Christoph Nagel, Deloitte & Touche (D&T) Great Lakes
Marketing Director told us this story:
"I was at a cocktail reception in 2001 talking to some young
Volkswagon executives in upper middle management. After we
chatted for a bit, they asked what company I was with. I said
Deloitte & Touche. They go, 'Oh, we've heard of you. Whatever
happened to you guys?' I said, 'I beg your pardon?' They said,
'We thought you were number one in automotive high tech, but we
haven't heard much lately.'"
"I was red-faced. I realized we had a major image problem."
"We weren't getting in many high tech stories," concurs Dan
Miller of Franco Public Relations Group who've handled the local
D&T account for 25 years. "We had no relationships with high
tech reporters, and D&T were considered accountants - not on the
This was especially frustrating because several of D&T's direct
competitors, such as PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young
were seen as being high tech specialists. How could D&T get on
the list, so CEOs would consider going with them instead?
Part of the problem was, D&T is composed of hundreds of equal
partners who rely on a combination of national branding campaigns
and personal relationships with c-level executives to capture and
"I likened our practices to a Budweiser Beer wagon with 12
beautiful Clydesdale horses," says Nagel. "But all the horses
were going in different directions, so the wagon wasn't moving
The last thing Nagel wanted to do was pay to stick
D&T's logo on a bunch of tech publications. He did not think a
simple logo would really build serious branding. D&T's brand
strength is its people, not its logo.
Then Nagel had a brainwave: Why not build a marketing campaign
for the Great Lakes Region by turning some of the partners into
trusted local celebrities?
He selected eight of D&T's 150 local partners, each with a
specific niche expertise relating to technology (security,
venture capital, HR, etc.) and asked them to serve as official
He called them, "Deloitte & Touche's High-Tech Team." (Link to
initial press release about the Team below.)
Next, Nagel and Franco swung into action, inventing clever ways
to publicize the team cost-effectively. Here are three of our
favorite tactics they used creatively:
Tactic #1: Sponsoring a Local Business Group
When Digital Detroit, a non-profit group dedicated to raising the
area's profile as a tech business center, pitched D&T for a
sponsorship, Nagel said no to simply donating funds and sticking
their logo on a few things. Instead, he became Digital Detroit's
dream committee member, proactively supporting the non-profit's
educational mission in three key ways:
a. A Press Tour: D&T rented a bus and lined up an intensive
day, from 8 A.M. to 2 P.M., of press interviews with the High-Tech
Team and Digital Detroit's leaders at every local press
venue that mattered, including back-to-back interviews with
Crain's Detroit Business, the Detroit Free Press, and news
b. Submitting regular educational articles for Digital
Detroit's monthly email newsletter.
c. Appearing at Digital Detroit's annual Conference as a
team. Miller says, "Team members were advised to stand
together at the conference and interact together as a team -
half jokingly creating a similar image as that of the
astronauts in 'The Right Stuff'. Corny; but it worked!"
Miller also hired a "Hollywood-style" photographer to snap
pics of the Team at the show which enhanced their images as
Tactic #2: "Interview-Style" Radio Ads
Sponsoring all the major tech trade shows in Detroit would be too
expensive in the long run. Instead Nagel invented an innovative
series of radio ads.
Although they were taped internally, the ads sound just like
official radio interviews from the show floor, even down to
little bits of typical show background noise.
Here is a sample of a radio ad pseudo-interview script:
Shafran: This is Dick Shafran here at the SAE Show at Cobo
Center with Michelle Collins, a partner in the Deloitte &
Touche Manufacturing Practice in Detroit. Michelle, auto
suppliers continue to look for methods to reduce their costs.
Are they going about it in the right way?
Collins: Dick, suppliers do face hard times and cost
pressures from OEM’s. But too often suppliers focus only on
headcount reductions and they don’t change the process,
doing the same work with fewer people. When that happens,
the cost reductions don’t last. As soon as the economy turns
around, the costs creep back in.
Shafran: Then what other ways can they cut expenses?
Collins: Suppliers should examine such areas as real estate,
including leases; telecommunications; and travel and
entertainment. But most important, they should look at the
entire company. A supplier should develop a plan that
restructures the organization to gain efficiencies that last—
And change processes to make production less costly.
Shafran: So if automotive suppliers want to learn how to cut
costs effectively, they should learn about Deloitte & Touche?
Collins: Absolutely. We’ve helped build Detroit’s auto
industry for almost a century. At Deloitte & Touche, Detroit
is our home; our workplace is the world.
As a branding measure, the last two sentences of that script were
repeated in every script used for more than a year no matter
which Team member was being "interviewed."
The radio spots were carefully scheduled to run during just the
days that the live event itself was going on. Often they ran on
Detroit's WJR-AM (760) which is a news and talk radio station
many area executives listen to while commuting.
Tactic #3. Email Newsletter Sponsored Column
Instead of running standard ads in emailed press, D&T worked a
special deal with a top email business daily for the automotive
industry, AutoBeat Daily which is read by about 110,000 execs.
Each Wednesday, AutoBeat runs an extra page of editorial
featuring a column "by" one of the High-Tech Team experts. As
many marketers have discovered, it is one thing to get an exec to
agree to write a column, it is another to get them to actually
write them. They got AutoBeat's editorial staff to ghost-
write many of the columns for Team members after in-depth
interviews. (Link to column sample below.)
D&T chose Wednesday for the same reason many B2B email marketers
do. It is often the best day of the week to get attention from
Columns always end with the direct contact information for the
Team member who "authored" them.
D&T's High-Tech Team were so successful in gaining
attention as local trusted celebrities and in turning that
attention into new client relationships, that the campaign
recently received an award for "Most Innovative New Business
Strategy" at the global D&T management meeting.
Now other D&T regions are testing similar tactics, plus the Great
Lakes Region is busy launching a new Team to become celebrities
in the health and healthcare industry.
Local reporters now automatically call D&T Team members whenever
they need a high-tech-related quote or factoid. Plus, the word is
spread nationally. Miller says, "A journalist from BusinessWeek
called us saying, 'I'd like to talk to someone from the High-Tech
Team. I understand D&T has a specialist who can help me.'"
Miller ascribes some of this success to the fact that journalists
are often intimidated by trying to find the right contacts for
particular stories at large organizations such as D&T: 'Where do
The Digital Detroit conference appearance was successful enough
that Nagel has now brainstormed another celebrity appearance
event series: A series of "Power Breakfast" events featuring
Team members as speakers which are co-produced and promoted by
Crain's Detroit Business.
The radio spots were also successful for driving more press
requests, because reporters often thought they were interviews
and decided to interview the same experts. D&T's clipping
service was also fooled and counted the spots as though they were
press attention instead of ads.
The AutoBeat Daily columns proved so successful (each column
results in emails and phone calls to the Team member responsible)
that Nagel has re-upped his weekly sponsorship commitment for
While he will not pay to stick D&T's logo anywhere, he will
invest in this type of celebrity expert educational campaign
because it works so well.
Sample of email newsletter sponsorship & press release:
Digital Detroit http://www.digitaldetroit.org/