Law firms of all sizes have been confronting a harsh new reality in recent years: fluctuating demand for legal services, fierce competition and diminished profits. If that hasn’t driven your managing partner to the liquor store, maybe it should. But not to escape. Rather to seek inspiration for a bold new brand position that could set your firm apart, make it memorable, and help you win new clients by outshining your rivals.
Head into the beer cooler and drink in the wild creativity of craft brew branding. In recent years, quirky, distinctive beers have siphoned market share from the big bland brands like Bud, Miller and Coors. Consumers in droves, particularly younger ones, have been abandoning classic beers for craft brews with catchy names and imaginative backstories. And the higher prices of craft beers have not been a barrier. In fact, higher prices actually contribute to the perception that it’s worth paying more for craftsmanship. That’s a great place to be.
The success of craft brews has come during the same era of business disruption that has seen the disintegration of the traditional law firm business model, among many others. Craft breweries tapped into a marketplace mood, evolved it into a highly effective business strategy, and triggered a David-slays-Goliath phenomenon that has recently forced big brands to resort to acquisitions as a way to get in on the market magic. Therein lies some hints for a law firm seeking to dominate in the scramble to get, and keep, high-value clients.
From Autumnal Fire to Zombie Dust, craft beer branding is a triumph of differentiation through naming, graphic design and storytelling. Don’t let the prevalence of horned devil illustrations and heavy metal iconography distract you from appreciating the highly effective way each brand thoroughly distinguishes itself from competitors. Badass is a powerful positioning concept for some, for others it’s reverence for nature, disdain for snobbery, or a celebration of history. What they all share is passionate, obsessive craftsmanship and a bold attitude. They are proudly indifferent to pleasing everyone.
How does this translate to the conservative, risk-averse legal world, where pleasing clients is paramount, and caution is expected? If your firm is afraid to be bold, then you should be reassured to learn that in the last decade, the mood of consumers, and clients, has changed. Defining the zeitgeist you’re in is always tricky, but there are three hallmarks of our current age that feel different from pre-2007: People expect to be entertained; People want clarity; and People admire strength.
Craft beer entrepreneurs satisfied a thirst for novelty, story, honesty, clarity, and connection, and their passion became profit. So, here is craft brew branding for the intrepid law firm:
- Tell your firm story. If you don’t think you have one, you are mistaken. You do. Every law firm has a unique story, and in it is passion, drama, humor, heartbreak, triumph. Find it and celebrate it. It can be an origin story or a philosophy, or both.
- Product is paramount. Think of your legal work as a product, not a service. Excellent craftsmanship is highly sought after. Details matter. Relationships endure when clients come back for the quality product you offer.
- Visual is power. Non-verbal communication is as important as verbal. It provides the subliminal appeal. Bold color, distinctive shapes, and memorable imagery communicate confidence and courage. An insipid visual presence projects weakness and banality.
- Simple isn’t stupid, or easy. Streamline and strategize your messaging and it will become sharper and more effective.
- Embrace a strong firm personality. Let your freak flag fly, or your devil horns show. If that makes you nervous, just have a beer. Hopportunity Knocks.