed.

“We were the first to really embrace Facebook as a key avenue for attracting graduates and engaging in a conversation with our prospective graduates. We’ve absolutely encouraged people to use Twitter, Linkedin as a channel engaging in conversations, creating micro-communities of professionals.”

Social media channels became not only marketing and communication tools, but allowed Deloitte to generate discussion and conversation, building community and e-connectivity within the organisation.

Handing over marketing to the people

“As the CMO here, I realised several years ago that I had to relearn everything I thought I knew about marketing,” Redhill continued. “This was because marketing was no longer in control of marketing – marketing was in effect, about collective wisdom. It was a matter of figuring out how to unleash social collaboration, channel it and use it to our advantage.”

Read our profile of David Redhill and his approach to the CMO role

Deloitte started inviting its people to participate in social media, content generation, advertising, marketing communications, new product development and client opportunities. The firm even invited employees to tell the CEO what they wanted to hear about from the leadership team.

“We now have various levels of conversation in different areas, we have communities of interest and connectivity across different subjects and disciplines within a firm,” Redhill said. “We have a massive firm-wide conversation and we have more social, fun conversations. I think this speaks to another key idea, which is blurring the boundaries between the professional and the personal.”

Working with HR

For Redhill, if you are using your own people as your champion channel to market, it is imperative HR executives are absolutely be involved, because they realise the power of the people.

“We realised the best marketing dollar is probably best spent internally, in helping shape a powerful advocacy by employees about the brand, because that is the most convincing,” he said. “People are more likely to believe a happy, motivated employee that they hear from, rather than seeing an ad in a newspaper. HR executives who are savvy get that.”

When it comes to effective brand engagement, Redhill advocates honesty, transparency and having a cohesive, collective culture of connectivity.

“Whether you create cultures of participation within a business like Deloitte, or whether you create a worldwide community of participation like Uber, Airbnb and Amazon, where people’s honest opinion validates the brand, people can see this validation through honesty and transparency,” Redhill said.

“As a result, they are much more inclined to embrace social media as an environment where you can’t lie – or you can’t get away with it for long.

“That bigger environmental shift has profound implications on the way organisations market themselves externally and present themselves to the market, and the culture that exists within the organisation. If there is a disconnect in culture and what the business is saying, the public is far more sophisticated and literate and can find out in an instant.

“That alignment of external messaging and internal culture, is becoming increasingly important.”

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