Branding / Brand Development & Strategy
Let’s start with this simple premise—everyone and every law firm have a brand and a position in the marketplace. It might not be good, or strategic, or accurate—but it exists. It is not just a logo or colors or tagline, but the way people (clients, prospective clients, recruits, other lawyers, media, and everyday folks) think of you, and about you. Every attorney has a personal brand that ideally coordinates with the law firms. A law firm’s goal is to make sure the brand and position matches its’ objectives.
In selling professional services, it is more difficult than branding a product—Coke, Tylenol or McDonald’s—because we are mostly selling the talent of people, and not an off-the-shelf product line. Law firms traditionally have lacked the patience to allow a brand to truly find its place in the market. While recognition can be sped up with significant media buys, the reality is that it is a long haul approach. With firms changing more rapidly—in office locations, practices and attorneys—there is a greater emphasis on ensuring the brand is bigger than any one component. There is still pushback on using a firm name or trade name that is effective. Firm politics often dilute a branding effort, rendering it ineffective from day one.
Philip Kotler, renowned marketing expert, describes branding this way. "A name, term, symbol or design, or a combination of them, which is intended to signify the goods or services of one seller and to differentiate them from those of competitors." It is the concept of differentiation that is often lacking in law firm branding efforts.
Beyond the branding component is the sister act of positioning. You can’t do one without the other. A firm’s positioning statement and objectives wash the branding hand, and vice-versa. And it is virtually impossible for a law firm to objectively identify the strengths and weaknesses of a branding campaign—you are simply too close to the action. Combined with elements like (internal and external) focus groups, client surveys and partner interviews, the identity develops. It is only after the branding and positioning is in place that you incorporate graphic designers, advertising agencies and media buys. The preparation of an effective branding or rebranding effort is in the creation of a standalone branding brief.Before getting started, consider the following:
- State the goal of the branding initiative, from messaging to advertising to marketing materials.
- Review strong and similarly situated law firm brands in your market.
- Commission a branding brief, encompassing attorney interviews, client feedback and analysis of your current state.
- Properly survey your internal (attorneys, staff, administration) and external (clients, referral sources, other attorneys) audiences.
- Conduct market research, including competitive intelligence and geo/practice-driven studies.
- Following a review of the brief, determine changes to the current firm brand, edit positioning statements and determine a roll-out and budget.
A huge mistake that many law firms make is to overspend and overthink the branding & positioning process. It should never cost six figures, for even the largest international law firms. The development of logos, websites and marketing materials (and the hiring of ad agencies and designers) most effectively comes after the branding brief process is completed. You can then choose to invest in a small, inexpensive local shop or a Madison Avenue behemoth to see the game plan through. We work with the firm and assist in finding the proper routes for building the brand, once developed. While agencies would prefer you start with them for the brief development process, HTMLawyers is better suited to truly understand the market and industries, and point a law firm in the right direction.
To learn more about how we can assist your law firm with branding, positioning and strategy, contact us today.