Alicia Hatch brings a unique perspective to her role as CMO of Deloitte Digital, a company that is poising itself to help its clients transform and compete in the digital era and beyond. Part of proving their clout in this area means showing that they can succeed in their own transformation.
In our interview, Alicia Hatch shares the role that the Deloitte Digital brand is playing in the broad effort to shift a large company from its pre-digital roots and achieve its post-digital potential. She describes where they started, the cultural shifts required, and how those changes that started in a small area of the business have grown to influence larger and larger parts of the company.
How has that effort been going? Deloitte Digital grew by 32 percent last year, which is an incredible feat for a business of their size and market penetration.
Alicia Hatch answers our questions about the keys to this success and growth. The following is in her own words.
What’s your focus area when it comes to brand strategy?
As we continue to grow the Deloitte Digital brand and support the Deloitte brand as a whole, brand strategy is an important focus for us. The strategy around Deloitte Digital started by looking at where the growth of the business was going to be, and what our clients were going to need from us in the years ahead. We looked at how industries were getting disrupted across the board, including our own, and how we needed to position ourselves in response. We considered the massive shifts happening all over the business world and how budgets and buyer roles were shifting across the C-suite as they reorient around the customer. All of this was (and is) driving much more internal integration than had ever been required before, and getting there was a huge challenge.
With all of this information in front of us, we asked ourselves, how should we be helping our clients? What do they need for success in this environment?
At the same time, we recognized that we were a 170+ year-old brand with a heritage in audit and tax. While we absolutely see the benefits that it provides us, many of our Consulting clients needed us to extend ourselves beyond the traditional offering. They needed a new set of capabilities, delivered in a new way, and they wanted it to be agile, integrated, as a service, in the cloud, creative and yes, with the confidence they expect from the Deloitte master brand. That was a big ask! To accomplish this, we needed to extend our brand in a way that would allow us to reach the next level for our clients and their 21st century ambitions.
So, six years ago, we established the Deloitte Digital brand to create an identity that could push attributes like creativity, innovation, and agility. Launching Deloitte Digital allowed us to take a different approach to how we were perceived externally, as well as how we operated internally. It continues to drive our transformation from the inside out. And today, what started as a small part of the business, has grown to influence how all of our consulting services go to market and our signature investments.
What was the reasoning behind the rebranding?
Our research told us that we were being blocked by brand perception. As I mentioned before, Deloitte is a trusted brand, but needed new attributes that would inspire more of our consulting clients to seek us out to innovate their business. This required making an impact all the way down to the sales cycle, so we knew we had to build a different brand that could earn that kind of business.
We specialize in helping Fortune 500 companies make and implement strategies for their future—that’s consulting. But in the last few years, we’ve seen that topple rates for the Fortune 500 have been increasing, and that there are predictions out there saying that 40 percent of the Fortune 500 probably won’t exist in 2025. In this environment, businesses have to have a different kind of confidence in their consulting partner—it’s about taking risks and aiming high. We call it ambition-based consulting.
We know our clients need help with this, but they weren’t going to trust a brand that itself had not been transformed. The brand attributes we needed to build permission around were very clear: creativity and innovation. Creating Deloitte Digital allowed us to do that without undermining the attributes that have always been so core to our parent brand.
Did the branding strategy make it all the way down to the service you deliver?
The concept of brand has evolved—we’ve gone from a world where brand could be summarized in a style guide with icons, logos, and colors, to a customer-powered world where everything is branding. Every interaction, every choice is branding now. For a hotel, thread count in your sheets is branding. For a tech or pharma company, R&D investments are branding. Hold music is branding. Brand has become the through-line, the North Star for every part of the business.
In light of this, we’re taking that idea of brand and driving it all the way through to the client experience we deliver, the sales experience, and even our employee experience. Clients see it in our quality of work and every interaction they have with us. The public sees it in the issues we speak out on, like inclusion and family leave. We know all of these things have to be tied together in order to be authentic. That requires a continuous effort toward that consistency—from the ground up and the top down.
Tell me about the research involved in your brand transformation. What were the results?
We do a lot of research at Deloitte—for our clients, as well as for ourselves. Over the last few years, we’ve done a number of studies on companies who are digital natives and scaled successfully, as well as companies that have successfully transformed from pre-digital to highly digitally mature organizations.
Through those research efforts, we identified 23 key traits and behaviors that help companies realize the full potential of digital technology. Those characteristics range from things like decision-making rights to how geographically agnostic they are. It also took notice of organizational speed, agility, how much they experiment, and how deep or flat their hierarchy is. As we looked at those attributes, we saw that being digital is not just about technology. It’s about operating in a digital way—which is a much different thing.
To apply this to ourselves, we had to create space internally to transform—you can’t just tell 200,000 people to suddenly change the way they work next Monday. We had to create space for a new way of being within the machine, and that was another thing we were able to achieve by creating Deloitte Digital. It started small at first, at the brand level, with how we spoke, the collaboration platforms we used, the way we structured engagements, how we worked and brought teams together with collocation in our studios.
By creating a space to make these shifts, we were able to gain momentum around these big cultural and operational shifts. This kept them from getting diluted or succumbing to the inertia of such a large company that was used to doing things differently. But as those changes became consistent within a smaller group, it began to radiate out further and further into the rest of our business. Ultimately, this was an inverted transformation, done in a way that wasn’t too disruptive.
Six years in, Deloitte Digital is now the growth engine of our consulting business. We are a $3.1 billion company, with 32 percent growth last year. That is tremendous and hard to do in any industry right now.
How do businesses leverage what you learned through this research and transformation process?
At the root of all of this was a thoughtful change in our brand values, and then being able to build those new values into our operating model. We identified the traits we needed, started small, and allowed it to scale.
Looking at it this way is important for current CMOs or any business leader struggling with the question: How do I shift my organization into a new way of being and thinking? We’ve used the same research to help clients embark on this journey. We always start with an assessment to see where an organization falls on that list of 23 traits. We then identify the three where they are the weakest and start running sprints to change those workflows in micro-sized waves, because you can’t do all 23 at once.
Approaching it this way makes people feel like there is tangible traction, tangible impact, but it’s not too overwhelming. The trick is to keep moving on, and rolling this out over time. It becomes a series of micro-sized shifts that, before too long, creates seismic change.
Where’s the opportunity for B2B brands today?
Even though we preach being data-driven, we need to remember that emotion and pain points still are what resonate—even in B2B marketing. Identifying when to use data and when to use emotion as clients move down the funnel is a key thing to keep in mind.
It’s also smart to remember that the further brand is pushed downstream, the more limited its impact will be. As I was saying before—brand isn’t just logos and a style guide. It’s got to infuse product decisions, customer support, and everything right down to the core of the business. As a B2B CMO, the more closely you can tie your efforts to both the current business strategy, and more importantly, future business strategy, the more impact you can have as a growth driver and key stakeholder in the success of your organization.
Every industry is reshaping, every single vertical is getting more horizontal, with diagonal lines drawn across it. You have to zoom way, way out on your competitive context and the forces at work on your audience and on your business to position yourself really effectively and drive a winning strategy.
For marketing success, how do you tell the story?
At the end of the day, your story has to be about growth. When you’re speaking to your top leadership, you have to speak the language of business—they don’t care about marketing impressions or metrics. They care about the bottom line and opportunities to improve it.
For Deloitte Digital, we’ve put a lot of effort into demonstrating that our activities and growth can be tracked all the way down to the account level. Each account team has their own strategy and plan, tailored for their client. As marketers, unless we can connect at that level, we haven’t really built the needed machine.
I try to keep a very strong alignment to revenue, and so every week I look at the business growth reports, so we can see what is happening regularly and refine and tune in our strategy where it’s needed. This helps us identify clear goals—for example, if we were consistently behind in driving business to manufacturing clients, we can support the push toward those accounts. Each week we decide how to ship dollars and media, turning on new campaigns as needed, according to what the data is showing us.
What is most important to you when it comes to measuring success and success indicators?
As with any marketing measurement, it’s still a mix of art and science. As I said before, at the end of the day, the story has to be about business growth—if your efforts don’t translate to that, you’re doing something wrong. That said, measuring success in different phases of the funnel will have a different mix of qualitative, quantitative, and anecdotal indicators.
What does this look like more specifically? Every year, Deloitte surveys customers to collect full quantitative and qualitative feedback from them on their impressions of our brand. We also look at how willing clients are to make a public endorsement, and confirm for the business world what we’re saying about ourselves. We also look at where we fall in the analyst rankings, especially in the areas where we’re trying to build brand permission.
In those very edge areas, where we’re really pushing the limits on our brand permission, we really value those more anecdotal wins. For example, when we won the John Hancock Manulife global advertising creative account in direct competition with pure-play creative agencies. It was a complete creative shoot-out, and afterward we had the John Hancock Manulife CMO tell AdAge that our creative was by far the best. That was a huge marker that our brand had not only been in contention for that account, but we came through and showed we had the chops, the culture, and the talent in our ranks to back it up with our work. There’s only so much top of the funnel work you can do if you can’t deliver the right product or service—but this was a major win proving that we could back up our claims.
For me as the CMO, and as much as I love the phenomenal growth we’ve seen with this brand strategy, I am most proud of the stories like that one that show our brand transformation has worked. What’s more, they prove that creating a strong brand foundation can change a culture and become infused all the way down to your product—which for us means doing the right thing for clients over and over again. That’s ultimately how you measure the power of brand.