Monday, July 8, 2013

How to Create A Terrible 'Congratulations!' Ad

You can tell a lot about an organization by the one-off, one-time ads they create.  

These are used for many purposes - professional announcements for new hires or offices. Or when they want to share some self-congratulatory news or award the media won’t write about.  A popular variation of this is congratulating a high-profile client who’s received an award. 

The July issue of Chief Executive magazine shows a range of ads from companies who want to publicly congratulate Honeywell’s CEO David Cote for his selection as the publication’s CEO of the Year. (If you're a personal friend, you call or send a note. If you want to show everyone that your company knows the honored person, then you take out an ad...).

Here’s a quick analysis of the types of one-time-only congratulations ads featured in the magazine, and my overall score:

JPMorgan Chase followed the “Meaningless Clip Art” style favored by low-level designers without strategic advertising expertise.  The generic, ambiguous headline offers no real information to the reader and isn't intriguing enough to cause people to 
read the body copy below it.  Further, the clip-art graphic isn’t unique or interesting enough to cause anyone to want to learn what the “reason to celebrate” is.  

The text is the obsequious kiss-up language interns and low-level marketers think they’re supposed to use.  Be careful when flattering influential people, it’s easy to look weak and sycophantic. Cheap artwork, safe text, and the typical layout that’s easy to produce by low-level in-house designers.  They wasted extra money buying the inside cover, although they’d have been better off using it to hire a professional copywriter or ad agency.  Score 4.0/10.

New Jersey’s cluttered ad is the “Designed by Marketing Committee” variation.  A confusing headline (“States aren’t innovators?”  Huh?).  Too many conflicting design elements with too many things to look at, in no particular order. 

Your eyes don’t know where to go or in what order; they just bounce around the page struggling for a focal point.  It features the two telltale signs of an inexperienced committee: (1) small-type alphabetical lists of information no one will ever read, and (2) no white space to give your eyes a break. 

The point of the ad, the actual “Congratulations!” is stuck down near the bottom, but since they spent the money on an ad, they might as well also list their entire 17-member Board of Directors, and every one of their 19 “Partners,” whatever that means.  

These types of ads are what happens when “Susie knows how to use the design software” but doesn’t have professional-level design experience.  This looks exactly like most government-sponsored ads.  Score 3.0/10.

RHR International’s ad is a good example of the “We don’t have a brand” variation that is assuredly developed in-house.  No style or elegance, it looks cheap, like it was created in Word or PowerPoint.  However, it effectively conveys the necessary information without slavering or slobbering all over Mr. Cote.  

There’s a little “what we do” language in the brown bar, but not so much that it becomes an ad about themselves rather than the honoree.  Ugly and boring, but not overwhelmingly negative.  Score 5.0/10.

Microsoft Dynamic’s ad is the “Connect it to our Campaign” style.  I initially thought it was simply a slightly more creative version of the RHR ad, with a straightforward headline, and graphic that uses his headshot in a relatively unique way.  On the back cover you later see MD’s other ad, and learn that the “Hello, My Name is” design is actually part of MD’s larger ad campaign. 

This shows a more skilled use of the brand visuals and message, without spending too much extra on this one-off version.  They probably had their ad agency come up with this for them, who then sent it to a low-level but professional copywriter.  Score: 7.0/10

The clear winner was UPS, with its “Creative, Professional, and Effective” ad. It leverages UPS’s well known brown color and national “Logistics” marketing campaign.  They didn’t simply use the PR Department headshot, but rather shot a warmer, and more compelling, full-page photo.  

Their orange lines and icons remind us that it’s UPS, but they’re used like a timeline to inform the reader about Cote’s interesting resume and personal story.  They use their brand to tell his story, but in a fun and effective way.  It’s a full-page UPS ad, but it doesn’t fall into the sycophant trap or look like they’re insecurely or disingenuously trading on his reputation to prop up their own. 

This shows high-level design and creative work by a skilled, professional agency.  A home run.  Score: 10/10.

All images are copyrighted 2013 by their respective companies.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Our new favorite website and marketing campaign.

We like how this warm-hearted marketing campaign and industry-based website:
   (1) aligns the positive message of Drinker Biddle's health care lawyers with their not-for-profit clients’ mission, and
   (2) acts as the central hub to help DBR's 13 health care-related practice areas tell their stories in a cohesive way.

Using poignant (but inexpensive royalty-free) imagery, the case study-based marketing platform: 
   (1) explains each of Drinker Biddle & Reath’s related practice areas, and 
   (2) shows how the lawyers are a proud part of their clients’ achieving their goals.

Drinker Biddle has 650 lawyers, 11 offices, and a large and complex firm website.  However, with national leadership in health care, having an industry-specific website was a strategic addition, offering the practice area both control and flexibility.  We firmly believe in opportunistic industry-specific microsites to help large firms tell their stories.

We typically find that it’s simply not possible or practical to modify a firm’s primary site to suit individual strategic initiatives like this -- there are too many rules and committees.  

You will often hear: 
   (1) hyperbolic slippery-slope arguments regarding how the world would end if the marketing committee permitted such one-off changes, as well as 
   (2) legitimate technology barriers to those types of modifications.

It’s usually not worth the fight. But it’s still important.

And a separate industry-specific site offers a flexible single-use work-around.

Here, the robust, fully featured website offers complete control over the brand, and conveys the firm’s market leadership persuasively.  It helps show how the 13 different health care-related practice areas work together to serve the national industry.

This integrated structure allows each of the individual practices to tell their own client-oriented stories, and shows health care clients and prospects how all the firm’s disparate pieces fit together into a cohesive unit, facilitating cross-selling.

Each distinct practice, from Antitrust and Bioethics, to IT, Lobbying, and Strategic Transactions, was able to use this visual platform to tell its own story, using the same look and feel.

The “Case Studies” page is the landing page for the more-detailed stories.
We want to encourage visitors to read their awe-inspiring examples.
As the parent of four kids with a fairly typical health care experience, I’d grown to believe that the health care industry was all about the money.  However, after working with Drinker Biddle’s lawyers, I’m persuaded that there’s a pretty impressive segment that’s doing their best to bring quality health care to the masses.  And the DBR lawyers are a valiant part of that mission.

Helping market them, we felt like we’re a little part of the mission too....

Images (c) 2013 Drinker Biddle & Reath

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Lawyer Head Shot Everyone’s Talking About…

Some marketing topics are complex and require a lengthy discussion.  Other times, res ipsa loquitur applies. We think today’s discussion of lawyer website biography photos might be one of those. 
Over time, attorneys grew willing to soften the formal website photos we used in the early 2000′s.  For example, we like the friendlier “environmental” pictures we shot for litigation powerhouse Hedrick Gardner.  Increasingly, lawyers with a more casual style have eschewed suits and ties in favor of business-casual attire.  
And once in awhile we find lawyers whose approach to their photos is even less stiff.  Winston-Salem’s J. Clark Fischer, for example:

Photos can help provide information that text cannot.  And Mr. Fischer’s “head shot”?  I’ve never met Mr. Fischer, but suddenly I know a lot about him.  I mean, like, an AWFUL lot.

What do you think? Please feel free to comment below. 

Perhaps if he’s ever handling a case in Chicago, Mr. Fischer could grab a cup of coffee with one of our more [insert adjective here] matrimonial lawyers, Corri Fetman (below), who gained some national notoriety a few years ago with her “Life’s Short. Get a Divorce.” advertising campaign.

Below, from Ms. Fetman’s own website:

I have a feeling they’d get along just fine.
Looking for a powerful new website?  Oil yourself up and contact Fishman Marketing at moc.gnitekramnamhsif@ssor or +1.847.432.3546!

Photos (c) 2013 J. Clark Fischer and Corri Fetman.

Monday, June 10, 2013

"City Slickers" and Law Firm Differentiation.

In the 1991 comedy City Slickers ("Yesterday They Were Businessmen. Today They're Cowboys. Tomorrow They'll Be Walking Funny."), Curly, played by Jack Palance, a wise and wizened cowboy, offers some old-time western wisdom to Mitch Robbins (Billy Crystal), during his cattle-driving vacation:
Jack Palance: "Do you know what the secret of life is?  One thing.  Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don't mean [anything]." 
Billy Crystal: "Yeah, but what's that one thing?" 
Jack Palance: "That's what you've got to figure out."
Interesting advice.

What's your "one thing?"
What's your firm's "one thing?"

As a leader in a law firm, that’s what you have to figure out too.  When someone needs a law firm that does "X," when does your firm automatically come to mind?

When are you obviously one of the top-three choices?
Typically, the answer is "Never."

It's not that you can't accomplish this, it's just that you haven't tried.  Rarely is that our primary strategic or marketing goal.  What's your firm's focus?  Many firms state that their objective is to "get better known," or "get our name out there."  With vague goals like that, how do you know if you're succeeding?  Where is "There?"  How do you know if you're "Out?"  Your ultimate objective shouldn't be simply "better."  It should be market dominance.  And dominance is only accomplished with a singular focus on that narrow goal.

But if your firm were to own a top spot in some practice area in some geographic market, what would it be? What's your brand?  What do you stand for?  What do you aspire to stand for?

Decades ago, Baker McKenzie was the global law firm.

If you wanted an English-speaking law firm in some far-flung city or country where you didn’t have a direct connection, there weren't many options.  Many clients simply looked to see whether Baker McKenzie had an office there.  They were the law firm that stood for "Global."  If that’s your goal, the activities that facilitate it become relatively obvious.

That was then.

Today, many international firms have thousands of lawyers spread across dozens of countries and even more cities.  Global networks like Meritas, Lawyers Associated Worldwide, International Lawyers Network, and Lex Mundi have banded together hundreds of mid-sized, full-service law firms into a community that operates loosely like an international law firm.  "Global" isn’t enough any longer for Baker McKenzie -- or any other firm.

In 1997, Forbes asked Skadden Arp's managing partner, Joseph Flom, to identify his "personal hero -- the person he most seeks to emulate."  He selected Richard Branson, the pioneering leader of Virgin Group, because he taught Flom "the value of a brand."  Flom became the principal architect of Skadden's underlying strategy which caused its historic rise to the world's third largest firm, with over $2 billion in annual revenue.

What was his secret?  Focus.

Identify exactly what you want to be known for, execute ruthlessly, and market the heck out of it.

Images (c) Copyright 1991 City Slickers