Mind the brand gap 20 July 2017

Transforming ‘old school’ law firms into switched-on service brands

We’ve got a question for you. How big is your ‘brand gap’? That’s the gulf between the external perception of your firm, and the brand and digital footprint that supports it out there in the real world. Or, to put it another way, the gulf between the quality of your people and your ability to sell what they do.

Marketing professional services ain’t what it used to be. With the clubbable world of the ‘old school tie’ largely a figment of the past and the competitive environment more ruthless than ever, the creation of a robust and relevant legal brand can be a powerful enabler – and an engine of growth – in otherwise turbulent and challenging times. 

Consult on this

Think for a moment about how the large accountants and consultants got with the program. In the space of just 20 years, since the dawn of the consumer internet, they transformed their brands and brand platforms, all backed with media spend designed to land the message: we are outward looking and future focused. Ernst & Young became EY, asking thought-provoking questions of its audience. Deloitte sells its services around ‘actions’ that ‘do the talking’. PwC will tell you that it exists to ‘solve important problems’. These professional service brands became relevant and connected – positioned ahead of the curve.

So why should some law firms still seem locked in the 1990s, especially when it comes to translating and refocusing their brands for the digital age? Establishing an effective brand can shape and inform every aspect of your communications – internal and external, online and offline, to clients, prospects, journalists… and, in the war for talent, to rising stars and prospective hires.

Your brand should do more than become your outward face, defining who you are and how you tell your story. It can power the tools you use and describe your difference: a platform for everything from reshaping your service offering to inspiring innovation and change.

Put simply, a reinvigorated brand is not a new logo. It is a new way of thinking and working.

It’s not who you know… it’s who you don’t know

Now think beyond your current roster of clients and prospects, to the sectors less travelled and the start-ups you don’t yet know. How are you reaching them? How will they find you?

The way that clients ‘buy law’ is changing. A new generation of in-house counsel lives online and researches online. And given that by some estimates up to 70% of your prospective buyers will first check out your firm or your lawyers before picking up the phone, the implications for your corporate website are clear. It has become your primary brand platform: a 24/7 resource to invest in, nurture and grow. Time, perhaps, to take a leaf out of PwC’s book. Its top strategic priority? ‘Be technology enabled’.

Our latest industry-wide brand and communications analysis, Living Ratings, makes sobering reading if you’re a legal partner or marketer. Many firms are busy playing digital catch-up. This is an encouraging sign. But some of the biggest legal names get a score of ‘must try harder’ for their online communications.

At Living, we work in close collaboration with law firms of all shapes and sizes, from boutique media and IP specialists to US-based international networks. We see life at the sharp end – and understand a sector in the throes of transformation, with cut-throat competition on all fronts.

Our brand revitalisations deliver real dividends for our law clients. By invigorating one international firm’s brand and digital platform, we enabled savings of over $500k in recruitment fees in the first 12 months alone. Better branded pitch books mean more meetings. Another client of ours noted an uplift of over 25% in final or shortlisted pitches as a result of their new, sharper and more relevant look – while enabling direct digital access to partners has lifted engagement with prospects by over 65%.

Get with the tech

Today, digital savviness is the mark of the agile, entrepreneurial law firm. These firms describe their ability to solve business problems, rather than providing a hard-to-navigate shopping list of services. They engage round-the-clock, using digital channels as conduits for news, insights and solutions. And in an ever more homogenised market, they create brands that stand out, making their specialisms relevant and their points of difference unique. Now, just how big is your brand gap?

Duncan Shaw, Executive Creative Director

How we can help

Here at Living, we drive business performance with strategic thinking, brand creation and cut-through messaging - creating effective communications that get tangible results.

To see how we can help the modern, connected law firm to invest in brand and enable it to flourish digitally, please contact Greg Hobden in London, Aliena Lai in Hong Kong, or Kate Shaw in New York.