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Our focus on creating and marketing fresh brands with clients remains at the core of what Greenfield Belser does. Inside this year’s annual review, you’ll find our picks for brand makeovers, extensions and campaigns that drive growth.

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Bleeding edge thinking on branding and marketing

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A Radical Application of Common Sense

By Greenfield/Belser
September 1, 2005
A Radical Application of Common Sense

You will learn eight basic rules for:

  • developing innovative approaches to everyday problems
  • creating clutter-busting promotions
  • taking advertising in innovative directions
  • improving your direct mail
  • making your print collateral fresh and interesting
  • celebrating the message inside the firm

Today, the average American receives more than 3,000 marketing messages a day. At home. In the car. On the Web. At the ball game. It's unrelenting.

Ironically, the more we're exposed, the shorter our attention span gets. And the harder marketers must work to break through the clutter. It's a vicious, expensive circle.

That's why big time professional services players like IBM and Accenture spend aggressively on increasingly emotional, entertaining and experiential campaigns that urge us to consider The Other IBM or to Go on, be a Tiger. They earn attention by engaging the audience.

Meanwhile, most budget-challenged professional services marketers are still trying to woo buyers with a slumbering mix of newsletters, brochures, seminars and white papers. Not to pick on them, but these approaches are...well...businesslike, at best. The messages are usually dry and uninviting. They don't cut through.

In response, innovative marketers at firms of varying shapes and sizes are applying prime time creativity to the more affordable everyday marketing mix. This is common sense because engaging communications grab attention—and give you a chance to sell. And it's radical because few firms do it really well.

What follows is a sampling of clutter-busting innovations and eight lessons the innovators are teaching:

Count Down Eight Ways to Cut Through the Clutter

8. Design for the scanning reader. A brochure for the global law firm Jones Day serves multiple purposes—it's a mailer, handout, exhibit booth backdrop and internal communications piece. But integrated messaging isn't an innovation, it's just smart marketing. The breakthrough is in the design strategy. It's the anti-brochure: 10 pages long with roughly one line of copy per page. So the imagery does the talking. In this case, Old World hotel luggage stickers inspire a New World application—league-table rankings like "Top Five in International IP" replace hotel names in the stickers. String these messages together and Jones Day's global message is perfectly clear...all the while respecting the reader's time by delivering convincing support for legal excellence quickly and creatively.

7. Humanize your offering. Following their East-meets-West merger, Pillsbury Winthrop made clients and client teams its organizing principle instead of locations or practice groups (more a management than a communications breakthrough). The firm took this message to market by putting its own people front and center. The result was Teams That Work, a client-centric annual review. Look closely at the piece and you'll see the Pillsbury lawyers and clients are not just part of the picture. They are the picture. Imagine that!

6. Master the politician's art: get on message and stay there. The familiar green circle that is the Orrick logo is transmogrified into one circle image after another in the firm's persistent ad campaign. In this campaign, the creative opportunities are endless. You have probably seen those images in print among the legal trades, but what you may not have seen is the relentless execution of the O in all of the firm's materials. A circle of sushi-roll pieces invites firm friends to a Silicon Valley office open house. A recruiting brochure displays testimonials about Orrick from third-party sources like The American Lawyer and vault.com. On the cover is another O, a silhouetted image of a washing machine door with the headline, "No spin." That brochure started the on-campus dialogue. But that wasn't the end. An original electronic game was developed, advertised in recruiting magazines and emailed to students. The Orrick campaign became the subject of articles in many publications. Consistent application married with innovative applications and creative design broke through the clutter.

5. Be a better exhibitionist. If you're going to a trade show, plan to stand out at the show. This means preparing more than a takeaway brochure and a standard booth banner. It means understanding the psychology of conference attendees, working before the show to encourage booth attendance and after the show to cement gains. "Nothing is worth doing if not done well" certainly applies to expensive endeavors like a trade show or conference. Usually, all in, costs easily reach $50,000 or more! With that level of investment, management is right to ask for something to show for it. You may not be able to predict your success but you can help insure it with rigorous planning, accountability and follow-through. And you thought Las Vegas was a boondoggle!

4. Marketing is all about telling stories. Transaction, matter lists and tombstones have their place in your business development efforts; they help the reader position you in the industry. But they don't tell a story. By definition, lists are devoid of color commentary. Paul Hastings adopted the storyboard, typically used to design a TV ad frame by frame, to tell a client story via direct mail. Editor's note: lawyers, consultants and accountants love tombstone ads, but when it comes to power of engagement, tombstones are deadly.

3. There's more to advertising than trade journals. Strong ads with bold visuals can still have impact in print publications. But the medium is crowded, especially in the trades, so alternative approaches need to be considered to get you noticed. In a crowded conference, you can rise above the crowd. Example: The advisory firm Navigant Consulting targets law firm litigators in a very visible but focused way: multiple airport placements in high traffic areas at O'Hare before, during and after the ABA annual meeting in Chicago.

2. To create a relationship, stop "selling." Give something of value. During a recent recruiting season, one firm gave students a swatchbook of "15 Questions" that every student should ask before joining any firm (Yes, a swatchbook with a grommet, just like you'd get a the paint store). The firm's associates had answered the questions on the verso of each page. Law students found the swatchbook so helpful they referred to the questions when being interviewed by other firms.

1. Gaze at your navel. Smart marketers don't limit creativity to the external market. Making your own lawyers and staff aware of the firm's marketing message may be even more important than reaching an external audience. Focus your creative resources inside the organization's walls. One Big Four firm earmarked 40% of its $100 million communications budget for internal communications—everything from posters, screen savers, file-drawer magnets, office banners, town meetings, online interactive games and more—all with cutting-edge creative. In professional services, brand is reputation and reputation is behavior. Work at bringing behavior in line with the brand.