Quick: Taking the time to tweak and update your law firm brand

Keywords Jon Quick / Opinion
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NBC, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Target, Google, 3M, FedEx. These are some of the most successful and recognizable brands in the world. Some are so familiar they don’t even include the company name in advertising. Target, for example, stopped using the name in 2007.

Some brands — Google and Xerox, for instance — have become common verbs. Wouldn’t it be great if your law firm brand became synonymous with your practice areas? Let’s assume you already have what you consider a strong brand. We talked to several lawyers who possess strong brands and other experts who agree that even if you have a strong brand, it still must evolve.

Of the famous brands above, in most cases, their base symbol (or logo) has not changed dramatically since inception, though they evolved. Take NBC, for instance. There have been many variations of the famous NBC peacock, but notice how the look has evolved to better reflect the times.

How to give your brand a fresh face

According to Rebecca Geyer, founder of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, PC, and immediate past president of the Indianapolis Bar Foundation, “It’s critically important to occasionally refresh your brand without redoing your brand,” particularly website and marketing materials.

“In today’s digital age, information is expected to be readily available, and an outdated website can make you seem out of touch. Taking a fresh look at the picture you’re sharing with the world is important for digital marketing,” Geyer says.

Daniel Herndon is the CEO at local branding firm MilesHerndon. He says, “One of the most effective ways to update your brand without making a brand change is through proactive marketing communications. Most brands in the professional services field don’t take the time to clearly communicate the areas of work they lead in. As a result, people base their assumptions about firms on a previous interaction. What that means is that as things change and practice areas grow, the brand perception becomes outdated. … To refresh your brand, build marketing stories that change the conversation. Focus on key strengths you want to highlight or perceptions you want to change.”

Family law firm Hollingsworth & Zivitz has gone through several brand enhancements in its 15-year history. Founding partners Kena Hollingsworth and Christina Zivitz have held on to a solid core of attorneys and have consistently branded themselves “Your Full-Service Divorce & Family Law Firm.”

Hollingsworth notes, “We were able to catch the attention of clients with some unique marketing and branding ideas which helped us overcome our youth much more quickly. … Our brand also represents our culture — how we treat clients and how we treat each other is what sets us apart. Effective branding that consistently and accurately reflects who we are and how we are different does part of the work for us, in terms of clients hiring us over any number of other firms in the area.

“However, I believe is imperative to stay ‘fresh’ and current. I have always believed it to be necessary to keep the overall look and feel of the brand, but to take what has been solid and recognizable, and give it a little ‘facelift’ of sorts to make the brand more current and more appealing,” Hollingsworth says.

Consider a ‘brand extension’

Nationally, MSNBC and CNBC are brand extensions of NBC News, giving consumers choices based on their interests but still maintaining the credibility of NBC News.

Josh F. Brown, now a partner at Cohen Garelick & Glazier, PC, is a leader in the niche area of franchise law.

Brown says he feels that “most business owners spend too much time focusing on their brand before they even start their business and not enough time after the business is ripe and growing. Your ‘brand’ is a combination of your culture, what people think of you and what you stand for as a business. It is vital to always be thinking about how you can improve your brand as you grow your business. Just like most things in business, your brand is fluid, and sometimes you need to rethink it and fine-tune it along the way.”

Brown has done a brand extension called Indy Franchise Law. This unique website has helped him gain global attention in his practice area by making this website the “headquarters” of sorts for anyone interested in franchising through articles and podcasts from well-known experts.

Too often, though, people develop brand extensions that make no sense. The now-classic book “Focus: The Future of Your Company Depends on It” by Al Ries is based on just that. Don’t try to be something you’re not. You likely will fail.

When you need a total rebranding

There are times when a complete rebranding might be necessary. A few years back, my company was involved in a rebranding effort at the personal injury firm Wilson Kehoe Winingham. Despite a solid reputation, it seemed WKW found itself looking a bit stodgy and not quite in step with the times. Today, the brand is more alive than ever, with a new logo, a change to brighter colors and a theme that is ever-present in their marketing efforts, from website to television advertising to firm collateral materials.

According to WKW marketing manager Ryan Naylor, “At the time we were rebranding, we really wanted to tell the story of what sets us apart in an extremely crowded market. The trend at the time was to create a perception of power and aggression. We wanted to tell our unique story of a welcoming and warm atmosphere where a client could feel comfortable — more of a soft-touch approach.

“With the new slogan ‘Restoring Lives,’ we feel we were able to describe a caring atmosphere for clients from the first time they stepped into our lobby and throughout the legal process.”

In summary, here are some ways you can improve your brand without drastically changing it:

• Make sure your logo properly symbolizes your brand. Even a change of color will help. If there is a slogan, you might consider updating it.

• Be consistent in your use of branding. Avoid too many variations.

• Always use your brand to identify your business. Your “mark” should be everywhere.

• Establish a strong mission statement and be sure all your employees buy into it.

• Advertise the benefits of your business and what makes you stand out.

• Grow your brand as your business grows and promote anything new.

• Be active on social media and create a really great website.

• Attend local events and sponsor an event or charity.

• Gain a reputation for being the best. Make your firm a fun place to work.

• Be consistent. Establish strong values. Establish trust. Exceed expectations.•

Jon Quick — 317-432-0309 or [email protected] — is president of Carmel-based QPR and Marketing, specializing in law firms, and a partner at Videopolis.tv. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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