Legal Branding: brands that leave a mark
In a business school, they will tell you that a brand is a promise of value. Translated, broadly speaking, it means that the brand promises a quality standard and that we project its attributes and experience with it to future purchases. However, let's try to translate it for our beloved legal sector. In order to do this, let's put ourselves in the following situation: if as a GC I have two options, the first being a very specialised boutique -and undoubtedly, excellent technically but with a not very well-known brand- and the second being a 'prestigious' firm -I think we all understand each other here-, does our seasoned reader intuit who I will bet for?
The reason is quite straightforward, and almost a matter of common sense (on the other hand, one of the least common senses): with the first option 'I gamble' and with the other one, my line of defense is clear: "How could I imagine that such a renowned law firm could fail?" As the reader will have noticed, so far, no reference to the sacrosanct excellence, technical quality, the unbeatable client experience, or even money.
Moreover, while some still wonder if there is a debate, others are already far and away, even if it’s only by observing the everyday reality. Why? Because brands -the good ones- leave a mark. But not only from the strictest marketing point of view, but also from the most pragmatic point of view: the income statement.
Some experts put as a more illustrative example the 'Apple case’, opposing the value of the assets of the Cupertino company to its list value, concluding that 80% of the value of the brand is simply that: the brand. Others even claim that 72% of the value of the entire Standard & Poor's 500 index is generated by intangible values. So how did we get here? Well, simply by observing the market. For example, an analysis of brand drivers (Role of Brand Index –ROBI-) concluded that, when buying a handbag, the brand weighed 10, the design 8 and the price only 5, so the brand weighed 10/23 at the time of purchasing the bag. In other words, 43% of the purchase decision was based on the brand. Is the legal sector so different? If we go back to the example with which we started these lines, the answer seems pretty clear.
It is interesting to notice how purely financial international standards have been developed for valuing brands and how a complex discipline like Brand Valuation has arisen from them. For the most skeptical –you know who you are- it is important to mention that when we talk about international standards, we are talking of an ISO (yes, believe it or not): the ISO 10668. In any case, this does not seem to be taken into account in many mergers, acquisitions, or even law firm splits. Much has been written about the relevance of cultural factors when addressing these situations, but it seems that this discipline does not enjoy the recognition it should despite its undoubted financial weight, or even the global trend of investing in intangibles rather than in assets.
Perhaps to those of us who see things with 'Marketing glasses' -that is, those of us who analyse the market from the demand perspective- it is easier to understand the value of a brand simply because we are used to putting ourselves in the shoes of the potential client.
But what exactly does the potential client expect from a law firm? Well, of course, a lot for not so much anymore. According to a study from a prestigious Spanish business school, the five most significant demands of the client of a law firm are, in this order: accredited experience, price, reputation, trust, and knowledge of the business. Of this peculiar ranking, I would like to point out that two of the five most valued attributes are... intangible. If my potential client is too busy to carry out a detailed study of his future legal services provider, how can I act on the perception of those two variables? I hope that the answer after all that has been said above is now a matter of common sense: with brands that leave a mark.
About the author:
Alfonso Everlet is the Managing Director at Gericó Associates. Legal Marketing, PR and Business Development consultant, Everlet is chartered at the Madrid Bar Association and holds an Executive Program in Management and Corporate Communications from the prestigious Instituto de Empresa (IE) -3rd European Business School according to Financial Times and 2nd best not american Business School according to Bloomberg-.
Member of Dircom (Association of Communication Executives), he speaks three languages (English, French, and Spanish), holds a Law degree from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and worked for five years in El Mundo (the second biggest newspaper in Spain), where he received various awards. With more than 15 years of experience in marketing and communications, he has advised in complex crisis communications cases such as Banco Madrid. He is a mentor in the Carlos III University and has taught Legal Communications at the Madrid Bar Association. He has published in various relevant media in Spain and Latin America, organised the first Legal Marketing and Communications Awards in Spanish, was a member of the organisation of the World Law Congress in Madrid and was a speaker in the first Legal Marketing and Communications Congress ever to take place in Latin America.
He has worked for clients such as Baker McKenzie, Bird & Bird, BDO, CMS, DLA Piper or Pinsent Masons.