Herding Squirrels? Branding Firms with Multiple Partner Names

Building Brand Equity with Partnerships

Law firms, like many professional firms such as accounting firms, medical firms, advertising firms, often use names of partners for the company name/brand. These kinds of businesses are often driven by the relationships each partner brings – and clients often are focused on the partner they work with most of the time.  I have found in my work that some clients don’t even know the entire name of their law firm, or accounting firm, etc. They know just the name of the partner they deal with regularly.

As marketing consultants we must find ways to educate the partners to get on board with strategic branding, and offer creative solutions that will help them. They will be receptive to common-sense bottom-line goals with solutions that will clearly benefit them. Looking modern for ‘modern’ sake won’t cut it with this crowd.

Professional services of all stripes tend to be quite conservative when it comes to marketing.  They often think in terms of ‘setting up a shingle and they will come’ – very cautious.   They may not be natural marketers or ‘creative – out of the box’ types – they are disciplined in other areas.  As such many professional services, such as law firms, have historically had brands that were ‘yawners’ – forgettable type faces and unmemorable graphics.

Yawner Branding

A key challenge with partnerships is that the name of the individual partners are ‘on the door’.  Thus, the branding is not just a company but the names of individuals.  It is very tough when you have just 1 person to brand, but getting multiple people to agree on anything like this is akin to herding squirrels!  However, branding isn’t just about the needs of today, but the anticipated needs over time.  Thus it is important to create a brand solution that can match the potential for partnership changes.

As partnerships evolve over time, names may come and go.  As that happens, the flexibility of the brand is challenged each time.  Brand equity is constantly being eroded as the firm’s name changes.  This phenomenon can be made worse if  the graphical elements of the brand use forgettable symbols  (e.g. the ubiquitous scales-of-justice for a law firm), or generic or common typefaces (Times or Helvetica), or colors (red, blue, black).  If these firms would use unique symbols and shapes, taglines, different colors, or have distinctive brand design systems (e.g. unique stationary systems), the loss of brand equity in the marketplace can be limited when a company name changes when the partnership does.

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One Response to Herding Squirrels? Branding Firms with Multiple Partner Names

  1. Ian Vadas says:

    Great insight Raleigh. Love the Partner, Partner & Partner gag.

    While it’s not very inventive to use surnames for a law firm (if that is the route taken so as to not offend any of the partners), I think a lot can be done to improve on it just by using distinct typography and more original imagery.

    It would seem that by doing this alone – which is hardly thinking out of the box – a firm could stand out from the pack and have an impact on the bottom line.

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