The “Un-cola”, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight”, “You’re in good hands. . . “, “plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is”. How long did it take you to figure out which companies are represented by the above slogans? For the .005% of you who did not know: 7Up, FedEx, Allsate and Alka Seltzer. What do these companies have most in common? Extremely strong branding. The ultimate goal of branding is the subconscious and instant recognition by your potential clients when they are exposed to your logo, slogan, company colors and other unique markers that make your law firm stand out and distinctive from others. A great brand should conjure up positive mental imagery and feelings and goes well beyond the “We’ll get the biggest payout for your auto accident” and should also associate deep seated feelings of protection from harm, confidence, happiness and belonging. I agree that this sounds very high-minded and ambitious for a law firm that may specialize in Workers Comp cases
or Social Security Disability however a solid, polished brand can make all the difference when a potential claimant is making a decision on which firm to choose. It often comes down to the simple question: “Which one feels right?” Pretty darn subjective, but that is what happens when most people make decisions with incomplete information. They, often very quickly, piece together how the company makes them “feel”.
A brand is one of those words so often used but very often not completely understood. Here’s one definition from BusinessDictionary.com: “Unique design, sign, symbol, words or a combination of these, employed in creating an image that identifies a product and differentiates it from its competitors. Over time this image becomes associated with a level of credibility, quality and satisfaction in the consumer’s mind. Thus brands help harried consumers in crowded and complex marketplace, by standing for certain benefits and value.” Pretty good when reduced to words but still lacks a full description of that feeling we get when we see a distinctive symbol like the American flag, a nostalgic Coca Cola ad or Virgin Airlines.
So, what does this all mean for law firms? At its core, a brand is a set of promises that it makes to prospective and current clients. Do you stand for the best value, the highest level of service, prestige or power? Your website, logo, stationary, how your staff dresses, your office location and firm name all combine to form your unique promise. Does your “promise” include making clients feel that you have their best interest at heart, fighting for the best possible solution for their situation? Have you put any thought to this? Building a brand that stands the test of time does not require expensive agencies and design companies although there are many good ones at a reasonable cost. What is does require is an honest look at what your law firm stands for and the commitment to allocate the necessary time and resources to assemble a cohesive brand that will be sustainable. Having one person on staff that reviews a commitment to brand will help ensure that you do not drift off message.
One thing to remember, branding is not optional—you already have one. Every law firm, practice group and individual lawyer has a brand. The question is whether the market dictates it or you control it yourself. Ideally, you want to control the message to the best of your ability. But it takes planning, strategy, implementation and ongoing monitoring to be truly effective.