How one global CMO is engineering a new technology brand

Galvanising internal forces for macro brand building has led the priority list for HCLTech's marketing chief

When experienced marketer, Jill Kouri, signed on to become global chief marketing officer at HCLTech, she knew she was in for a challenge.

Kouri joined the Indian-born technology consulting firm in a US-based global role in mid-2021 after a career that had included roles at Accenture and the global property firm, JLL. While the company itself was enormous - 210,000 people and close to US$12 billion in revenue - Kouri says it was the opportunity to continue HCLTech's brand transformation which most intrigued her.

But while she'd competed against HCLTech in her time at Accenture, many of the visible attributes of hew would-be employer's brand, such as its website, did not paint the strongest impression of the company. So while she was being interviewed for the role, she was conducting her own round of interviews.

"I really wanted to dive more deeply into what their clients thought and felt, and get to know some of the people," Kouri tells CMO. "I talked to some of my former Accenture colleagues who had come up against HCLTech on some pretty big pitches."

What she found was a company full of brilliant people with deep engineering talent and a fantastic growth story in the US based on share-of-wallet growth at existing accounts.

"Our clients tend to stay with us for a very long time, we get a lot of good references and referrals, and our analyst rankings across all of the typical subsets are generally quite strong," Kouri says. "But there was no galvanising force for macro brand building. There was little being done at an awareness and knowledge level, and therefore consideration numbers with prospects were not as high as I would like them to be.

"But the magic was there, and that was why I joined the company. I could see, feel and hear there was enough inside this company I would have the right building blocks to work with to bring the brand story out."

What finally swayed Kouri to take on the challenge was the commitment of the CEO and chairperson to the change process.

Jill KouriCredit: HCL
Jill Kouri

"The CEO and the chairperson wanted a true partner to help them do all of these things that they knew we needed do, because they didn't know how to do it, but they knew they needed to invest," she says. "I walked into a situation where the CEO and the chairperson of the board were 150 per cent all in and committed to bringing in a true CMO to drive brand."

Kouri’s first task was to deepen her own knowledge of the company. So she commissioned quantitative and qualitive research and spent time with HCLTech’s client advisory board.

"We also spent a lot of time with our employees, because at the same time we were going through the brand transformation we also were going through our employer brand work and employee value proposition work," she says.

What followed was a program of work whose outputs included an overhaul of the most trafficked areas of HCLTech's website, and development of various brand assets.

All of this culminated in September 2022 with the launch of the company's new HCLTech brand identity, logo and slogan: 'Supercharging progress'. This was launched to all employees via a one-hour webcast.

"That was more like a television show, with the insertion of various videos and b-roll footage," Kouri says. "That was shown at 30 of our locations around the world, all at the same time, with celebrations to follow. Coordinating that entire effort, and really trying to win the hearts and minds of our employees, was a massive piece of this whole project. I think it came off almost as well as we had hoped for."

Kouri has also built staff engagement through a Facebook-style 'living the brand' platform built on Microsoft Viva Engage.

"We launched that at the time of the internal launch and had people sharing photos and stories of supercharging progress and action at the organisation," she says. "We wanted our employees to feel good, to feel excited, and to want to talk about the brand internally and externally. The social media buzz has been absolutely fantastic."

Building external brand awareness

Aside from internal communication, Kouri has been working hard to raise HCLTech's external profile, including forging a partnership with MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, home of the New York Jets and New York Giants football teams. Kouri says this partnership has given HCLTech branding throughout the stadium as well as representation on associated websites.

"There are lots of places we are showing up now from a logo branding perspective, but we also have a suite on the 50-yard line, and we will host people at each game," Kouri says.

Investments like this mark a major change for a company that until now has not done much advertising.

"I can’t give you any hard metrics on that, but I can tell you people are very aware of what we are doing, appreciative, standing up and taking notice," Kouri says. "I know I am not going to be a household name, but I want to be in the consideration set any time a global 1000 company needs a partner in the broad area of digital, cloud or engineering."

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