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Archive for the ‘Branding’ Category

I can’t stand it.  Do a Google search on Ernst and Young’s new rebranding effort, and images of naked men are returned.

I now think of porn every time I hear the firm’s name (Ernst & Young) or see its initials (EY).  Trust me, I have no desire to see porn every time I do a Google search on this Big 4 firm.  And I have regular need to perform Google searches on each of the Big 4 (as well as several other accounting firms).

To be perfectly clear:  I don’t want to see pictures of naked men or naked women, soft porn or hard porn, when researching accounting firms.

This was not a problem for me prior to the rebranding, because I always thought of the firm’s full name.  But all of Ernst’s & Young’s recent promotional efforts have been directed toward encouraging all of us to think of them as EY, which is synonymous with naked men.  So in effect, Ernst & Young has created the conditions for me to be aware of and think of porn.  I object!  I would rather imagine young male accountants in traditional business attire.

I am aware of no other reputable business that is encouraging its customers and interested parties to encounter a pornographic linkage.  An Ernst & Young spokesman said that its clients are able to skip over the pornographic images and choose only the bona fide Ernst & Young links.  Yes, but those clients are always going to see porn images upon doing a search for EY.

A few moments ago, I performed a Google images search on EY.  18 of the first 21 images returned contained images of naked men.  Check it out below.

ey_google_images

Come on, EY.  We accountants are better than this.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht


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Ernst & Young, now EY, has a ‘sexy boys’ problem.

latimes-ey-sexyboys

Pic credit: LA Times

Ernst & Young on July 1 announced it was rebranding itself as EY.  Lopez writes,

[Ernst & Young, EY] now shares a name with a racy magazine, EY! Magateen. The magazine, which features scantily clad young men, is the work of Luis Venegas, a Spanish creative director known for his flamboyant, sexually charged fashion publications.

A Google image search of “EY” brings up photos of young male models clad in low-cut briefs, right alongside the Ernst & Young logo and some exterior shots of the company’s offices.

What a massive fail!

When I went to images.google.com, one picture returned was that of a naked man.  A hand was covering his private parts, but pubic hair was clearly visible.

I could comment, or I could take the high road.  EY seems to have taken the low one.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht


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Is there a fit between accountants and social media?

My first thoughts go back to some old accountant jokes.  How do you identify the party goer who is an accountant?  He/she wears a lampshade.  How do you tell if an accountant is an extrovert or introvert?  The extrovert looks at your shoes, not his.  What is the favorite form of accountant birth control?  Personality.

So maybe we shouldn’t expect non-social accountants to be at the cutting edge of social media.  Never-the-less, surveys have repeatedly shown that for those accountants who use social media, LinkedIn is overwhelmingly the favorite platform.

LinkedIn has for six months been letting users endorse their 1st degree connections for skills. Viewed by some with skepticism, the endorsement feature is being used at an increasing rate.  Over the past few months I’ve received a few e-mails alerting me to a new endorsement I’ve received.  Finally reaching a critical mass, my curiosity is piqued.

LI-endorsements-3-3-13

ProfAlbrecht is endorsed for accounting, college teaching, and blogging.

I’ve received 70 total endorsements, with 52 in the most popular categories for the 14 skills I list.  The skills for which I am most frequently endorsed seem to describe me well.  I am an accounting professor who writes about accounting, so being endorsed for accounting knowledge is appropriate.  I’m very good at helping students learn, so an endorsement for college teaching fits.  And because my two blogs (The Summa and Pondering the Classroom) have totaled more than a half million reads, being endorsed for blogging seems right.

Receiving an endorsement is a good thing, I think.  And I appreciate every one.  They can only come from people who know you the best.  Most LinkedIn users seem to be stingy in issuing endorsements.  If the endorsements come from a large enough group, they are reliable measures (in a similar fashion to IMDB film ratings).

Ever keen to understand how my world actually works, I did a bit of research.  Although I could have selected professors or bloggers as a reference group, I decided to select professional accountants.  I’m a member of Social CPAs, a LinkedIn group.  I fairly randomly selected 20 members of the group.

This group seems to be active in LinkedIn usage.  11 of the 20 have more than 500 connections in their network. Six have between 250 and 500 connections, and three have less than 250.

endorsement-sample

Only 14 out of the 20 list any skills.  The groups of 14 with skills and 6 without seem similar in terms of number of connections.

For the 14 who show skills, the median number of skills listed per person is 14 (minimum = 8, maximum = 49).

For the 14 who show skills, the median number of endorsements is 102 (minimum = 6, maximum = 330).

For the 14 who show skills, the most endorsed skill has received a median value of 19 endorsements (minimum = 2, maximum = 104).

I think the LinkedIn endorsement feature has enormous potential to validate your brand.  It seems to have done a fine job in validating who I am. Please leave a note if LinkedIn endorsements seem to be working for you.

For more information on LinkedIn endorsements, Forbes writer Susan Adams has written an article, “Everything You Need to Know About LinkedIn Endorsements.”

How often are different subgroups of accountants using LinkedIn endorsements?  What do the accountant users of endorsements think of the new feature?

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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Professor Alexandra Samuel has an extremely interesting piece in the Monday, October 29,2012 edition of the Wall Street Journal (page B7), “Your Employee Is an Online Celebrity. Now What Do You Do?

It also strikes pretty close to home. Because of my efforts on The Summa and Pondering the Classroom, I’ve been named twice to the Accounting Today list of “Top 100 Most Influential People.”  My name is recognized by accountants in many countries, and I have a respectable Klout score.  I have a lot of followers.  Does all this make me an online celebrity?  Compared to most business professors and many accountants, I dare say it does.

In several blog posts, I’ve written of the need for financial and other professionals to work on their personal professional brand.  A professional brand is a succinct description of who is a particular accountant, lawyer or professor.  Getting a professional brand out there (on the Internet) is important because others are using the Internet to search for such professionals.  If one’s professional brand isn’t out there, then potential opportunity losses can add up.  Also, modern social media platforms aid in managing the brand.  Having a professional brand is an important asset when looking for a new job, as employers seek new professionals who can add value.

Online professional brands are created, developed and managed through the major social media portals, such as blogging, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.  The goal is to become known as an authority.  Followers are attracted to those who either create or pass along the most insightful information.  Being able to engage or interact with followers is essential.

This is an emerging issue that more and more companies and professional firms will need to deal with, if they don’t already have to deal with it.

So, what does Dr. Samuel say about the phenomenon?  She lists pluses and minuses, which I quote verbatim.  The pluses are:

  1. Prestige.  The company that can claim the top-ranked blogger, tweeter or influencer on a subject will be the go-to shop for customers.
  2. Leads. The employee who engages in regular online conversations is building relationships that can be converted into new customers.
  3. Free Media.  Employees with a significant online following will get inexpensive attention for your company from journalists looking for experts.
  4. Recruitment.  Companies that employ social media starts will attract other high-achieving, driven professionals.

The minuses are:

  1. Prima Donnas.  A few thousand Twitter followers or LinkedIn connections can lead to inflated egos–and inflated salary expectations.
  2. Distraction. Co-branded employees may devote so much time to cultivating their own global brand that they neglect their core duties.
  3. Leaks.  Employees may deliberately or accidentally use internal or client information as social media fodder.
  4. Resentment.  Social media celebrities may damage team cohesion or inspire complaints.

Dr. Samuel suggests the following questions need to be properly addressed:

  1. Can they tweet/blog/facebook on the job?
  2. Should the online celebrity credit co-workers?
  3. How much should brands align?
  4. What is a social media presence worth?
  5. Who owns that blog?

The presence of online active professors surely makes for problems in academia.  In accredited business schools, getting peer-reviewed journal articles is the base and most important requirement for pay, promotion and tenure.  Some schools also require teaching in addition to the publications.  Some schools may reward committee work in addition to publications and teaching, but only in a minor way.  Never-the-less, getting journal articles in difficult to find, rarely read journals is the primary responsibility for business professors.

At the present time, social media activity does not count for a business academic.  Yet it has value.  When a B-school has an online celebrity emerge, then the question of what to do with the celebrity must be addressed.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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I’m currently at the American Accounting Association annual meeting in the Washington metro area. A year ago (August 3, 2011), I wrote the following essay. To make it easier for this year’s attendees to read this message, I’m republishing it today.


I’m a throwback accounting professor, yet I use social media (not afraid to admit it). Social media helps me do my job.

A few months ago, I queried members of my LinkedIn network who are accounting professors (n=70). I already knew most of them didn’t blog, tweet, create videos, friend students or have FB pages. They admitted that they don’t actually use LinkedIn, either. Am I weird, or are they behind the curve?

Social media is a true force in the world today. People who participate in online social media sites have more and deeper relationships than those who do not. Social media adds to the quality of life. It has revolutionized marketing. It even has been used to foster revolt and topple governments. Some are arguing causality, using social media will help make a person more social. I’ve looked around, and the business world is using social media–both companies and business people. The professional world of accounting is also flocking to social media–both firms and individual accountants.

So, I don’t think I’m weird for using social media when my colleagues don’t. Here are seven reasons for professors to use social media (henceforth referred to as SM) and improve their professional effectiveness. (more…)

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Sometimes I get asked questions by media representatives.  The answers, naturally, are posted here.

Why?  Well, in academia a professor must publish, or perish.  Professors learn to write down everything and try to get it into print.

Should you be interested in my answers to these questions?  Probably not.  However, a writer for one publication was interested enough to inquire.

What is the most important issue currently facing the accounting profession?

In my opinion, it is the loss of investor confidence in audit firms and their opinions.  A close second is loss of investor confidence in financial statements.  Related is the loss of investor confidence in the fairness of capital markets (Mary Schapiro has made speeches about this very issue).  Unfortunately, much of this has been caused by large firm audit opinions somehow being associated with accounting scandals and audit failures.

I’m an industry insider, and I have almost no confidence in audit opinions or published financial statements.

Other than pointing out the problems, I’m not much help here.  I don’t know what to do to fix the problems.

Are we likely to see large-scale tax reform in the next year? If yes, what form do you think it will likely take? If not, why not?

No, Congressional gridlock will not be broken, so nothing pertaining to taxation will change.  We have a history of using taxation to promote political, social and economic policies.  All of a sudden throwing this out onto the trash heap runs in the faces of sound reason and voter desires.  Nothing is going to change, in my opinion.

What digital devices do you use?

I’m a college professor who can’t afford much.  Moreover, American universities are under such budget pressure that I’ve not received anything other than the basic office machine.  Personally, I have a relatively powerful laptop (Dell XPS i7) and a basic digital camera.  I also have a cell phone which is used for texting.

I am hopeful that one day I might acquire

  • iPad
  • webcam
  • really nice mic
  • “air” card for mobile Internet access
  • smart phone
  • someone to teach me how to use all of the above

Who do you feel are the three most influential people in the profession, and why?

There are a lot of influential people.  Last year I was touting several bloggers.  This year, I’m talking about some other people.

Three influential people are:  Michael Rapoport (WSJ), Jonathan Weil (Bloomberg), and Daniel Hood (EIC of Accounting Today).  Reporters and editors of the traditional press wield significant power in this day and age.  They interact with bloggers, and many people are now reading both the key journalists and bloggers.

The dialogue between journalists and bloggers builds, creating a media discourse that has mass, awareness and consciousness.

How involved are you on the social media web?

My blog is The Summa.  I Tweet, am on LinkedIn, and have a Facebook page.

I also have a Klout score, which measures public online profile and influence.  Like many online professionals, I expend effort creating, managing and promoting my  professional brand.  I try to integrate my social media presence, brand and message.

I could go on and on about this.  In this day and age, the influential must be on almost all communication and social media channels in order to have the broadest delivery of message.  Without communication channels, there is no delivery of message.

I believe anyone who is not out there in the social media world is part of the last century, and not a part of this century.  If anyone either wants to have or actually has influence, they absolutely must be part of the new social media world.  If not, then a statement of his/her credibility is simply not believable.

Final comments.

During the past 10-12 months, I think the influence of bloggers and other commentators (like myself) has been shown by publication of the recent SEC report on IFRS.  That the SEC has not already adopted IFRS is due in large part to the bloggers and commentators keeping the issue alive, and convincing readers that (1) it is cool to disagree with the establishment, and (2) there are many others of like mind.

I continue to use social media in an attempt to lead other academics by setting a good example.  I believe I’ve had some impact.  How much would have to be debated.

I am particularly interested in helping other professors to start blogging about accounting.  I seem to be a crusader on this issue.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht


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McGladrey and Pullen, LLP, has completed its rebranding, officially changing its name to McGladrey, LLP.  mcgladreypullen.com now redirects to mcgladrey.com.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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


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