The good old days. Where did they go? What happened to the days when just saying our name and phone number on Television a few times would fill our day with new clients? Long gone.
Today, clients are exposed to thousands of messages from the legal community every hour in every media. Over 3,500 law firms advertised on local Television in 2010, and more are on the way every year. The name and phone number message no longer retains its efficiency. Potential clients now filter advertising in all its forms and make “informed” selections. The question we ask each other at meetings like PILMMA is “On What Information Are Choices Made?”
Legal advertising has matured its audience so that it is held to the same standards as any other. Annually, the category represents over $500 million in Television with nearly a billion more in other media. We are no longer a novelty, but a unique blend of branding and solicitation. Lawyer advertising is now part of the mainstream of paid messages and is treated as such by the body of citizenry.
The hallowed ground of information control has been dissipated by years of solicitations filled with facts and figures. We blast salient information across America as we attempt to sway those choices. Over the last 25 years, we have taught our audience the relative value of a case, the elements of recovery and the advantage of resources.
Meanwhile, hidden in this constant stream, inherent in all, is the issue of personality. While we struggle to find safe havens for our decisions in rating points, cumes and cost per thousand, upstarts with hardly any budget seem to get cases in spite of other’s huge budgets and ubiquitous presence.
As advertisers we must constantly ask ourselves “What are we missing?”
With almost 7 million legal commercials in circulation the answer is everywhere in front of us. Regrettably, the vast majority of legal advertisers ignore it because we cannot quantify it in numbers. We cannot put it in a box and measure it. We Focus Group it but miss the point. It is what sets Burger King apart from McDonalds. It’s why Lady Gaga sells more records than Madonna. It’s why Pepsi can compete with Coca Cola, Hertz versus Avis, Ford versus GM and on and on… it’s MOJO.
MOJO is personality. It is the unique quality of humor, empathy, energy and drive in all of us. It is not just one smile or one growl, but the entire multilevel presentation. It is HOW we say what we say and HOW we do what we do. Personality is what the public judges in the first few seconds of seeing us.
In today’s media world, Television remains the 800 pound Gorilla regardless of the hundreds of internet avenues, myriad of print devices, dozens of radio stations and armies of lighted and animated billboards. Only Television can bring our personality to life. The combination of sight and sound, peppered with music and sound effects amplify our every move. Get it right and all the other media reminds the public of our best quality.
How do we capture and project personality? Think of it as a diamond in the light. We will not see a single color, but many colors dancing as what otherwise would be clear as glass. Each color adds to the character called “brilliance.” The cut and size add to its personality. That is what we must do in our approach to the community. Our advertising must contain ALL of the elements of us and our firm: our size, our people, our clients, our results. These are the qualities of personality that the public is judging. We can amplify that which is best in us, but present it all.
Obviously no single advertisement can accomplish this task. No single ad can transmit all the information that today’s client uses to make their choice. Consider when given equal choices… on what do you base your own decisions? When two vendors offer the same relative price and delivery of a product, how do YOU choose? Given equal choices, you use words like reliable, trustworthy, relationship.
The regulatory bodies of Bar Associations limit claims and even devices of legal advertisers to try and level the playing field. We as advertisers are in a constant struggle to convince the public that the playing field is NOT level. The one device that the bar cannot regulate is this intangible aspect that sets us apart from others who advertise.
Considering that there are at least 50 legal advertisers in every TV market and thousands more messages pouring in from everywhere else, personality is how we create differentiation.
Find a phrase that embodies your primary personality and surround it with an assortment of ads aimed at different demographics. Change your ads frequently to keep the public from becoming bored with you and your presentation. Be visible in your community. Do not hide behind your ads. Let the public see and touch you. Teach your staff to be an extension of you so that the clients experience what they came to you for in the first place.
To become known as a choice, you must become known as a choice somewhat different than those they already accept. Always, in every ad, remind the public why you are different. Teach them the value of YOU.
by Richard Sackett
Richard Sackett is the CEO of GroupMatrix and a member of the Washington DC Law Firm, LAWCOUSA. Mr. Sackett has been certified as an expert at the Federal Level on Lawyer Advertising, published many articles on the subject, and testified as an expert to legislative bodies on Lawyer Advertising and Regulation. Mr. Sackett has been featured on national Television by NBC Nightly News, CBS Nightly News and Newsweek’s International Edition. Mr. Sackett and his firm consult with Attorneys coast to coast in over 65 cities. Mr. Sackett graduated from Loyola University with a communications degree in 1970, and has been in the field of advertising and practice management consulting for over 40 years.