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Can Law Firms Tackle Intimacy? Marketing in an Era of Brand Distrust

Posted by LMA International on Oct 19, 2015 4:51:04 PM

By Timothy B. Corcoran and Marcie Borgal Shunk

Experience, engagement and inspiration ruled the day as the core themes weaving through a jam-packed day of cutting-edge trends in marketing and branding at the FT Future of Marketing Summit 2015, held in New York last month.

A combination of technological advances, generational shifts and the resultant impact on buying psychology has had a profound impact on the way people interact with all types of communications. Whether online or in traditional form, marketing today has the daunting challenge of not just shining through the clutter to create a connection with the audience, but also overcoming an inherent distrust and lack of brand loyalty that are the hallmarks of today’s audience.

“Trust is shifting,” Ogilvy & Mather CEO Lou Aversano explained. Using a series of powerful data points, he illustrated that today’s buyers are more skeptical of companies, brands or anything perceived to be institutionalized, and that they are much more inclined to turn to individuals — even strangers — as more reliable sources of information and recommendations. His stark statistics included:

  • 69 percent of people believe the media lie because they want to see something more effectively promoted
  • 84 percent of people say personal recommendations are their most trusted form of advertising
  • 74 percent believe they have more integrity than any institution or industry

To overcome this challenge, brands and companies need to find ways to connect with buyers on a personal level. Throughout the course of the day, speakers provided myriad examples of how to create a stronger, more intimate bond through not only marketing communications, but innovative product design, media channels, charitable activities and interactive promotions. Consider:

  • Vittel — Tackled dehydration woes with a new bottle design, complete with a cap that reminds you to drink water every hour.
  • Nike — Created a vibrant community where members eagerly exchange personal data on fitness activities in exchange for rewards, motivation and access to hundreds of workouts.
  • Microsoft — Launched a series of ad campaigns with powerful, life-changing messages including their Superbowl 2014 and “Girls Do Science” ads.
  • Huggies — Faced with a dwindling population of customers (babies), Huggies took matters into their own hands and launched a baby-making station on Valentine’s Day 2014 to encourage couples to get “in the mood.” Results will be revealed in the coming month!

In fact, “intimacy” was a key word repeated by speakers throughout the day — and not just by Billie Whitehouse, the founder of Fundawear (Google it!) — in an effort to illustrate how uniquely personal and value-based today’s connections must be to engage a potential customer or client. In some ways, the legal industry has the advantage of having already paved the way in this regard. Relationships between attorneys and clients are, and have historically been, personal ones. The greater challenge becomes how to extend this level of intimacy beyond that one-on-one relationship and apply it to the entire brand. This challenge demands new ways of approaching and engaging clients, as well as a willingness to eschew old-fashioned lunch dates and golf outings in favor of alternatives that yield a deeper meaning and forge a stronger connection.

Law firm leaders must challenge the traditional approach to business in which individual partners are free to manage their books of business independently, often operating in isolation from colleagues and forsaking the economic benefits of cross-selling and institutional clients. The buying climate creates a compelling need to establish and foster a collaborative culture, a consistent service posture and a brand promise across disparate practices and geographies.

While buyers may indeed “hire the lawyer” based on an individual connection, the longer-term challenge is to broaden and transition this brand loyalty so that the client “stays because of the firm.”

Timothy B. Corcoran is the principal of Corcoran Consulting Group. Marcie Borgal Shunk is a senior consultant with LawVision Group.


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