The late 1990s witnessed a surge of entrepreneurial risk-taking unleashed by the growth of the Internet. Andersen Consulting pursued its entrepreneurial destiny as well by filing, and winning, an arbitration case against Andersen Worldwide. The fully independent firm established its own identity with the adoption of its new name, Accenture, and a successful IPO, despite the bursting of the dot-com bubble. The company adjusted to new realities brought on by economic recession and the war on terror.
Two months later, Accenture and the world were shocked by the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. The consultants rallied to fund and construct a Family Assistance Center in downtown Manhattan where families of September 11 victims could seek information about loved ones and emergency aid. Accenture remained true to its roots. Rather than resist change, its employees proved willing to make the kind of bold moves that characterized Accenture’s strategy over the years, and that kept Accenture in the vanguard of the global technical services industry.
After Andersen Consulting’s mid-December 1997 arbitration filing against Arthur Andersen and Andersen Worldwide, there was no going back. As part of the arbitration, the consultants were required to stop using any form of “Andersen” in their name by the end of the year. That forced the firm into a flurry of rebranding itself as Accenture in a little over four months and at a cost of nearly $200 million. With the ink barely dry on the new Accenture name, the firm took the historic step of a massive reorganization, followed by selling shares to the public in July 2001 in an Initial Public Offering (IPO) to raise much-needed permanent capital. Forehand knew that regardless of how many millions of dollars the consultants spent on advertising and golf tournaments, people were still going to confuse them with the audit firm.
In one very important sense, the arbitration decision made the rebranding process easier. Forehand no longer had to “sell” anything. They were merely following the order of the arbitrator. There still was the challenge of generating buy-in on the part of the firm’s more than 70,000 employees, and doing so in the space of 147 days. One of the first steps was to inform the employees of the decision. As part of that effort, Murphy, who was already working with branding experts, created an internal process called “brandstorming” in which employees from around the world were asked for name ideas. The winner, Kim Petersen, senior manager-Resources in Oslo, Norway, came up with Accenture by thinking of “accent on the future“.
From that point forward, it was a race against the clock to effect the monumental changes required. The biggest challenge, however, involved transitioning brand equity to the new name. Starting with Andersen Consulting’s ads included a “tear-away” corner, with the message “Renamed. Redefined. Reborn. 01.01.01.”. A direct mail campaign, complete with a capabilities brochure that outlined the organization’s breadth of capabilities, was prepared and then sent to more than 40,000 (prospective) clients. The firm also worked with more than 165 alliance partners to rebrand their materials, brochures and websites. More than 2,000 people on 56 teams put in some 40,000 hours of work to ensure that the organization’s new name met the arbitrator’s deadline. To celebrate the launch of the Accenture name, Forehand hosted three live global webcasts—appropriate to different time zones—for employees around the world.
“Our brand positioning helps ensure our leadership position in the marketplace,” Joe Forehand noted. “By strongly managing our brand, we can shape the way clients and potential clients perceive Accenture. This will inevitably benefit our bottom line”. Some scoffed at the new name at the time, but at the end of calendar year 2001, one year after the launch, awareness for the Accenture name remained at or above the awareness level for the Andersen Consulting name.
Impressions of Accenture’s transformation and first campaigns: