What’s the lifespan of your law firm’s brand?

Guest post from Rachel Smith, director of business development and marketing at Cripps

Smith: Your brand needs to evolve with your business strategy

A brand refresh, particularly one that amounts to a full rebrand involving a change to the name and visual identity, is not something to be undertaken lightly.

The exercise is costly and time consuming, absorbing many hours from business services professionals who could be adding value to the business in other ways. And, each time a brand is given a new name and visual identity, it risks losing some of that hard-earned brand equity and awareness that can take years to build.

There are, of course, occasions when a rebrand is unavoidable. In the legal sector, most commonly rebrands occur as the result of a merger and the new firm becomes a combination of names (BCLP, Womble Bond Dickinson, Gowling WLG, Cripps Pemberton Greenish, etc).

When Cripps merged with Pemberton Greenish (PG), the latter had built an enviable reputation within the London landed estates and leasehold enfranchisement market. To lose the PG name before their market had become familiar with Cripps risked losing some of the brand equity it had so carefully built.

So a transition period was put in place to enable Cripps to fully integrate legacy PG clients and familiarise them and the wider market with the strengths of the merged firm.

The simple thing to do following this would have been to revert to the old Cripps visual identity and brand. However, the world and the firm had moved on substantially in the three years since the merger and going backwards would have been a mistake – the old Cripps wasn’t a true reflection of the firm it had now become.

Which brings us on to the second reason why a brand refresh (as opposed to a full rebrand) may be necessary – to ensure that the brand has evolved with the business strategy and how you want to be positioned in the market.

The new logo

That is not to say that every time you alter the business strategy you should start tinkering with the logo, but it is important that the message you are putting out to the market, your people and clients resonates with who you are and who you want to be going forward.

Cripps undertook an intensive discovery phase with clients and our people to understand what they really enjoyed about the firm. Large amounts of data and insights were distilled into a few key messages that captured the essence of the firm’s DNA.

The old logo

In parallel, the firm had developed a clear purpose, vision and strategy, underpinned by its values. The challenge was to understand what all this meant for the firm’s clients and people both now and in the future so that we could tell our story in a way that resonated with them.

What became clear was that the firm’s core purpose hadn’t fundamentally changed in 170 years since William Cripps founded the firm. The impact we have in our local communities, supporting clients, social and environmental projects were as important then as now.

For any firm refreshing the brand, it would be a mistake to throw the baby out with the bathwater and lose sight of the brand’s heritage which informs who we have become. For Cripps, that meant keeping a reference to our distinctive orange, while also bringing back a darker version of the purple that was part of the firm’s history as Cripps Harries Hall.

The post-merger variation

We adopted the dark purple in the logo to reflect our premium brand while using the orange as a ‘hero’ colour, to represent our people and clients, Our ethos of putting people at the heart of everything we do is symbolized by the ‘C’ of Cripps wrapping around the orange dot (our people and clients). This visual device denotes the wraparound support we provide, embracing curiosity, collaboration and change.

Of course, some people will be sceptical about the importance of a logo – we all know your brand is much more than your visual identifier. However, your logo is your primary brand asset and has to reflect who you are as well as be distinctive.

Today’s consumers and business professionals are exceptionally busy, with so many brands competing for their attention. Your logo – whether it’s on your building’s façade or a website banner – needs to work hard to keep reinforcing your brand within the hearts and minds of your target market.

There is no fixed lifespan for a brand and whether it needs refreshing starts with the simple question ‘Why?’.

Has the business undergone a transformation which means the brand no longer aligns with the strategy? Has the target audience changed requiring a fresh approach? Has the firm’s message remained the same, but how it’s told has now lost its relevance?

In answering these questions, it is possible to take a step back, re-evaluate and reposition, further enhancing and solidifying the brand’s equity.

As Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “change is the only constant in life”, or as the more recent but slightly lesser-known marketing academic Mark Ritson put it: “Time makes fools of brands that stand still.” As the world continues to evolve at pace, we must ensure that our brand remains memorable and relevant for the future.

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