When Matt Gonring pitched his dollars 100 million branding campaign to the partners at Arthur Andersen, he didn’t exactly receive a ringing endorsement.
When Matt Gonring pitched his dollars 100 million branding campaign
to the partners at Arthur Andersen, he didn’t exactly receive a ringing
But he persevered, and the stodgy accounting giant is now positioning
itself on the forefront of e-commerce. John Frank audits the progress so
Everyone knows that without a strong foundation, even the most
elaborately built house will collapse. That’s why Matt Gonring, Arthur
Andersen’s managing partner, communications and integrated marketing,
has spent over two years laying the foundation for a planned dollars 100
million corporate branding campaign.
The campaign aims to take Arthur Andersen (AA) beyond its accounting
roots to become more closely associated with the burgeoning e-commerce
world while at the same time giving it a market identity separate from
its sister company, Andersen Consulting.
Gonring’s efforts have included a major internal communications push to
get Arthur Andersen’s 80,000 worldwide employees - and its 3,000 often
independent-minded partners - to go along with the branding
It’s also involved some corporate soul-searching about exactly which
businesses AA wants to be known for.
With that work done - Gonring spent over a year preaching the new
direction internally - AA began its external brand building campaign. In
late January, the firm unveiled a new logo, a revamped Web site and a
new business venture designed to identify it with the realms of
consulting and e-commerce (PRWeek, Feb. 14). Those efforts are consuming
roughly dollars 25 million of Gonring’s war chest, including from
dollars 1 million to dollars 2 million for external PR. Ketchum has been
Andersen’s agency of record for roughly three years and will aid in the
’thought leadership’ area, getting AA experts known in key markets.
The company has staked out where it wants to be as a business,
concentrating on e-commerce, M&A work, becoming a ’value creator’ for
clients and developing a reputation as an employer of choice to aid in
the hiring of roughly 13,000 new employees every year.
Its next communications project will revolve around the thought
leadership area, getting AA executives placed on key industry
conferences to establish itself as a forward-thinking authority. A piece
of that effort is teaming with the prestigious MIT Sloan School of
Management to create a ’New Economy Value Research Lab’ to better
understand the digital economy.
Gonring also is reviewing corporate event sponsorships and other
opportunities to get the Arthur Andersen name more clearly in front of
its target audience, big-time corporate CEOs.
Gonring has his work cut out for him. While AA has grown in recent years
to a dollars 7 billion dollar company, Andersen Consulting has grown
even faster (revenues are now at dollars 9 billion), and news reports
have focused on the heated sibling rivalry between the two and exactly
how they will eventually separate. The spin-off of the consulting unit
is currently in arbitration, with a resolution expected in April. Until
then, Gonring has imposed a news blackout on that issue and instead
tried to get Arthur Andersen, and the media, to focus on its future
A house divided
Arthur Andersen’s internal research found that 50% of the marketplace
was confused about exactly what the company is and about the
relationship between Arthur Andersen, Andersen Consulting and Andersen
Worldwide, an umbrella company for the two siblings.
’We had a bit of an identity crisis,’ Gonring admits. ’We don’t get
credit for 70% of our business,’ he says, referring to the fact that
most AA income comes from outside traditional auditing work.
Industry observers agree. ’There is some confusion about which is
which,’ says Arthur Bowman of Bowman’s Accounting Report, an
Atlanta-based industry publication.
Gonring wants to change that by having Andersen talk more about the work
it does for clients. That means a major cultural change for the normally
button-downed company. ’Traditionally we don’t talk about what we do,’
And that’s where the foundation building has come into play. Gonring has
spoken at more than 75 company meetings in the past year, pitching the
new communications strategy. He’s also had to stand up to partners who
are not thrilled about the idea of spending what’s essentially their
money on PR.
When he arrived two years ago, Gonring demanded he be made a partner and
report directly to the CEO so he could go toe-to-toe with other partners
on his plans. Still, the company balked at shelling out the dollars 100
million over two years that he thought his branding campaign would cost.
He upped the ante, telling senior management to either postpone the plan
or find someone else who would try to do it on the cheap. He got his
’It’s a challenge to do PR for a partnership where there’s thousands of
bosses,’ notes Ron Culp, VP of PR and government affairs at Sears and a
long-time friend of Gonring’s. ’Matt’s challenge is to get a consensus
as best he can.’ Northwestern University’s Clarke Caywood, another
long-time Gonring associate, agrees: ’This is like herding cats.’
Despite the challenge, Gonring says he has the herd moving together now.
His department has taken control of such basics as how the new logo will
be used around the world, how press releases will be written and even
how promotional gear such as T-shirts will look.
All those specifics are on a new 500-page Web site for use by the 650
communications people Gonring has around the world. He takes an
integrated communications approach, so staffers handle a variety of
communications functions and report to Gonring and to local
In the past, AA offices were free to pursue lines of business they
thought would make money and also to do what they wished in terms of
logo usage, putting out releases and other PR functions. ’We weren’t
really consistent on our messages,’ says Jane Ostrander, head of AA’s
media relations. Now, Gonring’s group is producing booklets highlighting
relationships with various clients that emphasize the company’s new
Another image problem was that it was difficult to determine when a new
venture was associated with Arthur Andersen. That situation should no
longer occur, Gonring and his staff claim. ’If you don’t get your own
house in order, all the PR or marketing or advertising in the world is
going to be only so effective,’ he says.
The new logo is already getting noticed. Gonring gave The Wall Street
Journal an advance on the unveiling, and it was given front-page
Roughly 70 different media outlets carried coverage of the branding
campaign and the new logo: an orange globe designed to make Andersen
look more contemporary than its old logo, a pair of stolid-looking gray
The success of the new branding will be measured in revenue growth,
changes in client perception, media coverage and company morale.
Longer-term, he says ’there’s never been this level of focus,’ at AA on
defined business goals, and ’it’s being driven by communications.’ If
Arthur Andersen succeeds, it could serve as the benchmark for other
professional services firms trying to distinguish themselves in the
rapidly evolving economy of the new e-business century.
- See integrated marketing feature, p28
PR chiefs: Matthew Gonring, managing partner, communications &
integrated marketing; Jane Ostrander, director of media and public
Internal PR staff: 650 people in 80 countries (staff also handles
marketing, advertising and internal communications) External agency:
Ketchum PR Revenues: dollars 7.3 billion for fiscal 1999, up 19% over