Name of the Game
The accounting firm formerly known as Whittlesey & Hadley has undertaken a rebranding effort, and is now known simply as Whittlesey. The new name was chosen in an effort to be more modern and less formal, while also maintaining valuable name recognition. But the new name is only part of an effort to better communicate all that the firm can do for its clients.
Drew Andrews said the new name was chosen in an effort to be, among other things, less formal, more modern, and perhaps even more efficient by using one word instead of two.
These are trends, if you will, when it comes to the names over the doors and on the letterhead of professional-services providers such as accounting firms and law firms, said Andrews, so much so that a story he’s retelling often these days seems to speak volumes about the matters at hand.
“I was at meetings with two clients over the past two weeks where they were referring to us as ‘Whittlesey,’” he recalled, noting that this wasn’t the firm’s name at the time — but it is now (it became official Oct. 1, to be exact).
Indeed, the Hartford-based firm known as Whittlesey & Hadley for the better part of five decades has officially dropped the ampersand and ‘Hadley’ (dropping just the ampersand was one of many other options considered) but kept Whittlesey as a nod to history, tradition, and, perhaps most importantly, name recognition.
And the fact that people were calling the firm by its new name while it was still using the old name and hadn’t given any hint that a change was coming, only confirms that this was the right decision, said Andrews, CEO and managing partner of the firm.
“Whittlesey & Hadley was more old school,” he said, referring to the name, not the firm, noting that clients, at least some of them, anyway had already come to this conclusion, and were already referring to their accountants in different ways. “What we found was that a lot of people had already shortened it themselves — they were calling us Whittesey or W&H.”
Yes, much ado about a name. But there is a lot more to what Andrews referred to as a ‘rebrand’ than just this new name and the one on the company’s subsidiary — Whittlesey Technology (formerly the Technology Group). There are new colors (blue and coral), a new, more ‘responsive’ website (wadvising.com), and a new marketing tagline, or slogan: ‘Forward Advising.’
Those two words say quite a bit, said Andrews, noting that, historically, and to generalize somewhat, accounting firms have dealt mostly with the past tense, especially with regard to financials, taxes, and audits. But increasingly, clients are looking for help when it comes to the present and future tenses as well, he said, and the firm now known simply as Whittlesey has been ahead of this curve and intends to stay there.
“Even though we’re an accounting firm and we do taxes and audits and things of that nature, our business has morphed into being more of strategic advisors,” he explained. “We’ve helped people with profitability analysis, new products, forecasting, budgeting, succession planning, operational reviews, and a significant effort in technology support in recent years.
“That was kind of a natural progression,” he went on. “We’re really become more advisors than accountants. That’s where we think the profession’s going, and that’s a big part of why we did this rebrand.”
For this issue and its focus on banking and financial services, BusinessWest talked at length with Andrews and Cora Hall, director of Marketing and Communications for Whittlesey, about the rebranding efforts, especially as they relate the firm’s efforts to grow its presence in the Western Mass. market.
It Added Up
Andrews told BusinessWest that the rebranding efforts were launched roughly a year ago, and have taken longer than some might have expected because work naturally slowed down during the height of tax season, when many of those involved had more pressing matters to address.
But this project, like most all those of this nature, was undertaken because it was deemed necessary and important to the company’s broad efforts to continue to grow and claim market share in all its markets, including Western Mass.
“We wanted to look at what our communication was to our clients and our potential clients,” Andrews explained, noting that, over the past several years, the company has merged two firms into its fold, if you will — Holyoke-based Lester Halpern and Hamden, Conn.-based Weinstein & Anastasio, P.C. — and needed a common message to go along with the shared name.
“We had what amounted to three firms, and we wanted to have a unified message going out about who we are, what we do, and how we do it,” he told BusinessWest. “We were doing a lot more than accounting and taxes, and were doing advising in many areas — and this didn’t seem to get communicated through our messaging and our website.”
And improved communication is at the heart of this rebrand, he went on, adding that by this, he means what is being communicated and how it’s being communicated.
Elaborating, he said the overall message needed to change and convey the full portfolio of products and services, and the vehicles for delivering the message — and especially the website and a host of social-media platforms — needed to change in order to better communicate to all audiences, particularly the younger ones, and to both customers and potential employees.
“We needed a refresh on our website and how we were going into digital — not only from a client perspective, but from a recruitment perspective and always getting the best of the best talent-wise,” he explained. “We needed to relate better to them in their language.”
What is being related to all audiences is that the firm will still handle a client’s tax and audit needs — but it can also do much more.
“We can help businesses and individuals gain confidence and assurance before they act,” said Andrews. “We work as an extension of an organization’s management team delivering advisory services in the here and now as well as looking forward.
“When we go visit our clients, we talk about what’s going to happen; we’re not just focused on the past, which is what accountants do, because we usually report on historical information,” he went on. “We ask, ‘where are you going in the future? Where are you bringing this business? How can we help you achieve what your financial goals are?’”
All this wasn’t effectively communicated by the old website or old branding messages, said Hall, adding that the new platforms do a much better job at this, as well as conveying the firm’s commitment to the communities it serves.
“We’ve really made a consolidated effort to invest in the region and really become part of the community,” she explained. “And that’s something else we wanted to communicate.”
As for the new name, Andrews said something ‘new school’ or at least ‘newer school’ was needed.
‘W&H’ or ‘WH’ were considered, and might have worked, he told BusinessWest, adding quickly that, as the firm went through the search process, if you will, it came to the conclusion that ‘Whittlesey’ had both a unique sound to it and a great deal of brand equity in all the markets in which it was operating.
“That was true not only in the Hartford market, where we’ve been since 1961, when we were just ‘Whittlesey’ because [Bob] Hadley, Willis Whittlesey’s first partner, didn’t arrive until 1965, but also in Western Mass. and Southern Connecticut with the two mergers,” he said. “We didn’t want to lose that momentum, but we wanted a modern twist on it.”
Sign of the Times
And these days, one name instead of two constitutes a modern twist.
That became clear to Andrews and others when people started calling this firm ‘Whittlesey’ well before Oct. 1, when the official press release announcing the change went out.
But while the new name is significant, that new tag line ‘Forward Advising’ is perhaps even more so, because of the many kinds of messages it delivers.
“The refreshed Whittlesey brand represents where our firm is today and where we want to strategically grow,” Andrews explained, adding that ‘forward’ is where he expects this important exercise to bring the company.
George O’Brien can be reached at email@example.com