Imagine that you are driving and have become hungry and decided to eat. Just above the top of a stand of trees ahead you catch a glimpse of the corner of a golden arch.
That sliver of a (worldwide trademarked) symbol immediately triggers reactions and thoughts in light of your situation. It is proof of the incredible value of using graphics that are consistent and employed across different media— in this case, on bags, cups, signage, TV, billboards, napkins, most everything. This is something most law firms execute poorly.
The golden arch causes you to consider your diet, how much money you have in your pocket, how much time you have to spend eating, prior experiences with the provider and its competition, etc. The arch reminds. Your thought process, and whether you turned off to go to McDonald’s, may have been the opposite had you instead seen one of those blue highway signs on the shoulder of the road depicting a knife and fork and saying Next Exit, or just a big sign in front of a non-descript building saying ‘fine food’.
Every law firm needs to invest in a consistent presentation of its image. This is particularly important for corporate, transactional and defense groups. They have fewer chances than consumer product companies, or, say, advertising plaintiff lawyers, to touch their target market. It reinforces the good feelings of your clients, and encourages referrals because it triggers memories of prior experience and the quality of your firm. Recognize the key to building recognition of a mark like the golden arches lies in years of near-perfect execution.
Where law firms need to be careful is:
Never varying how your firm name appears. Not sometimes on one line and sometimes on two; not at the top of the page and then at the bottom; not differently because of limited space in an advertisement, or because “it’s just my church bulletin”.
Having all your stationery, including business cards and presentation materials (announcements, lobby signage, conference room coasters, PowerPoint slides and handouts, invitations, advertisements) printed in the same color and on the same paper. (Those coasters might be an exception.) Write down these standards; rigorously enforce them.
Having your Web site and email signature match, as well.
Develop or find a truly distinctive picture or mark, call it a logo, if you like—think of Texaco’s star, Target’s, well, red target. Don’t use the scales of justice, a gavel, columns of any type, a skyline unless you serve out-of-state clients and it’s somehow distinctive and important to the services they are likely to need. Avoid the first letters of your name partners hooked together, in a circle or square. Hundreds of firms use these predictable treatments; I guarantee several in your city do. This stuff is the knife and fork sign of the legal world.
Does this constitute a measure of what is called “branding”, meaning it differentiates, is enduring and makes a difference to those who see it? Yes, albeit to a limited degree and at limited expense. It’s a start.