Two recent blog posts have decried the tendency of law firms to rely on "me too" marketing. I want to take this a step further.
Bruce Allen got there first, in his excellent Marketing Catalyst blog, with a post about just as how women at a holiday party would not be caught dead wearing the same dress -- even if they're simply wearing variations on the classic Little Black Dress -- as another attendee, law firms should, but don't, similarly strive to avoid marketing that resembles that of other law firms. Instead, they seem to seek to have their marketing resemble the other guy's.
Thom Singer, in Some Assembly Required, then added his two cents, making the point that good marketing takes time, money and effort, and law firms need to commit to making their marketing as unique and stylish as possible.
My turn. This is pretty much the exact topic of my November newsletter. Which reads as follows:
This month’s newsletter is about the tension between two facts
- I typically work on behalf of some of the most talented, valuable, highly-compensated people on the planet.
often than you would believe, their marketing is terrible.
I just finished a fascinating book entitled The Reach of
a Chef: Beyond the Kitchen, by Michael Ruhlman. It’s a series of profiles
of some of the leading chefs in the
United States, one of whom is Grant
Achatz. Achatz runs a restaurant in
Here’s an example:
For more examples, he has a gallery of images of his food here.
He was trained at The French Laundry, in
This makes no sense.
Attorneys who are good enough to even think about legal
marketing are some of the most talented, driven people in the world. They have
degrees from CalTech, Princeton,
Yet, it’s usually the case that more money and thought goes the marketing behind an iPod, a cell phone or, for that matter, a stick of deodorant, than behind marketing them. The material and the communication prospective clients receive doesn’t begin to convey how special these lawyers are. And yet, I see examples every day of extraordinarily creative, brilliant work, in all kinds of other fields.
Gary Achatz is one example. Another is Howard Schatz. Schatz is a photographer who’s done a great deal of fine art, fashion and advertising work. His specialty, however, is fine art photography taken underwater. He has discovered that shooting underwater gives him effects of light, and of drapery that are simply incredible, and it also allows his models, literally, to float. I’ve never seen anything like it. Take a look:
Not to mince words – this image is incredible.
Let’s look at one more example: the lowliest product of all
– the vacuum cleaner. You can
probably guess where I’m going with this, but James Dyson, the British inventor
and entrepreneur, has raised the vacuum to the level of sculpture.
All around us, then, are endless examples of people who have taken everyday, prosaic objects and activities – food, photographs, vacuum cleaners – and made them extraordinary. And here we are, with some of the most pricey, in some ways, exotic, items to market – attorneys – and so often it makes me grind my teeth, the best we can do is a picture of a bunch of white guys in suits standing around a conference table.
Why is this? And what can be done about it?
First, the “why”. There’s an old, old saying in advertising, attributed to David Ogilvy, that clients get the work they deserve. If a law firm doesn’t get good marketing, it’s because they don’t value it. And they don’t value it, because, ultimately, they don’t know any better. Last time I checked, law schools didn’t offer courses in marketing.
Which is easy. The universe abounds with examples of
companies marketing in brutally competitive markets, and emerging victorious
because of great marketing. Apple is an example. So is Nike. So, for that
matter, is Dyson. Virgin Airlines. (I mean, how would you like to be running an
airline these days? Does it get any
Mediocre marketing is an almost complete waste of money. Although it arguably doesn’t make things any worse, it also doesn’t really make them any better. It’s just sort of there. Oh, yeah, that’s a brochure. It also gradually drains the enthusiasm and the spirit out of the people producing it.