Brand KPMG looks to craft inspirational tale with employees as ambassadors

The campaign has employees sharing stories about their passion, be it biking or sports, and their work ethic
One employee talks about her love for football, another of his passion for the shooting range. Both work in KPMG and both are speaking up for their employer as part of a campaign to celebrate the consulting firm’s twenty-fifth year in India. KPMG is looking to establish itself as a place that nurtures interesting talent and as a consulting firm of choice for its clients, turning to its employees for a glowing testimonial. While this makes for sound strategy, experts say that the firm may have slipped up on  execution and ended up with a rather weak endorsement of its prowess. 

The campaign, KPMGjOSH, launched earlier this year and expected to run through to the end of 2019 has been released on digital and print. It has employees sharing stories about their passions and about how they go beyond office hours to serve their company’s clients. Laudable attributes all but, brand experts say, the narrative lacks integrity. 

“The intent is not bad, it is the idea and execution that could be better. It is a missed opportunity both for the agency and company,” said K V Sridhar, founder and chief creative officer for Hyper Collective. For consulting firms, getting the advertising pitch right is tricky, given the intangible nature of the brand and the mixed group of clients they want to address. Given this, using employees to stand up for the brand’s values has worked for many in the past.

 “It is a declaration of what we are capable of, driven by the inner fire to win, to make a difference. It is a statement that establishes the firm as the #ClearChoice for businesses and professionals who want to succeed,” said a spokesperson for KPMG. In addition, the campaign involves a weekly exercise of employees across practices sharing stories with the firm around the same theme. “We believe that our culture and our people are our differentiating point. Hence the idea was to make them central to this campaign,” the spokesperson added.

Harish Bijoor, founder, Harish Bijoor Consults believes that using employees as brand ambassadors is a great idea. “In the case of KPMG, as it celebrates 25 years in India, it has decided to use its employees. Good thing. When you use an employee there is a greater degree of internal connect with the creative execution,” he said.

Bijoor, however, has a word of caution.”It is very important for the creatives to be packed with integrity and every creative must speak the language of high quality,” Bijoor says. Miss that and one could turn into a point of ridicule or fodder for memes and more, he warns. 

It is also important to establish consulting firms as egalitarian workspaces, different from the image of being fiefdoms that operate in secrecy, given the backlash against some members of the profession for their roles in corporate scams. To that end, asking employees across the hierarchical matrix to share their stories does make for an interesting branding opportunity.

However as Sridhar points out, it would have worked better if the campaign had been crafted with greater thought. He recalled a campaign for Sapient in 2016 where the ad asked for troublemakers to sign up for a job. “It conveyed we do not want people who are yes men, but troublemakers who ask uncomfortable questions,” he said. 

KPMG’s campaign has also raised several eyebrows over its timing. Given the regulatory spotlight that audit firms in India are under. But that may just be reading too much into a campaign, said Bijoor. “The timing may give one that impression but this looks like a KPMG 25 years in India campaign,” he added.

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