Why this professional services firm is using crowdsourcing and consumer marketing tactics

Global CMO for Kearney talks through its rebranding strategy and why crowdsourcing creative has been key to tapping the human side of engagement

Bringing a community-driven, consumer lens to rebranding has seen B2B professional services firm, Kearney, crowdsource more than 10,000 images of staff and customers for its creative approach.

The group’s partner and chief marketing officer, Abby Klanecky, told CMO the decision to drop ‘A.T’ from its brand name and rebrand came out of work done to get closer to customers and build up more passionate advocacy. The global management consulting firm operates in more than 40 countries.

“It started with an exercise in talking to clients. We never set out to rebrand,” she said. “What we heard was they really liked working with us, and in many cases, had more confidence in us and our style of working than we had at times in ourselves.”

The key insight that led to the rebrand was Kearney needed to curate a simpler, clearer story showcasing the unique blend of empathy and expertise it brings to client engagements.

“We asked ourselves: Is our story we tell people that don’t work with us today simple and clear enough? We landed on the fact that it wasn’t. We needed it to be simpler and compelling.”

Having canvassed opinions to ascertain which potential brand names were most inclusive and reflected the values and attributes associated with the business, Kearney dropped the ‘AT’ and initials of its founder, Andrew Thomas.

“Andrew Thomas referred back to one individual – we’re not working for him anymore, we’re doing what we’re doing because of him. He inspired our future,” Klanecky said.

Crowdsourcing creative

One of the most important initiatives for Klanecky was eliminating stock imagery and using only crowdsourced imagery from Kearney colleagues in marketing, client decks and communications. Launched in October, the group has collected more than 10,000 original photographs shot by global employees.

Engagement was so significant, several offices are now looking at dedicated galleries onsite to showcase these pictures.

“This has ensured the brand is not something the marketing has decided on – it made everyone feel it was our brand,” Klanecky said. “We had this lofty goal of getting to 10,000 images, and we not only met but exceeded that figure.”

Of course guidelines had to be in place, and Klanecky said the first brief of “capturing each other in joyful, collaborative moments and where you found people at their best” stumped staff initially. Marketing then suggested photographing industry specific situations, such as retail or oil and gas.

“Staff did really well with those, so we went back and said now capture our people in their own environments and if you can, look for unexpected moments of joy. We had to warm them up with the easier challenges then work towards capturing people, one of the hardest things to capture,” Klanecky explained.

“We did say after you take pictures of people, make sure you go back and ask if they mind the pictures being used. But people had a lot of goodwill and were very receptive.”

The rebrand kicked off externally from January. Kearney is taking its new visual look and feel to this month’s World Economic Forum in Davos via a relaunched onsite environment which includes a gallery of images. The firm has also been communicating with existing clients about the rebrand, using the changes to open new client discussions, and has run advertising in the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal featuring its own people in creative.

“We are doing pretty active digital targeting campaigns, mostly to companies that are or could be our clients,” Klanecky said. “Some offices have decided to create galleries for their clients to come into as a physical experience.

“That was something we didn’t anticipate and it came from the offices, not the marketing team.”

The rebrand has also given Kearney the means to reactivate the alumni network. The rebranding strategy, design and activity was done in partnership with Siegel+Gale.

Consumer tactics in B2B

Klanecky agreed rebranding is a big change internally, and noted the adoption of several consumer-oriented marketing thinking and techniques.

“Previous exercises in B2B seem to be inside-out and about how the world should see us. But we’ve done this from the outside-in, talking to our clients, seeing how they understood us, what they saw as our best qualities about us, then working back,” she said. “Consumer marketing tends to be a bit better at this than B2B, and it really helped us establish our focus and be clear with this rebrand.”

Looking across the consulting marketplace, Klanecky said it was also clear firms were all saying the same thing: We get results and impact.

“The language was so similar and so intellectual. But we’re such a human business. Everything we do is about relationships. But aside from some firms having great recruitment channels, no one was talking to clients this way, as real human beings, showcasing the human side in a way that was compelling, fresh and apathetic,” she said. “Everyone, including us, had only done this in recruiting channels.”

A third piece for Klanecky was tapping human truths. “Consumer brands have done such a better job of creating work that’s more about universal emotions or experiences. A lot of firms, including us, had been creating work focusing on ourselves,” she said.

It’s this thinking that led Kearney to create its ‘It’s the company you remember’ video campaign creative exploring what makes work, ‘work’. Set in an elevator, the creative explores everyday occurrences experienced in a lift, from practicing a new client meeting, to sharing personal news, spilling coffee, mobile phones cutting out, lifts getting stuck, and even a dressed-up Christmas elf with gifts.

“There are so many moments we can’t remember in projects we work on, but what you remember is the camaraderie and the people you work with,” Klanecky said. “The elevator videos feature scenes from the everyday, those human moments... and end by saying it’s the company you remember.

“To make great work work, you have to have great people around you. That’s how we’ve chosen to bring our fresh branding to life.”

Pushing for change

The next set of work for Klanecky and the team is to continue internal change management that ensures brand messaging is echoed across every part of the organisation.

“You’re picking an attribute you have, but that may not be a present as you want to be,” she commented. “We are saying let’s make this front and centre, and that requires us to mute or delete other things that are there.

“Professional services firms also often produce lots of insights through decks and PowerPoint, so we’re looking at how to be more human in that regard – by putting fewer words on a page, shorter briefs, or creating a pause to talk to each other.

“So there are small changes bringing this to life that aren’t just about the name change, or the visual identity being fresher. It’s about the entire way we show up.”

For Klanecky, a short-term measure of success was seeing people sharing the creative socially being more successful than the firm’s owned channels during launch. “We knew if they embraced this through channels, we were on to something, and that’s happened,” she said.

Kearney’s longer-term aim is building deeper and more passionate client advocacy. “We want to see the language change, and we’ve given them a simpler story to pass along about who we are,” Klanecky said. “They needed to have that story in a way that was more shareable.”

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