What is a branding statement?

A branding statement is a strategic platform that reflects the firm’s service values while addressing how a firm defines its own business in relationship to its competition. It is a tightly focused statement that answers the question of who the firm is and what it does for its clients. Ideally, it differentiates and makes clear what is special about the firm, how it does things differently, and the benefits its clients can expect when doing business with it.

What is a brand image?

The brand image resides in the client’s point of view and can be explained as the complete bundle of thoughts and experiences a client has about the services and personality of a firm. Ideally, a brand image communicates the emotional experience of the firm from the client’s perspective—for example, a brand image might inspire and build confidence, or it might cause a client to feel welcomed. This is different from a brand identity, which is often described as the collection of visual elements—such as name, logo, symbols, expressed promises, advertising, letterhead, business cards, office décor—all of which can be used to identify a specific firm.

How do you go about matching your strategic work with the creative work that needs to be done on behalf of a client?

I believe that creative professionals should be left to do what they do best. With this said, selecting the right group of creative talent to match the tone and images that need to be communicated is a critical part of my responsibility. Marketing professionals come from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines. Each has his or her own strengths, but they must work together to form one product. One of my primary responsibilities is to bring them together and make sure they are reading off the same page—and that’s usually the branding statement. I work closely with the client to make sure that what the marketing professionals create is in line with the vision as well as the client’s strategic objectives.

So how does a firm determine their collective persona?

Most of the time inspired values remain hidden from view—so part of what we do is help firms to find them. We do this by conducting an in-depth evaluation of where the firm’s brand is today through the eyes of its key audiences. We review the firm’s business strategy, vision, mission, and purpose and conduct internal and external research on how these have played out in the firm’s internal and external communications.
I have found that the leadership of a firm is usually just too close to the issues to see them clearly, and it’s all too easy to let the internal politics of a group steer the process. Who a firm is and what they stand for must be reduced to a concise and impactful statement that leaves no doubt as to what the firm stands for in the marketplace.

Why do firms have problems formulating effective branding strategies?

This is a difficult issue. We need to first agree on what branding really means otherwise it’s problematic to discuss it. Most people think branding has to do with marketing and advertising professionals coming up with a clever image of the firm and then going out and figuring out the most effective means of promoting it. But I don’t believe coming up with a firm’s brand can be achieved in a vacuum. Branding is not just a creative exercise—it must be strategic and on target with the firm’s true service proposition. We need to remind ourselves that the practice of law is relationship-intensive and service-driven, and all of this is fairly nebulous and difficult to define. It’s awfully trusting to delegate this job to creative people and say to them, "Come back with something that looks and sounds good." That’s a dangerous proposition.
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