When a 104-year-old company seeks to rebrand

Chris Paris is a tax partner in the Moss Adams' San Francisco office, specializing in partnership taxation, including complex partner allocations resulting from property and partnership interest transfers. Moss Adams has an office in Santa Rosa. (MOSS ADAMS)


Moss Adams is a 104-year-old accounting, consulting and wealth-management firm that has significant ambition for growth. To this end, our brand position needed to differentiate us from the competition while authentically telling our story to help elevate client acquisition, penetration, and retention as well as talent acquisition.

While we enjoy a solid reputation in the marketplace, we wanted to better articulate what makes us different. We recognized an opportunity to put a stake in the ground and be bold.

In June, we launched a new brand at Moss Adams built around the concept of bringing more West to business. Fresh and distinct, the launch came after nearly 18 months of research, development and implementation. So how did we do it, and why?

Phase 1: Foundation — understanding the situation

Before defining our position, we needed to understand the lay of the land. What did the marketplace think about Moss Adams? What did our competitors look like? How did our people see the firm?

Our internal brand team partnered with Stoke Strategy, a Seattle-based brand strategy and design firm, to dive into research that included the following:

  • Internal employee pulse survey
  • Competitor audit
  • Moss Adams brand experience audit
  • Marketing strategy review
  • Moss Adams brand survey
  • Stakeholder interviews

What we found was the characteristics that define us — collaborative, collegial, forward-looking culture and approach to business — weren’t being communicated in the marketplace.

Phase 2: Structure — pinpointing our position

Most of the major accounting firms in the United States are headquartered on the East Coast or in Chicago. While we serve clients nationally and internationally, Moss Adams is rooted in the West. The idea of bringing a West mindset to business really captured who we are with our clients and people — innovative, optimistic, and open minded with a focus on deep industry expertise and meaningful relationships. We don’t want to be thought of as a traditional accounting firm with a stuffy culture — that isn’t us. This is what needed to be communicated.

With this background data and Stoke’s branding expertise, the team developed the concept that we bring more West to business — a bold position that’s more than a geographical focus and speaks to who we are at our core. It embodies a set of unique attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that are inherent in the Moss Adams culture.

Phase 3: Expression — putting it together

After getting buy-in on the position from leadership, the brand team partnered with Stoke to create the initial foundation, including messaging, logo, and design elements (colors, type, and image and illustration style, for example) as well as our first advertising campaign. Our internal team picked up the design work from there, making this new brand position uniquely ours.

Phase 4: Implementation and rollout

Next came perhaps the largest body of work: applying the new brand across our suite of materials from stationery to the firm website to signage. This phase came with logistical challenges as we retired old materials and replaced them with new. Even the seemingly simple task of ordering business cards was a full-time coordination job with more than 2,600 people across 20-plus locations.

Equally large was the task of rolling out the brand to our internal audience. To give our people the necessary tools and enthusiasm to be effective brand advocates, we started a rollout campaign about five weeks before launching externally. The campaign took many forms, including contests, brand buttons, a new screensaver, a video from leadership, and educational materials.

On launch day, we set our brand loose with a revamped website, new ad campaign, and an e-announcement to our clients.

Phase 5: Client observations and feedback

Our existing clients know us and are generally very satisfied with our culture and how we serve them. Now, our refined brand emphasizes and explains this in an authentic way. Their reaction is overwhelmingly positive when we explain what bringing more West to business means.

Phase 6: Opportunity unbound

We are by no means done with our branding project. This is a big change with lots of moving parts. We’re currently integrating our new brand into our hiring and training, and considering how it plays out in our clients’ experiences. We also continue to refine our materials and educate our people.

Our new brand is still just that — new — and it’s far too soon to make a pronouncement on how it’s impacting business. In true West fashion, however, we’re optimistic and excited to see what comes next.