Rebranding From a Legal Marketer's Perspective

This is it. The big day. You have just heard the magic words every legal marketer longs to hear: "Your request to rebrand the firm's logo and website have been approved." Before you perform a series of cartwheels across your office floor in celebration of this exciting undertaking, I advise you to take heed to these lessons learned and pitfalls to avoid along the way.

Follow the Recipe

It is important to approach the rebranding process in a strategic and carefully planned manner. Don't jump right into jazzy new colors and fonts and photography; there is a lot more that goes into a successful rebrand than the finishing touches may let on. The first logical step is to assess why your current brand is no longer a good fit for the firm: Is your website simply technologically outdated? Has a change in firm management caused a cultural shift? Have you adopted a new practice or industry group that begets a new audience focus? Did your firm merge with another whose brand does not fit yours?

There can be many reasons a rebrand is a good move, but make sure you hone in on which one affects your firm and its people directly. My firm chose to first engage a marketing consultant, who specialized in creating a cohesive message, prior to choosing a design firm. The consultant led our attorneys through a series of exercises to better define what mission, vision and values the firm wanted to portray to its intended audience, what made us different from our competitors, and then individually branded each attorney under the overarching firm brand umbrella. This important step not only gave us a better view of what we wanted to say, but also allowed for personal buy-in from the very people who were going to be represented by this new brand. The more you check in with your attorneys for buy-in along the way, the happier they (and, in turn, you) will be with the finished product.

There is No Finish Line

Marketers tend to be very organized, deadline-oriented people. We often wear many hats within our firms. We tend to schedule large projects like a website or a logo overhaul into our schedules with an end date in mind for when the project will be over, when our schedule will free up to take on the next endeavor. Substance151, a Baltimore-based web and interactive design firm, hit the nail on the head in a well-written article on this topic when they stated "Rebrand is a process, not a project. A common mistake is to view the rebranding process and its outcomes as a series of design or marketing projects, when, in reality, it is a fundamental cultural shift permeating the entire organization and, therefore, requires rigorous research, thoughtful analysis and strategic insight at all points in the process." If you realize this before you begin the rebranding process, it is much easier to plan for. Feed the new brand to your firm in bite-sized pieces; roll out each part individually and ensure that it is adopted and accepted before you advance to the next step. Having a roadmap of which processes you plan to change when, and why you chose them, will help to keep you on track. Have a living document that you can refer back to when you veer off course, and refer back to it if anyone who has bought into the decisions that were made voices concern with something they previously agreed to.

Your Logo is Not Your Brand

I am still unsure of where I heard this quote first, but I have always remembered it: "Your logo is not your brand; your logo is the dress your brand wears." While a new logo may give a fresh look to the firm collateral, it is nothing without a solid message to back it up. Make sure your design team keeps your firm's messaging in mind when designing a new logo so that all aspects of the rebrand remain cohesive. Also, it is wise to remind your design team that your new look has to be reflective of your firm, not of their firm. The personality of your new brand must fit with the people who will be carrying it around with them.

A new logo or website that does not meld with the personalities of your attorneys will leave clients and potential clients confused and befuddled, and will not have been money well spent. The last thing you want is a client receiving a piece of collateral, viewing a new advertising campaign or picking up your new business card and thinking, "This certainly doesn't sound like the person I met in that meeting." Make sure to reassess at each step of the process and think like a client, instead of like a marketer or an attorney. This perspective is very important to keep in mind along the way to ensure you are focusing on the right things.

Factor in The Unknown

This may seem a little negative, but... leave extra time for things to go wrong. Working with third-party vendors causes marketers to relinquish a certain degree of control, which is something we don't always do well. Do not rely on a deadline without any wiggle room built in. Insist upon status updates and check in with your team frequently. When it comes to technology, there are bugs and mishaps and programming errors, and these things can easily postpone a launch date. While you may understand this concept, not everyone around you will. If you already have time built in for things to veer a bit off track, you can ensure they are fixed before anyone else notices. It is far better to deliver something ahead of schedule than late.

If you promise internally that a new website will be produced on a certain date and something prevents that from happening, you will have just opened the door for a lot of criticism. In that same vein, I found it helpful to enlist the help of your staff to do a last check before you release a new site or new logo or advertising campaign to the public; after reading the same things over and over for months at a time, it is often easy to overlook the smallest errors that may be caught by another set of eyes.

I truly believe that if you take into consideration these recommendations, a firm rebrand can be an incredibly exciting and beneficial undertaking for both marketers and attorneys alike. A little time spent planning, close monitoring of the progress along the way, a tie-in to the firm's agreed-upon messaging, and a general sense of patience will do wonders for the process; hopefully, it will also leave you with a lasting brand that will translate beautifully to your clients for years to come.

This article was written by Jenna K. O'Connor: Director of Marketing, Rosenberg Martin Greenberg, LLP for the September/October 2012 Issue of the Capital Ideas Newsletter.

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