Posted on March 6, 2019 by Joseph Lamport
It’s an oxymoron to speak of something as being on the cutting edge of the legal market. I mean, the legal market tends to be backward leaning to say the least – the cutting edge to us generally looks like what people in many other markets were thinking about 10 to 15 years ago. Case and point being how we are only now waking up to the importance of data-driven marketing, the lifetime value of a client and client-lifecycle management – concepts that were already well in vogue several decades ago in other markets and industries.
The same holds true when it comes to the concept of brand activation. This type of marketing has been around for more than a generation. Its pedigree can be traced back more than thirty years to what used to be referred to as guerilla marketing, which first gained currency in the 1980’s, as a means of grabbing consumer attention with a stunt, event or experience that could staged in a way that circumvented traditional media channels. Guerilla marketing was something that typically happened in the street, as part of a happening or direct encounter between brand and consumer. With the advent of social media, this technique or approach began to receive renewed attention and more widespread acceptance, under the rubric of brand activation.
The basic idea is still the same – to create an event or experience that puts the consumer in direct contact with a brand, relying on a variety of tactics such as experiential marketing, sampling or consumer promotions. Take for example the recent brand activation campaign launched by Kolkraft, a manufacturer of premium baby strollers. For its campaign Kolkraft manufactured a gargantuan, oversized-sized stroller and staged events in local playgrounds so that parents could experience first hand -- and kids could laugh with glee – watching their parents get strapped in and pushed around in a baby stroller. When well executed, brand activation makes a brand remarkable as that term is used in the parlance of social media – something that can be commented on and readily shared with a Tweet. Fueled by the rise of social media, it’s a marketing practice that has been pursued widely in the last decade. Entire brand activation agencies have sprung up and flourished and thereby expanded the practice further still, bringing brand activation into the mainstream more or less.
And yet in that same time span brand activation has barely made a dent or ripple in our collective awareness here in the legal market, which may be easy enough to understand simply because most big law firms have no interest in marketing gimmicks or in reaching consumers for that matter, let alone activating consumer engagement with their brand. Even the most cutting edge brand activation agency would have a hard time devising an appropriate stunt that would get Fortune 500 general counsels actively tweeting about their special connection to Skadden or Jones Day. (Personally, though, I think the Kolkraft campaign would translate very well to a law firm environment because as we certainly know there are lots of law firm partners who would be well situated inside a giant baby stroller.)
In any case, I think this lack of awareness in the legal market is a shame because brand activation is a practice or approach that actually does have enormous potential to benefit law firms and other professional services organizations. In fact, it may be one of the most underappreciated and potentially significant marketing strategies at our disposal if and when our goal is to help a law firm successfully differentiate itself in a highly competitive marketplace.
It’s important to realize that brand activation, as it is coming now to be applied in the legal market, has an entirely different focus and purpose than it does with respect to marketing of consumer goods. It’s not so much concerned with how to activate brand in the minds of clients, whether business or consumer. It’s far more focused on the matter of brand activation within the law firm itself – activating or bringing the brand alive in the minds of your own lawyers and staff. After all, for any law firm, it is the lawyers and staff who embody and most directly convey the firm’s brand message. Consequently, brand activation focused within the organization is the most powerful lever readily within our grasp when it comes to the task of bringing to life a law firm brand.
I will be devoting the next few blogposts to further explaining just how and why brand activation is potentially so damn important to your law firm.