Deloitte: Time to tell a new story
Thursday 19th Oct, 2017
By Alison Huntington.
After attending an analyst day at Deloitte (admittedly some time ago now) I was asked to fill in a feedback form about the event. I remember writing something along the lines of: “Deloitte did a great job of telling me where it thinks it is positioned, but did less to address the views of many buyers of consulting services.” What I meant by that is that the entire day passed without mention of the firms many regard as its closest competitors—the rest of the Big Four.
Perhaps more than any other firm, Deloitte has pushed the message out to the world that it’s in a category of one: that it’s unparalleled in its breadth of capabilities, its global reach, and its ability to help clients at any—and all—stages of their business issues.
While there are many that are sceptical about that claim, there’s evidence that the messaging is working. By some of the measures of our Brand Perception Summary*, Deloitte does indeed appear to be moving away from being lumped in with its Big Four brethren. Clients choose to tell us about Deloitte more often than the others, and there’s evidence to suggest that it’s making a significant impression on clients of firms like Accenture and McKinsey.
There’s also evidence that clients are starting to see Deloitte as distinct from its Big Four peers based on the quality of its work. Taken as an average across a broad range of services, about two-thirds of clients describe the quality of Deloitte’s work as “high” or “very high”, putting it a few points ahead of its nearest Big Four competitor. In fact, almost every way we cut our data about the quality of Deloitte’s work versus the rest of the Big Four—whether that’s by industry or function—Deloitte comes out on top. It’s still got some way to go before it’s threatening the leading firm overall, but the trajectory is upward and the distance between Deloitte and the top of the pile is narrowing each year.
This is no mean feat. The Big Four in general are up against it when it comes to clients’ perceptions: We still interview clients who say, “The Big Four do consulting?” That in itself demonstrates just how long it can take for clients’ opinions about firms to shift. Clearly, Deloitte’s relentless positioning as the firm that’s different does seem to be breaking it out of the Big Four category and moving the needle of opinion more quickly than its competitors’ efforts.
But we wonder if the story needs updating. So far, it’s revolved around all the things Deloitte can do (a recent campaign is even called “Deloitte Do”). They can do everything from initiating an idea through to implementing it, and they can cover it wearing a strategy, finance, technology, or operational hat (and many more besides).
The part of the story that’s missing is the impact of all of that. What’s the outcome? Why buy Deloitte for everything? What’s the impact of a relationship that transcends individual services or departments? Our data suggests this is a real weakness for the firm—the proportion of clients describing the value added by Deloitte as worth more than the fees it charges has remained stubbornly low for the last three years, and lower than most other firms’ scores (including the rest of the Big Four). It’s told one story remarkably effectively; now it’s time to tell a new one.
*A note on methodology: Every year we survey senior end-users of consulting services, asking them to tell us their perceptions of the world’s leading consulting firms. The data in this blog is based on our survey of 2,682 clients in November and December 2016. We ask each to tell us about three consulting firms of their choosing, giving us 8,046 responses in total. Seven-hundred and five of the responses we received are about Deloitte.