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Vedder’s merger strategy and marketing

By June 15, 2012 No Comments

Strategic Objectives

Vedder Price is a conservative, full-service, 250-lawyer Chicago-based regional law firm. It was opening its first international office for its leading 45-lawyer Aviation Finance practice, merging with an international London-based group.

This was an especially strategic move for Vedder; it would enable them to compete for the other half of the world’s aviation deals, the ones conducted under UK Law.

The merger’s success or failure would be measured largely by whether the London’s firm’s European clients joined them at Vedder.


Worldwide, all Aviation Finance deals are done under either US or UK Law.  US-based Vedder could only do US Law deals. This new London merger could immediately qualify Vedder for the other half of the world’s projects–this was an enormous opportunity.

Most Aviation Law firms have 2,000+ lawyers and dozens of global offices. Vedder had more to prove, but the firm’s marketing had historically been extremely conservative. (The previous CMO’s strict rule was “Only use free photos.”)

The firm’s primary website was illustrated by stock photos of columns and books. We needed to persuade the firm’s lawyers to let us use more creative and strategic materials, teaching them the benefit of bold new ideas and visuals, even humor.

Marketing Goals

We immediately identified nine different initial audiences, each requiring a different amount and type of information.

Research and Planning

We had just three weeks until the launch. On Day One, we interviewed the foreign team. By Day Four we had developed six campaigns, each including graphics, headlines, and tag lines.

We identified five distinct audiences, plus variations.

Each target audience needed its own unique messaging and outreach plan.  For example, we needed to persuade:

  • Vedder’s US clients to start using the firm for English law deals too
  • Vedder global prospects to use them for deals worldwide
  • The London firm’s aviation clients to
    • come along with them to Vedder
    • start hiring them for US law deals too
  • London’s prospects to consider using them anywhere
  • The aviation industry that Vedder was a major global player
  • Competing London aviation lawyers to consider interviewing at Vedder

We developed five different aviation-oriented advertising and marketing campaigns, ranging from conservative to humorous. We narrowed it to two, then tested those against each other, as ads and websites.

To inform their global audience, we needed a strong online platform, a new website, fast. We market-tested both campaigns and their website designs, using new “eye tracking” technology, which had never been used in the legal profession. (See below.)

Production and Implementation

We had three weeks to conceive, create, and launch the entire campaign.  With a global audience, we needed an online campaign, including a London-specific website.

We also developed a business-development strategy for the London partners, sending electronic and print mailers to their database, and supporting them with an in-person communication plan and coaching. We needed their clients to feel confident about the merger.

Result: 110% success.

We created, researched, tested, and launched the initiative in just three weeks, including a fully featured 50-lawyer, practice-specific website.

Nearly all of their clients joined Vedder, bringing along millions of dollars of work. In the first month, they closed a multimillion-dollar London financing of several aircraft, acting for European banks, delivered to a Middle Eastern airline.

We used the website launch to generate five major stories in the business and aviation industry media, plus a national feature profile of Dean Gerber, the chair of the Aviation Group.