Deloitte Digital’s CMO Is Claiming Territory Long Held by Traditional Shops and Holding Companies

Alicia Hatch is reshaping content and commerce, and delivering for clients

Hatch guides an increasingly diverse and connected web of data, technology and more than 10,000 pieces of human capital. Matt Furman for Adweek

Alicia Hatch plays to win, embracing substantial risks to reap big rewards at Deloitte’s agency group, as it continues driving deep into territory long held by traditional shops and holding companies.

“I grew up in the video games industry, which was a hotbed of innovation at the intersection of technology, marketing, retail and entertainment,” Hatch recalls of her nearly eight-year tenure at Microsoft through 2010 in Xbox business development. That experience “taught me to be at home in the land of things that had never been done before,” she says.

Matt Furman for Adweek

Applying such gamesmanship at Deloitte Digital—where she’s spent a half-dozen years, including the last two and a half as CMO—Hatch has become a key architect reshaping the content and commerce ecosystem. John Hancock/Manulife’s selection of Deloitte’s Heat agency for global creative this summer—ending the Hancock brand’s three-decade relationship with IPG-owned Hill Holliday—seemed to signal just how far global consultancies have come in the lucrative brand-building game.

This push by Deloitte, Accenture, PwC and their brethren represents one of the defining trends in the industry today. At Deloitte, canny acquisitions—Acne, Heat, Market Gravity and Web Decisions among them—and partnerships with Apple and Facebook have provided significant tools to win business and help clients grow across all aspects of the enterprise. And the effect is reciprocal. Year over year, Deloitte Digital boosted its global revenue 32 percent to $3.1 billion.

“With consultancies on the move to take on the increasingly complex issues facing global businesses, their list of client services is expanding at a pulse-quickening rate,” says Judy Austin, a marketing professor at Boston University. “Yet, deploying this vast array and depth of data analytics, strategic solutions and creativity will require deft, insightful individuals able to balance the science and art that is part of the concerted effort to connect to the hearts and minds of us ordinary mortals.”

Hatch, of course, is one such individual, tasked with guiding and growing an increasingly diverse and connected web of data, technology and more than 10,000 pieces of human capital—while also delivering quantifiable results for clients through savvy digital campaigns that drive sales.

Matt Furman for Adweek

“We’re making creativity more important than ever by tying it more closely to the heart of the business strategy and industry insights,” says Hatch. Indeed, these ties to clients—Deloitte has long provided consulting services to Hancock, allowing Heat to leverage a wealth of marketplace expertise and information—give its agency group a distinct advantage over its holding-company competition.

Transamerica provides another example. When the firm engaged Deloitte to tout its retirement offerings to a new generation, “It sounded like a classic marketing challenge, but it was not,” Hatch says. Ultimately, Deloitte Digital brought in designers, ethnographers, wealth management experts, creative directors and data scientists to devise a holistic approach “that allowed Transamerica to be a disrupter of its own industry, while the core legacy business remained intact,” she says. “The key was not simply that we had vast capabilities—the power came from bringing those capabilities together to co-design the future of Transamerica together with their C-suite.”

Where did Hatch learn to roll with such changes? She credits a key mentor, Microsoft corporate vp Bonnie Ross (who runs 343 Industries at Xbox, the studio behind the Halo franchise) with providing the inspiration and direction she draws on today.

“[Ross] taught me to be at home in the land of things that had never been done before,” Hatch recalls. “I came to her once with a recommendation that we try something that was in uncharted territory. I was hesitant, and acknowledged that … no one had done this before, and she said, ‘So what? Why don’t you be the one to figure it out?’ She taught me to embrace ambiguity and explore the messy gray space, to think expansively and creatively about possibility, to get really comfortable with being uncomfortable, and to have great courage when I was still a very young Jedi.”

This story first appeared in the Nov. 27, 2017, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.