Perrin’s View

The news that Hammond Suddards is to spend £1m through Team Saatchi to develop its image will no doubt be viewed as yet another giant evolutionary leap for lawyerkind. After all, spending a million notes on a marketing campaign is not something you see every day in this business.

Judging from the preview, the campaign looks fun; it also aims to poke fun at the City brontosaurs – and thereby alone justifies its spend. However, let us not assume that it will usher in a brave new world of legal services marketing. The principal aim of the exercise, as I understand it, is to ‘rebrand’ the firm as a big City player, and as any marketing pro knows, advertising is to branding as phone sex is to The Human Genome Project.

As anyone who’s been there knows, rebranding is a long, unsettling, occasionally painful exploration to the heart of darkness of your firm. Unlike advertising, however, its aim is not to refresh the partners other marketing tactics couldn’t reach. It’s to create an organisation where all the elements come together in the seemingly effortless equation of behaviour = brand = reputation.

Or so we thought. Now, however, from the wilder shores of Planet Marketing comes news of a new and presumably improved idea about branding called, get this, “brand reality”.

From this point on we can officially blame it all, whatever it may be, on marketing. It’s all their fault. Apparently, in urging companies to hide behind a carefully constructed brand facade, marketing is the thing that is keeping companies remote from their customers. In product marketing at least, the focus of trust has shifted from the product to the people behind the product. Which means that these companies now need to rethink their brand strategies and involve not just their marketing departments but – wait for it – every single soul who works for them as well.

If this doesn’t sound like quite the revelation the shamans would have us believe… you’re right. This is something professional service firms have known for ages. Law firms – guys, we’re the original PeopleRUS.

Forget all the zeitgeisty speak for one second, though, because if you wade long enough through the blurb, you get to an interesting idea. It’s called Living the Brand and it urges companies to forget brochures, strap lines, logos, jingles, U and ESPs and invest in some honest to goodness people. Because, more and more, the first and often most important act of brand management of any firm is going to have to be … recruitment.

This is something lawyers can relate to. This is brand building from the bottom up, and not the top down approach we’re used to. This is not the behaviour-changing veneer of client-service training. That’s packaging, and clients want to see the product, not the packaging. It’s a motivational issue which resides at the heart of your firm. Or should do. This is something that emanates willingly from people as individuals.

Which is not to say that advertising doesn’t have its place. It does. Advertising makes us look at things differently, helps to change people’s perceptions. It just doesn’t work well by itself. In isolation, advertising is a gimmick – a gag that refreshes the prats that no one wants to reach.

Leslie Perrin is managing partner of Osborne Clarke. He can be contacted at leslie.perrin@osborneclarke.com