Boston Consulting Group Marketing embraces Parametric Art

19 February 2016

The Boston Consulting Group has turned to algorithms for its company-wide branding. Parametric art has seen each of its 40 functional areas display a unique image that combines precision and expression. The new approach seeks to not only standardise the firms brand across its global operations, but also create a conversation started for its clients and prospects about the many facets that affect business conditions in a rapidly evolving environment.

Careful branding is an important part of the way in which a company manages its online and offline profile. For companies that are themselves networks of organisations operating in widely different geographies and under different management – especially in a period in which new channels, such as social media, mobile and internet, each require attention – creating ubiquitous branding across all of them can be difficult.

In 2005 Massimo Portincaso took on the role of head of marketing at The Boston Consulting Group (BCG). The engineer by education, found that the precision most often found across machines was missing in the company’s global branding efforts, remarking that "The brand was present in 40 countries and it was complete anarchy." At the time, different colours, different topographies and even different logos were being show in the firm’s different regions.

Ten years later, and following considerable fine tuning of the global marketing apparatus across the globe, the company brand is finally ubiquitous, he says. In part due to the efforts of its design partner CarboneSmolan and their suggestion of using parametric art. The art technique creates imagery that combines artistic expression with scientific precision. Through the combination the company’s brand hopes to make people aware of the firm’s willingness to combine creativity with calculation, something its consultants too strive for in their client work.

Parametric art itself is generated through an algorithm that transforms small descriptive sentences, in relation to the firm’s 40 different functional areas, into imagery – with the judgement regarding which image, from the array generated by the programme, falling to designers whose task it was to manipulate hundreds of variables to return an image that was “essentially taking a photo of a key moment of the reaction.”

"There’s a huge variety but there’s still a creative hand that’s adjusting the parameters, finding the moment in the sculpture that’s aesthetically appealing, " says Paul Pierson, CarboneSmolan’s Design Director, "but it’s all driven ultimately by that one piece of content."

For BCG, seeking to improve its connection with a new generation of employees sought to create imagery that was slightly different to the more traditional ‘car’ for auto-industry and ‘snake’ for healthcare. "The breakthrough here is that you have the science for part of the business – the left brain – embracing something that is super abstract, but it’s not abstract in the sense that there’s no meaning," says Carbone. "The actual image comes from their deep wisdom about their practice areas." A further benefit of the imagery is that it creates a ‘conversation starter’ for clients and prospects about how deep the different functional areas go.

According to reports from the firm’s analytics regarding the engagement with the website, the new branding strategy is a success. "Users have doubled the time they’ve spent on the site, and 40% have scrolled down the page," says Portincaso. "People are proud again. We were getting a bit stodgy and old and now they feel like this is really cool. But we’re doing this because we believe it, not just because we want to look nice."

Other efforts developed by BCG in recent years to improve its branding include its partnership with EyeEM to run various competitions that result in unique images being created for the firm’s online branding. 

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Branding the modern consultancy: why reputation hinges on it

03 April 2019

The reputation of firms and brand strength remain a key aspect of business in the management consulting industry. Karla Alexander, Brand Manager at Propero Partners, below reflects on the state of reputation management in the consulting industry.

In a time where public perception is enough to make or break a company, the wise are reminded that when it comes to brand and reputation, the strength of one does not necessarily equate with the quality of the other. Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than in the impact a spate of recent issues has had on firms that form the backbone of the industry, including KPMG and Grant Thornton.

Such was the damage to KPMG’s reputation last year, that the Bank of England took the decision to investigate its viability following a string of high-profile corporate scandals. Whether or not the sum total of the firm’s track record is enough to restore its image remains to be seen.

This proves that brand and reputation are not only among the most valuable intangible assets – they are also among the most fragile. And their reach extends into the centre of any firm, regardless of its size or market share.

The lesson here for challenger firms and smaller consultancies is two-fold. As well as learning from the mistakes of their peers, it’s also important not to conflate brand with reputation. While they both share the same objective – to win the hearts, minds, and wallets of clients – brand provides the opportunity to differentiate, whereas reputation provides the opportunity to demonstrate credibility. Far from being the same thing, it’s this very difference that binds them together.

Branding the modern consultancy: why reputation hinges on it

Reputation is the driving force behind a person’s decision to award a firm their business, based on values that align with their own – be it honesty, transparency, integrity, accountability. However, none of these characteristics are particularly compelling or distinctive on their own. To carve out key points of difference, to stand out, and to become known, liked, and trusted among a sea of competitors offering similar services, companies should turn to their brands.

Brand is the culmination of culture, vision, values, and identity, which when used consistently and religiously, can create fresh opportunities for firms. People no longer buy services in isolation but look for a purpose or a lifestyle to buy into. Strong brands create an appetite for themselves and command a higher price tag because people will pay for them. The more pulling power and emotional resonance a brand has, the more successful the firm will be.

Protecting a brand

That’s why, regardless of abundant choice, there is still only one Deloitte, one PwC, one EY – and there’s a reason why the Big Four audit nearly 100% of UK’s top 100 corporations. This relentless focus on building and protecting their brands and reputations on the basis of being the best, has, over time, resulted in a market monopoly. However, problems arise when one is given more weight than the other. This point is particularly relevant in the case of KPMG, and in others where firms have flaunted their reputation for being untouchable in the face of the client.

Brand and reputation working together are directly attributable to significant business outcomes (such as financial performance, loyalty, awareness) and should be treated as such. Focus too much on brand and you risk alienating the people who value credibility, such as prospective and existing clients, shareholders, and the best talent. Focus too much on reputation and you risk stagnating in the market, with a service that no one knows or cares about.

In order to overcome these challenges, the first step for many firms will be to take a step back. Before any meaningful work can begin, consulting firms need to assess the current state of their brand and reputation, and establish key characteristics for both. For brand, this might be relevancy, consistency, positioning, identity, and appeal. For reputation, this might be staff turnover, service quality, growth rate, client relationships, leadership, and diversity and inclusion.

Regardless of the findings, there’s always room for improvement. An uptick in the performance of brand and reputation can be achieved by measuring the impact that one has on the other, integrating business and marketing strategies, and setting strict KPIs.

Guardianship and getting results from this activity isn’t the job of one person or one team. People at all levels of the firm should be thought of as brand ambassadors, and should be willing to do what it takes to protect the reputation of the business no matter the cost. After all, everyone benefits when good things are said about a firm when it’s not in the room.

Related: Why building trust and brand belief is key for consulting firms.