[IMGCAP(1)]In 1998 I read that Andersen Consulting would be spending $100 million to brand their company. This seemed unusual for a few reasons.

1. They were in heated litigation with Arthur Andersen to leave the accounting firm and set up an independent company.

2. $100 million seemed like a lot of money for a company that might not be permitted to retain their name.

3. What is branding anyway?

The next day I was looking at magazines and two caught my attention. Success magazine had a cover story about Muhammad Ali being the most famous brand in the world. That “B” word again. And Strategy & Business had a cover story entitled, “How to Brand Sand.” Again, that “B” word.

I then bought “The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding” by Al Ries and Laura Ries. Not only did I read it, but at the same time I received an Audio-Tech CD that I listened to.

I got a quick education and a lot of insights about branding. I took away an idea that I adopted and still use—I associated my firm with the history of accounting. This has been done many ways since 1998, including labels picturing Luca Pacioli, the father of accounting, and Rodrigo Sanchez, the accountant hired by Queen Isabella to accompany Columbus on his first voyage. I attached the images to every client deliverable, and included them in articles and blogs about accounting history, posters and our own series of Topps accountant trading cards.

My interest in accounting history existed beforehand. I was the chairman of the New York State Society of CPAs committee that assisted in planning the 100th Anniversary of the Society, and wrote a history for the Society’s 100th Anniversary Journal, numerous other articles, and the lead article in the Journal of Accountancy for the AICPA’s 125th Anniversary. After “learning” about branding, accounting history became one of our brands.

Accounting is a great profession with a rich history starting at the very beginning of history—with the first written records. And we are tangibly associated with it.

A takeaway from this is that branding covers more than packaged goods and advertised products. Brands are important. Whatever you think, you have a brand, so consider if it is what you want. If not, make it pertinent, memorable, fun, and part of something bigger than your firm.

Here is a link to my blog with a summary of the history of accounting: http://partners-network.com/2012/09/20/accounting-history/.

Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is partner emeritus at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns,” co-written with Andrew D. Mendlowitz (published by CPATrendlines) and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition” (published by the AICPA). Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at www.partners-network.com. Art of Accounting is a continuing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues. Ed welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 964-9329 or emendlowitz@withum.com.