UK headquartered advisory Elixirr has unveiled a new campaign, satirising some of the most loathsome stereotypes of the consulting industry. Alongside a new ‘Con-sultant’ short film, the firm has released a list of ‘worst practices’, calling on industry members to “up their game”.
Over the last two decades of crisis and renewal, the consulting industry has played an increasingly prominent role in public life. Advisory firms have been at the heart of government and industrial responses to international challenges – from the global financial crisis, to digital disruption, to the pandemic – and that territory comes with a great deal of scrutiny.
As a result, a growing number of cultural references have picked up on the figure of the consultant. Regularly, that figure is deployed as a confidence trickster – rapidly spinning opaque layers of jargon to convince business owners to hand them lucrative contracts, while doing very little of discernible use.
It’s one thing to hear that from Hollywood. It’s quite another to hear it from an actual consulting firm.
Challenger consultancy Elixirr has long built its marketing strategy on being willing to have honest conversations via its branding. It’s a strategy that saw it scoop the B2B marketing strategy prize at the 2018 Drum Marketing Awards. It also saw the company lampoon competitor Deloitte via an ad campaign, when the Big Four giant seemed to take ‘inspiration’ from Elixirr’s own branding.
Now, the firm is aiming to stir up conversation again with its new ‘Con-sultant’ campaign, sending up some archetypal consulting bad habits, in a satirical way. According to Elixirr CEO Stephen Newton, the campaign does not aim “to call out the industry as a whole,” but rather encourage self-reflection to improve on some of its less-than-best-practices.
“When deciding to launch Elixirr in 2009, I knew I was taking a risk – both personally and professionally. But I had no doubt in the need for change in consulting, or my desire to leave the industry in a better place than I’d found it,” Newton said.
The Con-sultant campaign’s main video presents a partner from an undefined advisory firm, pitching to a room of executives. Speaking in heavy business jargon, he bluffs his way through a solution he’s given another company (forgetting to change the logo on the copied documents), while making assumptions about the client’s business and passing off the work to ‘B’ and ‘C’ teams.
To that end, Newton added, “I hope what we have created sets the bar for the future of consulting. One where mediocre isn’t acceptable. One where ‘B teams’ don’t exist. And one that truly helps set businesses apart.”
With the ‘Challenger Consultancy’ looking to further its mission to “do things differently from the start, recognising first-hand the unfavourable practices adopted industry-wide”, meanwhile, Elixirr also published a list of 10 habits consultants need to kick in future. Alongside the jargon, copy-pasting, surface-level information, and lack of listening from an ‘A team’ consultant, the article also suggested too regularly methodology trumped creativity for established firms – among other issues.
The article ends with Elixirr re-iterating that its campaign “isn’t about name-calling or playing the blame game.” However, if “it makes even one client laugh” or “more than one consultant up their game,” Elixirr believes it will be on “the right path to give this industry an overdue shake up.”