3 Reasons Not to Rebrand Your Law Firm by Yourself

Jeanne Frazer, president of vitalink and a member of The Expert Speakers

Jeanne Frazer, president of vitalink and a member of The Expert Speakers

Many people think revitalizing your law firm brand is fairly simple. You have or can hire an artist to create a new logo, right? But there are often factors that are overlooked when heading down this road. Branding is not just about your firm’s logo or brand mark. Here are three reasons why you shouldn’t (re)brand your law firm on your own:

  1. A coordinated rebranding must be based on your core strengths and should include developing a brand platform. And that’s just the beginning. You must then not only develop the new brand visuals that support your brand platform, but also the brand messages. These must be fully integrated across all channels and touch points. Your messages must be consistent and must support your core brand truth. Building the brand platform requires time and effort. Many law firms aren’t staffed to take on the extra work.
  2. Perhaps one of the most overlooked challenges for do-it-yourselfers is working in a vacuum. Your rebranding must engage stakeholders to gain buy-in early in the process. Think this support isn’t needed? If you miss the mark and have to pull a new brand because you don’t have buy-in, you’ll have wasted time and money and have egg on your face. You don’t want to be explaining your mistake to the managing partner.
  3. Ineffective rollout. The external rollout is typically the easy part. Not having a plan to ensure all groups internally are communicating the new brand platform can lead to even more brand iterations and confusion. Old assets must be removed and replaced with new. Your rollout plan should include how you will have the changes implemented (it doesn’t always happen all at once) – from business cards and letterhead, to social media and videos, to the website and signage. You’ve also got to designate someone to monitor these channels for consistent brand usage. Oh—and the biggest thing you’ve got to have: the commitment of senior management team to make the change and support enforcing the new brand. It’s easy to say a different brand here or there won’t impact things, but these inconsistencies cause disconnects with your target audience that reduce effectiveness and harm your brand.

Yeah, but I can do this with a good checklist, can’t I?

There are certainly law firms and businesses out there capable of handling a rebranding internally, however even if your marketing department is large, doing all the work in-house is not always wise. Over time, brands (both the logo or brand mark and message points) can become tired and dated. In some industries, like technology, this happens extremely rapidly. In law firms, the pace of change may be a bit slower. When recent experience has all been in one industry or with one institution, we can easily allow our focus to become too narrow or insulated, missing some opportunities to make the brand even better. Consider the following ways a third-party can help you rebrand more effectively:

  • It may be obvious, but a third-party with no “skin in the game” is probably going to be more objective. There is no attachment to past art or content assets, which leads to a more honest assessment of what truly resonates with the intended target audience. During our recent work with one client, leadership thought that the history of the organization was the most important aspect. Our research with prospects told a much different story. They did not have the same reverence for the historical aspects, but were more concerned with how doing business would benefit them. That didn’t mean we ignored the history, it meant we reframed the historical references and we led with benefits that potential clients told us were important to them.
  • If surveys or focus groups are conducted, participants may be more open and willing to share honest opinions with a third-party, knowing their responses will be shared anonymously. We find respondents sometimes like to please and will change responses to get approval. Doing it yourself can also lead to unintentionally including leading questions that skew results. Some folks can’t help but stack the deck in favor of a pet idea or project.
  • It can be easier to “hear” something from paid outside experts. Sometimes the results of our research support what the marketing department has been saying all along. Leadership just needs to hear it from a different source. In addition, a firm hired specifically to complete the research and go through the rebranding process can make recommendations management may not want to hear. If you are the marketing director and are presenting a best plan that incorporates elements you know the managing partner will not like, would you be inclined to adjust the plan to gain easier acceptance – even if it is less effective? Management may also be more likely to argue the merits of the plan with an internal resource. An outside firm will likely present the best plan based on unbiased research, then work to justify it to senior management. The management team may still not like some aspects of the plan, but the response won’t be personal.
  • An outside firm will not have preconceived notions that may be held by those who work for the law firm or have been in the legal industry for many years. At vitalink, we have developed a survey tool based on our 15+ years of rebranding experience that gets to the core truth and promotes buy-in. We call it Perception vs. Reality. The survey compares responses of stakeholder groups important to the law firm or organization to give us a 360 degree view and identify the sweet spots where the stakeholders are all in agreement. These areas of alignment form the basis of our brand platform, because they are already widely believed. We do, however, often find a number of points where the perception of some doesn’t match the reality of others. If the firm chooses only one of these perspectives, the brand could be out of alignment. Instead we recommend working on a plan to bring these differences into alignment going into the future. Some law firms in the midst of change may want to reinvent themselves. They ask, “Why would old areas of alignment be important? Shouldn’t we just use message points that say what we want to become?” Change doesn’t happen overnight; we recommend focusing on select positive aspects where the brand is in alignment and telling your audience where you are going. A great example is the old tagline, “We’re #2, we work harder!” Remember the campaign?

If you do have the staff to implement a new brand, we recommend you consider hiring an independent party to handle the high-level rebranding process and strategy. Utilize your internal folks to support the effort and to implement the plan. Not sure if it’s time for you to vitalize your brand? Talk to us by calling 919.850.0605 or emailing today.