The struggle to transform your brand as a consultancy


Management consultancies deal in change. It’s their currency.


But looking from an outsider’s view, it’s obvious that many of them struggle to create a brand that articulates their expertise or difference. It’s an industry where businesses benchmark against their competitors, the result being a homogeneity of branding.


This isn’t a sector-specific insight; what’s true for consultancies is sadly true for most other industries.


The temptation to look at your peers and adapt your own brand to theirs is so common it’s almost the default setting, whether you’re a maritime business or a luxury watch reseller. And here lies the dilemma.


Consultancies sell themselves as smart innovators, able to cut to the chase and bring insight to the hardest business challenges. When there’s a challenge or a problem, they’re the ones who define and deliver change. But as transformation experts, surely looking and speaking like your competitors dilutes — if not undermines — your expertise? If you’re the fresh-thinking partner with a unique approach, why can’t you distinguish yourself from the pack? Why doesn’t your brand look transformational? If we zoom in on a particular strata of consultants — Diversity, Equality and Inclusion experts — we can see many of the problems.


DEI has become one of the most pressing themes on any organisation’s priority list. The progressive CEO sees DEI as a priority for building a successful culture and business. However, many less-informed sceptics still consider it as a fluffy ‘nice-to-have’; even a waste of time and money. In short, it’s an important topic surrounded by a fair amount of cynicism.


Branding in the DEI sector is doing very little to dispel negative opinions or push the conversation forward. It appears that even industry experts struggle to articulate the nuances of such an important and potentially emotive subject.


The number one challenge DEI brands face is how to communicate ideas around diversity.


A great number of brands feature stock library images of groups of people of all ethnicities and genders cheering, punching the air, holding hands in a circle etc; the type of imagery that’s hackneyed and unrealistic. And when it comes to showing their process or outcomes, DEI consultants invariably default to a library photo of a workshop. Every time a cliche like this appears, it further undermines the great work done in the sector. It makes the process and outcome seem mundane. It devalues the expertise at the heart of the business.



Here’s three reasons why DEI experts — like much of the broader consulting sector — struggle to create compelling brands:



The process is already familiar. We’ve definitely attended presentations; probably sat in workshops and discussion groups. We might have role-played different scenarios. Although tailored and insightful, a consultancy’s processes probably aren’t photogenic. 




The output is difficult to communicate. Much of a consultant’s most successful output can’t be readily shared; only contextualised or summarised. If you don’t produce physical products, it’s simply not that easy to demonstrate what you do.




The value to their clients can be difficult to quantify. Results might not be as blunt as a percentage increase in sales, they are likely to be more nuanced; emotive rather than pragmatic.



The majority of consultancy brands fail to address all of these points with any conviction. In many cases they fall woefully short. 


Recognising the broader communication challenges that any industry faces is one of the first steps to creating a brand with gravitas and the ability to connect. The second is working with a creative partner who can think strategically to develop a brand that’s appropriate for your business, your ambition and your target audience.


Consultancies talk a lot about transformation. More of them should be looking to transform their own brands to match their vision and ambition.