RubensteinTech partners with leading creative firms to build high-end websites and software for web and mobile platforms across the legal, real estate, non-profit, technology, and financial services sectors.
If you missed the live webinar, you can watch the video on this page for an in-depth look at the process, tools, techniques, and value of branding.
Paul Pierson, Partner
Carbone Smolan Agency
Jaron Rubenstein, President and Founder
Rubenstein Technology Group
Jaron: Hello, my name is Jaron Rubenstein and I am founder and president Rubenstein Technology Group. Want to thank you for joining us for the latest installment of the RubyLaw Thought Leadership Series. For those of you who are not familiar with RubyLaw, RubyLaw is an industry leading and powerful Content Management System designed to meet the web and mobile marketing needs of leading law firms. The RubyLaw CMS is the result of working with Am Law 200 firms over the past five years, really to understand the drawbacks of their current technology options, and offering a customized alternative that includes the technology innovation these firms really need to succeed suceed online. The RubyLaw Thought Leadership Series is our effort to support the big opportunities firms have to take advantage of the shift to digital in marketing and to adjust to the changing expectations of law firms' stakeholders, both clients, prospects, and of course partners. As we see the digital marketing spaces wide open for firms looking to create a competitive advantage, and one of the best ways that a firm can create a competitive advantage online is via a consistent voice.
I'm joined by my good friend and talented branding expert Paul Pierson, partner and design director at a branding and design firm, Carbone Smolan Agency. We've collaborated with Paul and his team at CSA on many initiatives and we're thrilled to have Paul leading today's webinar, 100 Partners , 1 One Voice. Paul uses design as a platform to tell stories, engage audiences and simplify them with complex messages. A believer that the most exciting design comes from sound strategy and new technology. He has built stunning physical and digital solutions for some really high profile clients such as Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, W Hotels and Residences, The Boston Consulting Group and law firms like Cravath. His work has been featured in Communication Arts magazine, the Information Design Workbook, as well as the new Rockport book Interactive Design and Introduction to the Theory and Application of User-centered Design. Graphic Design USA magazine, GD USA named Paul a person to watch and he was recently selected as a fellow for the USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism program in how to produce innovative journalism. Thank you for joining us today Paul.
Paul: My pleasure.
Jaron: So today we're gonna start 100 Partners One Voice, just a little bit of administrivia before we get started. Everyone's hopefully logged in to WebEx and seeing the screens online. If you do have any questions, we ask that you either tweet those questions, post them to Twitter with a tag @RubensteinTech and #RubyLaw and we'll be monitoring those and interject or ask Paul as appropriate. You can also send a WebEx chat to me, Jaron Rubenstein via WebEx. Everyone should have a chat module available to them in the WebEx controls and send it to me, Jaron. Do not send it to Paul because he's not able to see those chat requests while he's presenting today but send those to me and I will be happy to forward them on. We hope to have a few minutes at the end of the presentation as well to you address any questions that you may have. So send those all along and we'll go through them at the end. Without further ado, Paul Pierson.
Paul: All right, thanks Jaron. So I'm really excited to talk today about 100 partners speaking with 1 voice. I think this is a real important problem in law firms today and a lot of people are always asking me about this, how do we do this. I like to start the conversation with ketchup. Ketchup, I ask, I show this and I say well, why is it that nobody buys this, the store brand of ketchup. This is something that you can get at Target I believe and it's cheaper than the major brand. It tastes just as good when you do blind taste test but by and large people will tell you that they prefer and that they buy Heinz. I showed a version of this to Jaron the other day and he said, "but the Heinz tastes better. "It tastes better, I know it tastes better." It doesn't. If I were to give Jaron two spoons full of ketchup and he didn't know which one it was, they’d taste the same. I guarantee you it's exactly the same but he believes that it tastes better and that's what his decision is based on. It's based on the brand of Heinz and the reason that he buys the Heinz and believes that it tastes better is because he trusts this brand. He knows what he's gonna get. He knows that he's gonna get good high quality ketchup and he's not alone. A lot of people trust brands. And trust is extremely important for law firms. Like this idea of a trust in a company to handle your most important legal matter is super important for law firms.
So that's why we're talking about brands today. I'm going to talk a lot about brands and that's the tool to get 100 partners to talk with one voice comes from a brand. Now this can be a scary thing for a lot of firms. A lot firms you go and you start saying the brand word and people get scared and they don't want to talk about it. But the reason is really there's some misconceptions about this. Before I get into some of the tools and techniques that we can use to start getting people to talk in one voice, I'm going to first talk a little bit about brand.
The reason people are scared is they think it's this, they think well, we're not going to change our logo, we're not going to change our name. They think that's what brand means. They think it's well, okay, but our firm name is strong, our logo is good. There's no need for us to change that but that's really not what we're talking about when we're talking about brand is we're not, a lot of the branding projects that we do don't involve any logo adjustment or any name change. A lot of times we do them as part of a website, a website redesign and it's this part of the thinking behind a website redesign.
What we think a brand is, the way that we define a brand is a sum of all perceptions about your business. What's interesting about this statement is that it's the perceptions. This isn't something that you actually get to decide like your audience decides what your brand is. Now, of course we have influence over it and if we didn't have influence over it, there would be nothing I could say. But we can influence how people perceive our business but what the brand is, is a sum of all those perceptions.
Now, those perceptions come from a lot of different places. They don't just come from your name and your logo of course. They come from a conversation that a partner had at an event with a prospect or a client, talking about what's new with the business or what's new with him personally even. They takeaway from your website, so what do you see when you come to the website and how do you interact with it and what are some of the messages that you see. It comes from the practice area descriptions. I read a lot of these practice area descriptions and those are ways to start to understand what a firm represents. It even comes from the style of your offices. I've been through a lot of law firm offices too and they have a real conservative style or really modern style or somewhere in between. That says something about the brand and the values that you have as a company. Even the acquisitions that you make, the types of firms that you acquire, the new markets that you reach out to, the kind of business that you want to bring in. All of that has an effect on what your brand is.
Ultimately, when we talk about service branding which is what law firms are, the one word that we keep coming back to that is the simplest distillation of what a brand is, is why. A brand is the why behind what you do. Simon Sinek talks about this in a TED talk and I encourage you to all go watch it after this. He says, "People don't buy what you do, "they buy why you do it." This is especially important in service branding that is a real person to person type of business. That “why”, if everybody regardless of what they're saying, regardless if they're in this practice area or in this industry or in this region, if everybody can be saying the same why, that's the secret behind talking with one voice is agreement as a company about what that why is. Regardless of what we do or how we do it, we can say it's for the same reasons.
We all come to work for the same reasons and this is the why but if you look at most firms, and when I talk at law firms, inside law firms this is a problem outside of the law space as well. If you ask people what that is, if you talk to a few people, you get this, you get hundreds of different responses. If you surveyed your partners right now and ask what was important about what they do, for most of you I imagine it would be a very diverse range of different things and different opinions.
This causes some problems, this causes internal confusion and market confusion externally. It causes undifferentiated messaging. There's a lack of direction, no new way to evaluate options. So there's a lot of problems when everybody's talking with a different voice that this “why” seeks to solve. It will reflect on websites too if you look at websites, homepages of law firm websites, they're almost always extremely strong on the what. They'll talk about the areas that we're in, the awards that we've won. All these different things, achievements or accomplishments and the people that work there but sometimes talk about the how, like the way that we work but very, very rarely do you see a firm that really is embracing that essential question of the why.
At this point what I like to do is ask, what am I talking about here, what is this "why" that I keep referring to? What does that look like? For a lot of firms, this is confidential information so I can't share with you an example from a law firm space but instead I'm gonna share ours, the Carbone Smolan why because we do this for ourselves. We kind of eat our own dog food and we create this why statement for ourselves and this is similar to the kinds of things that we'll create for law firms. This is the thing that we solidify around for our purpose.
Ours looks like this. It's three pillars with an overarching idea of beautiful. I'll read some of these to you. Beauty, beautiful, so this is the core thing in what we do and the reason why we do, what we do at Carbone Smolan. Beauty and design is the seamless integration of continent art with an incredible attention to detail and craft but we also know that pure visual drama matters as much as the deeper stuff. Whatever the tools, photography, typography, video, illustration, we strive to take every design to its most beautiful execution. That's a real purpose statement is we want to create all the things, the most beautiful execution possible and that's why we do what we do. That's why we take on all these projects.
Now beautiful execution in a brand can be a nice simple statement like this or in a website it can be the implementations. Whatever it is that we do, all the "whats" kind of ladder up to the same "why". We also have supporting that, we have big. Playing it safe is no way to go through life. Our best work pushes the boundaries of what's considered expected or appropriate within the category. We want our clients to have a point of view. We want to be conceptually open to breaking down expectations and provoking people to look twice and we always aim for the simplicity that lies in big ideas.
Another big principle for us is that we wanna break boundaries. Savvy, the way the brands and people communicate with the world and each other is changing and we are on top of it. We care about building solutions that won't feel outdated before they launch so we seek out and soak up the newest technology and trends to bring to our clients. Savvy, that's why we love working with Rubenstein Technology Group and the people like that, they bring this technology spirit that really fits with how we think about the world.
Then emotional, the robots haven't taken over yet. That means humans see our work and we want us to be as evocative as possible. Whether our work inspires empathy, rage, amusement or desire, emotions matter in communication and only a robot would tell you otherwise.
Now, you'll notice that like, I don't talk about what we do here. I don't talk about, we do logos, we do websites, we do communication system, it's all the why and we come back to this again and again. This serves to drive decisions that we make as an organization, who to partner with, what kinds of projects to take on. All of these things are laddered up to this kind of why. That's an example of our why and that's the end point here of like what we're striving for. That really helps to talk with one voice.
Now, I wish that in an hour I could have all of you guys talking with one voice but unfortunately it's not gonna happen. What I hope to do though is start to give you some tools and some steps that you can take on this journey to get from where you are now as 100 partners, with 100 voices towards that direction of 1 one clear and unified voice. The beginning steps are some of the hardest ones to take. Today I'm gonna show you some ways to think about this problem and some steps that you can take tomorrow to start to address this. Now the why has to be, this why is not just any statement. There's three things that it has to be. One, is it has to be true.
Okay, so I can't just make up anything about Carbone Smolan and say that that's the reason why we do what we do. It has to actually be true and lived by our people and it's the same for you. You have to find that thing that's unique to your firm, that's true for your firm. The second one is valuable and this is now looking externally. It has to be something that's of value to your clients. You can have something that maybe is true about yourself but if it doesn't connect to what people want then it's useless for you, it doesn't matter. Then the third thing is unique. It has to be distinct from what other people are offering and what other people are saying is their why. If you have something that's true and valuable but it's not unique to you, everybody else can just claim the same thing then that's what we call table stakes and it's not worth cementing your why behind that thing. The why that you come to has to be these three things, true, valuable and unique.
The why, once you have this why and define it, it can do view a number of things for you. First, it can prevent commoditization. We kind of imagine a somewhat idealized scenario of a pitch process but if we imagine a choice between three similarly priced firms with similar experience. So they've done similar kinds of work. Ones had similar wins, a similar track record. If one of those firms in a competitive situation can give a clear articulation of why, that can become a reason to believe in that firm over the others. When people choose a firm they're looking for a reason to believe. Now, a lot of times that comes from an established relationship. That's a common way that there's that reason to believe but this why gives you one extra tool that people can use to form that connection to your firm and believe in your firm over other firms with similar experience. It gives you another level of communication that's really important.
The second thing that this why can provide is attracting talent. Recruiting in the law firm spaces is always a big deal and for the recruits, for the talent, the job choice is an enormously personal choice, it's identity forming. People choose where they work to form their own identity. People today are looking for a company that matches their values. They want to find a firm to work with that they can identify with. When you speak your why, when you identify that and communicate that then you start attracting people with similar values and they feel good about making that decision because they know this is the kind of place that's right for me.
You always hear about fit. If you look at any survey about why people choose the firms that they do, it's fit and what is fit? It's about that, some matching values. If you don't know your values, it's gonna be hard to determine fit.
Then finally it allows compelling pitches. This gives all practice leaders a tool to build more compelling pitches for prospects. It's much more engaging to invite people to join you in a pursuit than just to do business with you. This is about a tool for all practice leaders. This can come and just affect the way that they talk about their work. It's not to say that they're not going to be talking about what they do but they'll talk about what they do in the context of the purpose behind it and that feeling of a pursuit and joining me in a pursuit is a much more emotionally compelling sell than just talking about “what”.
We're still here though, so with all these different voices in all these different places and generally not a well-defined “why”. To start, one of the first steps towards tackling this problem in your firm is understanding how the situation comes to be. To do this, we're gonna look at three ways that brands go bad. As I talk about this, think about if they connect to your firm, if they are things that you've noticed in your own firm and in your own conversations with people because we see this a lot both in law firms and outside of law firms. You see the same three bad guys again and again.
The first bad brand, number one is Frankenstein. Frankenstein is when a firm has grown organically and growing organically usually means that it's a little bit of this, a little bit of that, maybe there's an acquisition to grow overseas or there's been this group that come on from another firm fully intact or it's been a more gradual process of investing in this area than investing in that area. The areas develop in silos with their own points of view, their own ways of doing things, their own approaches to doing things. They're all just Frankenstein together as one firm. What you have in a Frankenstein firm, the problem that you have is that it stands for everything. You have this group over here that has this why and another group and another reason that's this why. They stand for everything which becomes a very confusing message.
Bad brand number two is subtly different from this but in an important way. That is what we call the headless horseman. For headless horseman brands, they are ruled by committee and we see this a lot in law firms in particular. Whenever there's a big decision to make like what do we stand for, they gather a group of dozens of partners to hash it out. The way that the headless horseman firms will hash it out is a continuous string of compromises and watering things down until they're essentially meaningless. The only thing that people can start to agree on is, the name of the firm and that we do good work, something of that nature. The problem that you have with the headless horseman when it's ruled by consensus and suffers from continuous compromise again and again is that it ends up standing for nothing. Everything gets watered down to a point where it doesn't mean anything anymore. It's just the thing that we could happen to agree on which is not a strong stance to be in.
The final bad brand is a different type of problem all together and that's Mr. Freeze. So for Mr. Freeze brands, they've defined who they are and the why behind their work but they've maybe done it 10 or 15 years ago and done it in a way that's no longer relevant. Either the market has moved on and what they've defined is not important anymore or they've defined something that the competition is caught up to and now everybody can claim it so it's no longer unique or even the culture of the firm has changed and it's actually no longer true. They think it's true but if you actually talk to people it's not. It's again, true, unique and valuable. One of those things has changed and what they've defined is no longer relevant so the problem for Mr. Freeze brands is that they stand for the wrong thing. It's something that is no longer true, unique and valuable.
It's an important step here to ask yourself if your firm fits in anyone of these profiles, the Frankenstein brands that are cobbled together with lots of different points of view and ends up standing for everything, or the headless horseman brand that's ruled by committee and ends up standing for nothing or the Mr. Freeze brand that has frozen in time and ends up standing for the wrong thing. Almost every brand we work with falls in one of this categories. Sometimes it's a mix of them but it's important to identify what the issue is because there are some subtle differences to how you might address that.
So how do we fight back? What tools can we do? What steps can we take to start fighting these bad brands? The first one is the mighty audit. An audit is a really simple way to get started on this process of starting to bring things together and bring your firm together towards this one voice. An audit is a specific and consistent inventory of similar things across one firm or across the firm and its competitors. We're talking today about a messaging audit which looks like this.
Doing an audit is really simple. All you do is open up Excel and you make this. The column here, there is one column for your firm and then as many additional columns as you like for your competitor firms. Then we go down the list on the left, the rows. For each of these, first you go to the homepage, you visit the website and you look at what's the contents on the homepage and you write it in the box. Maybe they have a headline that's talking about a new practice area. Maybe they have a recent award they've won. Maybe they have a whole bunch of things that it's a bulleted list of content on the homepage. Then you look at the featured items. What are the things that come to the foreground on the homepage if there's any kind of featured element that they can take away of your homepage as well as your competitor's homepage. Then go to the about page and most firms have this somewhere and literally copy and paste the first paragraph of the about content. This is where firms will give the highest level messaging about who they are and why they do what they do. Paste that in for yourself and for all your competitors then take three practice areas. So I've just made three, three experience areas, so M & A, Project Finance, Energy. They could be industries, they could be regions, they could be practice areas. Take three that are important to your firms, things that are resonant for your firm in particular. Go to each of those practice pages and take the first paragraph of those practice areas. Practice area descriptions are the other key place where this messaging comes into play and you're just doing an audit here.
All you're worried about is copying and pasting. You'll start to see patterns, so I promise you, you start to do this and it's like the natural human brain. It's like you start to see connections. You'll start to see everybody saying basically the same thing for the practice area descriptions or you'll see this firm is really hitting this one thing really hard and doing a good job at defining their why. Or you'll see our firm says really three completely different things that are unrelated in the different practices. Whatever the pattern that you'll see, it will start to emerge by just putting it down in one place in a really consistent way. That's the power of the audit is, the process of doing this, you start to see connections that start to identify some of the problems that you might have.
The mighty audit helps different brand profiles in different ways. Frankenstein brands, it can start to demonstrate this lack of consistency. So Frankenstein brand that stands for everything you'll start to see that different areas say dramatically different things and you can start to use this to highlight a problem. You say, I did this audit and I've noticed, look, I've noticed that we have this problem. This disconnect between these different things, they're coming at it from a completely different way. Headless horseman brand, they tend to when you do this, the pattern you'll tend to see is generic and watered down language. You'll see things that are almost meaningless statements that just talk about, we've done this work for a long time and we're good at it. You'll see that across the practice areas on the about page potentially standing for nothing. Also it will often be in common with what the competitors are saying. In Mr. Freeze brand you can show, you can use this to demonstrate how other brands have caught up or moved on from what used to be a primary selling point for you. Comparing yourself to where the market is, maybe used to be unique is no longer unique. Audit is a really good tool to create that systemized way of collecting information about yourself and your competitors to start to see what those connections are.
The second one, the second weapon is the conversation. The conversation is really simple, it's just about talking to people and the more people you talk to, the better idea you get for what the firm believes and what kind of problems you might see and connections you might have. Again, similar to the audit when you talk to people, you want to look for patterns in what they say. You want to ask a lot of people similar questions and see how the answers are similar and see how they're different. You want to ask questions that probe deeply enough and that's when you'll start to find some connection.
Here's some examples of questions that we ask when we start doing this, having this conversation. This is a group of questions that you can take to three people or five people. You can just get started on this and start asking people and capturing that information. I'm just gonna go through these and why we like these questions. What gets you excited about your work? This is a great question and people don't usually think about it in the context of a brand but it's important to ask that to a lot of people. Why did you come here? People acknowledging that people have a choice in where they work. What do you think we do here better than anyone else? You'll find lots of different answers there but it's okay, you're looking for themes. What makes clients really excited to work with us? And why does our work matter? If you'll notice like those questions on the left side, they align nicely with true, unique and valuable. The first two are about what's true about this environment like what are the things that you identify with in this firm. This third question is about unique, so what is it that we do that's different than better than everybody else. Then the last two, ask people to think about this from an external perspective and asking what makes clients excited to work with us.
Now for the easiest step here is talking to people that work in your firm. The next step is really talking to people outside of your firm, talking to clients and how they understand what the value that your firm brings. That will get you an even better answer for valuable but it's okay to start with the internal perception of this because asking people to think about it from their client's perspective will also yield really great results.
The questions on the right start to align with some of the bad brands that we talked about. What values do you see in common across all the visions? That's a question to ask if you believe that you're in a Frankenstein firm because you're looking for those commonalities. You're saying, I understand that like you're totally different from the European office but if you had to think about it like what are the things that you have in common, what is it that connects the two groups?
Individual interviews are great for headless horseman brands because you can essentially forget about consensus because you're just talking to an individual. This question of what do you think we do well, just forgetting consensus. Like asking them to think just for you, for you personally what do you do well? The magic of this is like you talk to five people about their personal belief and then what you start to do is make those connections between what people say. What's relevant now, so Mr. Freeze brand, you're always asking about how the world has changed, how the market conditions have changed and asking them what's relevant.
Then my favorite question when I do this is the why question. Why, is a question that you can almost always ask as a follow-up. It's to the point where I like to do this exercise when I talk to people called "why five". I'm gonna demonstrate that now with Jaron. The way that the why five exercise works is I'm gonna start with Jaron with something that Rubenstein Tech does like a what behind some of the work that they do. I'm going to ask him why do they do that and he's going to give me an answer and then I'm going to ask him why to that question. So I'm going to keep asking him why and you'll see as we talk it will ladder up to more purpose driven statements than just the kind of tactical benefits. This is unrehearsed, Jaron has no idea where I'm going to start and he's again probably quite nervous about it.
Jaron: Quite nervous.
Paul: But that's part of the thing here. All you have to do is just relax and think about what the answers are. He's getting into his meditative state. Jaron, I know that RubyLaw is something that you’ve built over years. This is a content management system that you've built up over years and I know you work in other off-the-shelf content management systems as well but you've built this one yourself for a long time. My first why is like why, why did you do that? Why do you believe that that custom system is the best way to go?
Jaron: Well, we had a more generic content management system that we apply to a variety of industries and over the past five years, I've done more and more work in legal. We've learned that legal has a very specific set of needs that are really different from the other industries that we work in, and so we're looking for a way to really optimize what we're doing for our clients in legal and for new prospective clients in legal.
Paul: Okay, so like legal has a customized, a special set of needs that need to be addressed by the technology. So why is it important to address legal specific needs versus addressing broad needs?
Jaron: Well I mean, I think it makes for a much more efficient process. I don't think I've ever met anyone who said, "I love my content management system", but I think that alot of that is because they match of the software doesn't necessarily fit the client.
Paul: Okay, great. I love what you said. Most people don't say, "I love my content management system". So why do you think it's important or valuable that someone actually does love their content management system, why is that a good thing?
Jaron: I think it's because from what we've seen on most of our clients, they live some set of their team lives in the system all day, everyday. It used to be they were making five updates a week. Now they're making 30 updates a day. Essentially it's their workflow, it's their daily life.
Paul: Right, that's great. So like your system is part of the daily life of your clients and you want to make that experience more what, effortless or simple, easy?
Jaron: Effortless simply, easy, maybe even slightly rewarding. Take out some of the drudgery of, oh I have to go into this thing and do that.
Paul: Then if you don't have that drudgery then what are the benefits like why is it important to remove the drudgery in a content management?
Jaron: Well it let's you focus on what's important so instead of focusing on, "how am I gonna enter this message", you can focus on what the message is and how you communicate with your clients.
Paul: Your tool is allowing people to think about what the content is and what matters in the content so they can have more time to deal with what's important to their firm. This will be the last one but why is it important that people think it that way, that they think about what matters for their firm in the content rather than thinking about the content management system.
Jaron: Well I think that's where they're going to have impact for their firm. That's where they're gonna convey their brand, their message, their identity.
Paul: Right, so it's like, great. That's awesome, thanks Jaron. What we've come to is that like delivering impact and delivering an effective and impactful tool is so that people can forget about the drudgery of working in a content management system and actually work on communicating the message of the firm like that's why the RubyLaw platform has been so carefully developed. We've just in, kind of a few why questions, have gotten from we've made the system custom to helping you be more empowered to do what you need to do. Those are the kinds of things that you can start to extract from these kinds of conversations. Thanks, Jaron, that was excellent.
Jaron: Yeah, thank you, that was awesome. I had to write this down.
Paul: The conversation can help all these bad brands. So Frankenstein brands, by asking a consistent framework of questions to all the different groups, you're surfacing the differences in point of view and starting to see connections that might happen between them. If I asked Rich some of the same things, he might take it to a different place but ultimately there will be some overlap that I'd start to see between the answers. Headless horseman brand, so when we talk to individuals about the pressure of agreement, we talked about this, it can lead to more meaningful answers so by... You don't want to do this if you're headless horseman brand you certainly don't want to have a group conversation about this because it will ultimately develop into meaninglessness. You want to have individual ones so you can get deeper into the purpose behind each person. Then for Mr. Freeze brand, by pushing on relevance and the changing market, you can hold the mirror up to the firm.
The third weapon is what we call an army of archetypes. Archetypes are a really interesting tool that helps shift the conversation a bit from what you might normally talk about in a law firm and what an archetype is, is a pre-packaged personality type that helps understand and identify your firm's personality. We used 12 of these and I'm gonna show you and we've adapted them from this book, Archetypes in Branding and you can find that on Amazon. It's a great book if you're interested in this topic. These are the 12 that we use and I'm gonna take you through a couple of them.
What's nice about these personalities is how distinct they are from each other. There's not a lot of overlap between these different personalities and they cover a pretty wide, a pretty wide spectrum. You'll start to see yourself in some of these, you'll start to see your firm in some of these. It's a really good range and we'll talk about one of them specifically. I love this one, the magician. Brands that adopt the magician archetype are all about vision and they have a vision and they're a visionary leader. They go by intuition and their objective is transformation, changing the world. They do this through their vision and intuition. They help us, by doing this they help us to transform ourselves.
The best example of this is Apple and Apple really lives the magician archetype. They're constantly talking about vision and what they see in computing and computing devices. They offer this promise in their advertisements, this promise to transform your self. They talk about all the great transformative work that we do on iPads and all of that stuff. It's a very lofty kind of position that they take but they take it very consistently and it trickles down to everything they do. Even to the point that if you go to an Apple store and you have an iPhone and it's broken, you'll take it to the genius bar and the genius will ask you what's going on and then look at it but if they need to do anything to that phone, if they need to take it apart or look inside, they will go to the backroom to do that. They won't do it in front of you. They'll take it to the backroom. They'll do what they need to do and they'll bring it back with an answer, as if they magically uncovered what the problem is, and they don't show you how. It's completely black box, it's completely magic and they live this really well.
Some of the other ones that I think are really interesting, the explorer is a nice one. Explorer feels alienated and restless and there's a constant yearning towards finding a better way. The explorer helps us to find ourselves and stay independent and Levi's has taken on this archetype in their ad campaign. It's all about that restlessness of yearning of the explorer.
I'll talk about the sage archetype. The sage is one that law firms tend to gravitate towards and if you find yourself gravitating towards that, I'd encourage you to look at the other ones because the sage can apply to a lot of law firms, but it's about having doubt and seeking truth and being resolute and undeterred. The sage helps us to discover and understand the truth. So, for a law firm that's almost a common value proposition, but for someone like Oprah, the talk show host, it's a very different point of view. There's a really interesting collection here.
This hero is a nice one. Helps us to act courageously. The brand example there is Nike and Nike is not talking about shoes and athletic wear which is what they do and what they sell. They're talking about "just do it" and acting courageously and having that courage to stand up. They have a great campaign that's like about getting back up which is all about that courage to act. They really live these things really well. so I'd encourage you to take a look at these. It's a really great tool to help elevate that conversation from what it is that we do to why we do it and who we are.
Finally, the last step here is to start to hold up the mirror to your firm. Now you've started to have conversations around these things. You've done an audit, you've had some conversations with people, you've explored these archetype ideas and what ones might represent your firm. The next step is to start this conversation about branding. You want to show people what you’ve found and start a conversation. If you don't have support from the organization, those 100 partners aren't going to speak with the 1 voice. These steps are going to help you get that support. I say holding up the mirror because a lot of times people don't realize that this is a problem. Talk about the bad brands, talk about how you've gotten to where you've gotten. Show them the audit and show them the steps that you've taken to understand and identify what this problem is.
Talk with as much specificity if you can for your firm. If the problem is around practice area descriptions, talk about practice area descriptions. Anchor it to something that is really tangible so it doesn't sit in the clouds.
I'll take some questions now but just to wrap up, again, we're not going to get to one voice for your firm today but I wanted to give you some steps that you can take to start this journey. This first step is figure out the bad brand that you might be. Use the mighty audit, the conversation and the archetype to fight back. Then hold up a mirror and start a conversation about branding.
Remember, it doesn't have to be a big deal. These are not huge, enormous multi year projects that we're talking about. I mentioned at the beginning we'll often just do this work as part of a website redesign where we, in order to determine the personality of the website, we have to determine what's true about the brand. This can be wrapped into other things and doesn't have to be an enormous initiative. Thank you guys so much for tuning in and listening to the talk about 100 partners with 1 voice. I'd love to open it up if we have any questions that we've gotten along the way.
Jaron: Thank you so much, Paul. That was amazing, and those are some really useful tools that I've, obviously we've had these conversations before and sort of ancillary to the branding world a little bit just by knowing you for so many years, that I personally got a lot out of it that I think I can apply to my firm as well even though we're not a law firm, so thank you. I did want to mention that we did get a few questions which I'll start going through but as we go through those, if you do have any additional questions, please send them to me via WebEx to Jaron Rubenstein. I should be setup as the presenter or panelist or something like that in the WebEx console. So send those as private chat requests or you can tweet them as well. We got a few questions already, Paul.
Jaron: I'll start with that. The first one is, this comes from one of our legal marketers, “I'm having a hard time getting the decision makers in my firm to commit to a branding project even though I know we need one. Do you have any suggestions for how I can make the case to these partners?”
Paul: Yeah, absolutely. It's a common problem and my number one trick is if you're really getting resistance is to do it on the sly, this "why," and wrap it into a web project. It's like it is the discovery phase of a web project. A lot of times firms, our partners are really keen, on “what is it that we're getting. I want this, I want that.” If the energy is around website, put it into the website. If the energy is around proposal generator, put it into proposal generator. If the energy is around we need better practice descriptions, put it into practice descriptions like all of those things are outputs potentially of an exercise like this. There's ways that you can scale it so it doesn't, it's always better to take a longer time to do it right but you can get a lot of value in a relatively short amount of time targeted towards one of those deliverables. So listen to what it is that they want and then tie the need back to that project and then you can start to get support for, “well of course, we need to define, well how do we know how to write the practice area descriptions. We need to first define a little bit about why it is that we do what we do.”
Jaron: It seems like when you think about the big brands like Heinz and Apple, they must expend enormous resources towards just getting it right, getting it perfect but it sounds like you're advocating for a law firm. It's more important you just start moving things in the right direction.
Paul: Yeah, exactly. You got to take steps towards this and it can happen in big ways and it can happen in small ways. We love to do the big thing. We love to really dig deep and talk to dozens of people but you don't have to. You can do this in a streamlined way and still get a lot of the value out of it.
Jaron: It's interesting because you talked about a branding product as part of a website project. Obviously these are my follow-up questions folks. How important is branding to a website redesign project and how do you fold that into that project without making it a whole big thing that someone can reject?
Paul: Right. Well, you've got to do the work at some point, you do have to take the time to talk to people and to synthesize the results of all of that and where it helps the most is around content. When it comes to, “well what's the content that we put on the homepage?.” How do you answer that question? You're going to have 100 people with 100 different ideas about what's the most important thing for the firm. You need to agree first on what it is that you stand for to help filter some of those conversations. How do we define our practice area? It always comes back to content and it comes to design too. It's the thing that informs all of the different elements. Some of us like we can't do a website design project without some of this kind of work. We'll wrap it in if it doesn't exist or we need more information, we kind of wrap it into the discovery phase and we do as much of it as we can. We always wanna spend more time on this and firms always wanna spend less time on it, so it's a constant struggle. It's not an unusual situation but it's just important to do it and spend the time to get it right because it has all of this trickle down effects through everything that you do.
Jaron: Yeah, that makes sense, it makes sense. I mean it does seem like it's pretty integral to a website redesign. I think that some of the smaller firms that we've talked to in particular think more about (the physical) design. They think about sort of a skin and not so much about what's beneath the skin and that deeper brand essence.
Paul: Well, what does the skin represent? Do you want the skin to be we're established, we're trusted, we're a firm that has roots and history and all of this? Or do we want it to be, we're modern, we're on the leading edge? There's all these different things that a skin can represent and communicate some of that why behind the firm. This brand work helps us to define what that process looks like as well.
Jaron: Right, so are there any examples of brands in legal or firms that you think is doing it right?
Paul: Yeah, one of the first firms, one of the early firms that I worked with was Cravath and you mentioned this at the beginning. I remember it well, I went in and started doing this process and started talking to people about who Cravath was and what they represented. It was remarkable how consistent it was from person to person. They had a really strong sense of who Cravath was and they talk about the Cravath way. Just by calling it the Cravath way, they're kind of like constantly reinforcing this point of view that they have. They believe things like they believe in generalists and they'll talk about the rotation program and how they've put people through all these different steps in the process in order to train the best lawyers. They really look at themselves as training the best lawyers and that's part of the purpose of what they do. It's not just about practicing work but training the best lawyers to be the best they can. They stay small because of that. They keep themselves small because that's the best way to try. It's like all the things that you talk about kind of keep laddering up to some of that why. That's a firm that was really impressive and how well they have both stuck to the why behind what they do and also live it in the business decisions that they make.
Jaron: I mean they're known. I mean they're probably one of the more successful firms. Certainly the definition of white-shoe firm aren't they?
Jaron: Do you think that the brand identity, the identity that they have has driven that success? Do you think that's a big part of why?
Paul: I think it's a big part of it. I think that they own it too. It's like they're not afraid to sit in the place that they sit. They're not afraid to be who they really are and I think that's part of what is part of their continued success is they're not apologizing for who they are. They're just owning it and we always encourage our clients to do that and they were doing it from day one. So it's our pleasure to work with them and that made our jobs a lot easier.
Jaron: Sure, sure. Yeah, I know that makes sense and that's part of everyone gravitating around that central why.
Jaron: And agreeing on it.
Jaron: Awesome, that's really helpful. Good way to think about it too. Okay, another question from someone on the webinar here. Who should I include on the ideal internal team to manage a rebranding for my firm?
Paul: You always need to have partner leadership in this process. It's a process that's lead by marketing and so you need to have your marketing team aligned. You want to have a few key partners that have weight. A lot of times a problem like this is political, it's a political kind of thing that you're entering into, so you want to have everybody communicating consistently and that you know who these partners are. The ones that have sway with their fellow partners. Those are the ones that you need behind this project because they're the ones that will have all those side conversations and have all those little things that happened between the moments that will help this thing get the momentum that it needs to go forward. You can never do this by fiat. You can never say this is how we're doing it and we've issued an edict and now everybody follow it. These have to kind of happen and grow organically. The key, the most important people are those partners that will believe in this enough and to help bring everybody along once it's come to fruition. Getting the right partners is number one and then you populate it with the marketing managers that you need, the business development managers that you need to ultimately implement it.
Jaron: Got it, I got it. I think, something you said earlier was really struck a cord at me and that I think your exact words were, you don't get to say who you are when you're talking about a brand. Through the tools that you shared, it shows that you're not defining it from the top down, you're really asking the partners, the audience, the firm what makes them different and why they do what they do.
Paul: Exactly. This is all about... I hesitate to say consensus because you don't want to be the headless horseman and like water everything down but at the same time it does have to be true and you do have to find that thread that connects everybody. When you find it and we reflect it back, once you get to that point, that definition like I can take that statement about CSA and show it to any of our designers or any of our project managers and they're like yeah, that does kind of represent who we are. They can connect to it in some way and that's got to be part of it is that it connects with everybody because the people of your firm are what live this brand and what push it out into the world. It's got to be true and owned by the group, not just owned by the executives that tell everybody this is what we're doing.
Jaron: Yeah, I know. So for firms that don't have a strong brand, a lot of it is about discovering what your brand is and bringing it forward.
Paul: Yeah, exactly.
Paul: If you got good people, you have a good brand there somewhere and it's just a matter of finding what that thread is.
Jaron: That's really insightful. Thank you, Paul. I have one more question. It doesn't look that there are any other questions from the attendees but my question is, it's really about that difference between design and brand. I mean obviously they go hand in hand but they're separate concepts. A lot of times we'll hear from firms that the partners are thinking about it as a design project. They're not thinking about it as a branding project and so it only ever goes skin deep. How do you convey internally? So a lot of the marketers we work with, they have to then sell it internally, sell the idea that we've got to do this right, we have to think it through. I mean do you have some words of wisdom for how legal marketers can justify the effort? I mean it's not even necessarily the expense as much as just an effort and it sounds like it has to be a genuine effort.
Paul: Right. I think design is one powerful way that we can influence those perceptions that we talked about. It's like the perceptions of the audience and it's the same as before right? So if they're interested in design, talk about design and talk about like well we need to brief the designers properly. The designers need to know what it is that they want to represent with the brand, how they need to influence, how they need to push things. Make it about a design brief. It's all about like framing the branding problem in the context of where there's interest, so interest in visual rescan, our thing is tired, it's old, blah, blah, blah. Great, love it, let's first get a brief. That's how design works like give the designers a really good brief and that brief has to be like what it is that we're trying to represent and that comes from who we are and what we stand for. It just ladders back up to what that why is because that's what's going to inform design, that's what's going to inform any project that they're interested in. It's all about just taking a couple steps back and say if we wanna do this right, we've got to start from this position because it's going to make it last longer, it's going to make it stick within the organization, much more likely that it won't get rejected by the organization. It's going to make it a more valuable communication tool. All of those benefits come from taking just a few steps back and answering the why question before you start with the design question.
Jaron: That totally, that answered it. Thank you, Paul. I think if I was the legal marketer asking that question, I think that my solution would be to get you in front some of those partner decision makers in the CML internally to justify because I think one of the things that you, Paul and CSA as a whole is really good at is in digging deeper and getting to the heart of the brand and the why. Logically building the argument for why it makes sense and why this is the right face for the firm and this is why your firm should be.
Paul: Awesome, yes. I'm always happy to help with this kind of problem.
Jaron:That's awesome. All right, well thank you very much Paul. I really appreciate your time this afternoon. Thank you to our attendees, who are numerous. We will be posting these slides and video of today's webinar in the coming days, so look for that. We'll send an e-mail to let you know and if you have any follow-up questions about any of this, you can definitely contact myself Jaron Rubenstein at Rubenstein Tech Group or Paul Pierson of CSA.
Paul: Yeah, absolutely. Happy to talk about this kind of stuff.
Jaron: So thank you everyone. Have a great day.
Paul: All right, thank you.
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