in Sale, South Manchester
The march of the penguin
Leaving the nest — becoming first choice
What makes great branding? There’s no one answer, but the best brands always seek to be different from the rest. Approach the process with an open mind, and the opportunities are limitless.
What has a penguin got to do with an accounting firm? Well, speak to Harold Sharp, and they’d tell you — rather a lot.
Here he is, meet Harold the Penguin:
Harold the penguin!
Clear employer brand
New Careers Hub driving a 248% increase in web traffic (compared to the previous Careers page)
Contact form user actions up 1,122%
“We feel more cohesive by running with the penguin. It never meant anything; now it means something. It unifies us.“
Branding that makes a difference
Results to get in a flap about
At the start of the project, Harold the Penguin existed as a cuddly toy mascot in the firm’s kitchen and as a squidgy stress toy gifted to new staff members. He served the firm little other than as a small reminder of how to have a bit of corporate ‘fun’.
Now, Harold the Penguin is front and centre of the employer brand; he’s
connected to the firm’s existing values; he’s a signpost to encourage and
And it seems he’s turning heads. Harold Sharp has recruited 10 new staff members in as many months and secured a crucial senior appointment as a direct result of branding that stood out from the crowd.
But how did we get there?
Giving the brand its wings
We travelled to Harold Sharp’s offices in Manchester to run a full-day branding and creative workshop.
In the session, we’d explore what Harold Sharp’s employer brand meant, how it should be applied and articulated through brand proposition, tone of voice and visual identity, and turn to Harold the Penguin as an emblem for the future.
We talked at length about what it meant to be Harold Sharp in 2023 — they had a mission statement and identity created during the original website project from 2018, but this needed updating. We redefined the mission of the firm and separated the two parts in order to create clarity on each mission.
Our vision is to be known in Greater Manchester as the accounting firm of choice for SMEs ready for tech-led advice.
To create an innovative & supportive culture where people can challenge one another to stay at the forefront of technology.
“We’ve got confidence in the employer brand – it’s representative of our culture and is a truer reflection of our commitment to our staff.”
We spoke to members of staff from all areas of the firm — capturing what Harold Sharp meant to each individual gives us a more detailed picture of the greater whole.
If Harold was to work, he needed to serve a purpose. We discussed what it meant to ‘be more penguin’, what Harold would look like, and how he would interact with design elements. This would help us create a supporting visual language that considered colour, image, tone and graphics.
After the workshop, we got to work, compiling and teasing out details, working with our designers and editorial teams to build out a three-dimensional idea for this new and exciting brand.
Fly, don’t jump
The journey continues
Harold the Penguin has been instrumental in changing the perception of
Harold Sharp, both through their employer brand and in the wider
“We were seen as interview prep — now we’re the end goal.”
‘The penguin mindset’ means growing and adapting; it means being
resilient and helping others wherever you can. Harold Sharp has seen
incredible results in tailoring its recruitment output and defining different
areas of the website for new hires, trainees and learning resources.
Speaking to marketing manager Fiona, we found out how much of a
difference the project had made to the firm.
“The human element of the brand is now front and centre, and that’s exactly what we were trying to achieve.
And ‘the penguin thing’ is much more than just ‘a thing’ – it means something — the penguin mindset is used in appraisals.
We have a proactive community of penguin news. Our staff are connecting to it organically. It’s also engaging our clients and app partners in conversation and, importantly, it’s attracting candidates in a challenging recruitment market.”
Looking to the future, the possibilities are endless. Harold the penguin has
taken huge first steps on his journey towards success. Who knows where
he’s off to next…
Harold Sharp won at the Made in Manchester 2024 Awards!
Fiona Illingworth won ‘Marketing Professional of the Year’ – for going above and beyond to establish their firm’s culture and values proposition to attract new employees and foster a dynamic environment.
All the hard work is certainly paying off!
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