Branding (and rebranding) is an important element in a CPA firm’s strategic efforts. It is the management of identity, reputation and image.
All large CPA firms constantly work their brand. Occasionally, a firm’s strategy calls for a change in public identity, hence the need for rebranding.
I think McGladrey’s rebranding is intended to communicate to the public that it views itself as one of the big boys. Although it is not a Big 4, it never-the-less is big.
McGladrey’s name change and rebranding efforts parallel that of the other largest CPA firms. Deloitte & Touche has become Deloitte. Ernst & Young is becoming Ernst. PriceWaterhouseCoopers has become PWC. BDO Seidman has become BDO. Plante & Moran has become Plante Moran. Baird Kurtz & Dobson has become BKD.
Sometimes branding activities commence with a merger, such as between Larson Allen with Clifton Gunderson to become CliftonLarsonAllen. Notice the similarity with PriceWaterhouseCoopers? How soon do you think it will be before CliftonLarsonAllen becomes either Clifton, or Larson (don’t think it will become CLA). And when is Grant Thornton going to do something?
This trend toward shorter CPA firm names is taking place because of these branding considerations.
- Size, or bigness. Being viewed as large (or larger or largest) has always been important to CPA firms, as size has been viewed as a proxy for quality. [Can it be that "Mine is bigger than yours," is more apt in the audit industry than the locker room?] Doesn’t big business needs Big Audit? Eight specific accounting firms benefited from the emergence of the Big 8 brand. There are huge benefits to being one of the Big 8,7,6,5,4. It is not coincidental that the gap between any of the Big 4 and the others widens every year.
- Oneness. A single name creates an image of consistency throughout the firm. It is implied that the same service and quality of service is provided anywhere in the country, or the world. It is all the same. This is one reason why the largest firms are battling the PCAOB proposal to disclose the engagement lead partner’s name as part of the audit opinion.
- Brand name awareness. One has made it big if the world instantly recognizes him, her, or it by a single name–Lebron, Bird, Oprah, Madonna, Cher, Kleenex. It may be a self-fullfilling prophecy to shorten your name. McGladrey bespeaks a desire for increased brand awareness. It represents a step to a bigger stage.
- Corporate. When it was McGladrey & Pullen, there was still a tie to an individual’s name. McGladrey sounds more corporate and monolithic. In addition, the firm is now preeminent. The firm is more important than any partner. Individual partners are now employees.
For branding efforts to be successful, a firm or company has to become its brand. McGladrey & Pullen will have to change if it truly wants to become McGladrey.
What do you think? Please leave a comment below.
Debit and credit – - David Albrecht