Tag lines are trickier than you might expect.
Is your firm “Committed to Mediocrity ™”? (First of 3 posts)
Tag lines are hard – a small handful of strategically selected words that encapsulate everything you stand for and want your target audience to know about you. It’s the slogan that tells your own people how to act, what makes them different, and help them bring in business. Does your firm have one? Does it stand out? Is it unique and memorable?
Consider FedEx’s brilliant “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” Nine simple words that tell FedEx buyers precisely what they’re going to get, while simultaneously informing all of its employees what their mission is, and its vital importance.
Law firms tend toward weak platitudes like “Committed to clients” or “Results Matter!” or “When Success Matters!”
Truly, when doesn’t success matter? Vague “we’re totally awesome” statements may make a firm feel good about itself but don’t act as true marching orders for its lawyers or employees.
They apply equally to nearly every firm or company, in every industry. They’re safe, noncontroversial, and immediately forgettable. This makes them very easy for a marketing committee to agree on (“Good idea; let’s tell people we’re smart! That way they’ll all know!”), but they don’t set you apart in the type of strategic way that can generate revenue.
Imagine if FedEx’s slogan was “We mail things.”
Would Nike be as successful if the management committee allowed an executives from the Tax Department to red-pencil “Just do it” into “When you need great shoes”?
How would BMW’s vision change if “The Ultimate Driving Machine” became “Committed to Great Cars” or “When Driving Matters!”
Below are some examples of brand-related messages we’ve created that we think are simple, clear, and catchy. They help define the firm internally and externally. They set the tone and help the firm stand out in a meaningful way. They give the lawyers something to say in new-business meetings when the prospects ask, “How is your firm different?”
They act as the platform for a larger campaign that helps the lawyers sell new business. They aid recruiting by defining the personality type and skill set of the laterals they should seek to hire.
Below are 30 taglines for a range of firms, practices, industries, messages, and strategies.
A tag line’s role can be significant in setting the tone, breaking the ice, and helping create a dialogue. But a tag line is not a brand. It’s just a tool–just one part of larger campaign. Think of it this way: “Come to where the flavor is” is a great tag line. But without the cowboys it’s not going to sell any cigarettes. You need the whole package. That’s the brand.
We’ve developed hundreds of tag lines that express the strategy and brand message for all types of firms, but here are some of our all-time favorites:
Large, yet Agile.™
Hawley Troxell, Idaho. Hawley Troxell is Boise’s largest local law firm. When you’re the biggest firm in town, it can help to use that fact to your advantage. It’s a powerful differentiator others can’t copy, and in general clients believe that bigger means better.
We wanted to ensure we’d locked in that leadership position as regional firms began moving into town. Predictably, their smaller competitors’ had sought to position themselves as faster and more nimble. Obviously, if you’re a smaller firm, a legitimate counter-strategy is to use their size against them, typically claiming that they’re slow and inflexible, i.e. a hard-to-turn battleship.
It’s a message we were increasingly hearing Hawley Troxell competitors were using against them. so we used “Large, yet Agile” to grab both attributes, and created some eye-catching split-screen visuals to remind people of who we were and how we practiced. Check out the award-winning ads and website designs here.
Two hours. Period.™
(Laner Muchin, Chicago.) The world’s most-responsive law firm. A labor and employment boutique where every client phone call and email is returned within two hours–even less in emergencies. That’s a remarkable commitment and deserves a marketing campaign to tell their prospects.
When we met them, the firm was already over 90% effective in their 2-hour-response philosophy, just through culture and habituation–it was simply how their lawyers had always been trained to treat their clients. Although we were astonished to discover this powerful service differentiator, it was so integral to the Laner Muchin approach, that they didn’t fully realize how unique it was.
But before we launched the marketing effort, they also purchased new technology and trained the lawyers and staff extensively to ensure they were near 100%.
It was unique enough that we helped generated dozens of feature stories about them, worldwide. See the Best of Show-winning marketing materials here.
Low Ball. High Quality.
(Low, Ball & Lynch, San Francisco.) Low Ball & Lynch was a conservative insurance-defense firm with a name so comically bad that most people thought it was fictional, like Dewey Cheatem & Howe. Nope. They’re real.
The name had grown organically, rather than intentionally: Mr. Low founded the firm and later hired Mr. Ball, then later Mr. Lynch, in sequence. So the lawyers didn’t have a great sense of humor about the name, and they’d historically ignored the obvious “Lowball” jokes.
At Fishman Marketing, we believe that when you have a difficult, negative, or challenging name like this (see e.g. StevensVIRGIN in Part 2), good marketing can soften the edges–like you get the joke and are confident enough to have some fun with it. Here, we took ownership of the obvious negativity of “lowball,” confronting it directly with the tag line, website, and marketing campaign. “Lynch” is too loaded a word to joke about, but Lowball was clearly enough. No way you’ll ever forget their name.
A Step Above
Conner & Winters (Tulsa) is Oklahoma’s leading full-service regional law firm. But its conservative brand had grown tired and no longer conveyed that the firm offered more than its regional competitors in terms of technical skills, client service, and dynamic and entrepreneurial culture.
The tag line sets the stage, connecting to the new “steps” logo which uses a bold layout with deconstructed E’s, and bright, modern accent colors: magenta, lime green, teal, and purple. For laterals and prospects who’d thought that larger firms have inherently stuffy and conservative environments, this edgy design conveys that you’ll get something very different at Conner & Winters.
Excellence in practice. Diversity in people.
AlvaradoSmith (California) is one of the nation’s largest minority-owned law firms, representing middle-market and Fortune 500 companies in matters throughout California and nationwide.
They recognized that many larger companies have strong cultural commitments to support diversity and so wanted to build their diversity into their brand, while reinforcing that they boast the high-quality technical skills that has led to strong relationships. Companies that may have initially hired them in part due to their strong diversity numbers have stayed with them for decades, continuously growing the size and sophistication of the legal work. We wanted to show their talented and diverse lawyers, while emphasizing in the headlines that there are many types of diversity.
Small but Mighty.™
(Novack and Macey, Chicago.) A small litigation powerhouse with an amazing record of success at trial. The campaign is supported by a variety of small things from nature that are disproportionately powerful for their diminutive size — like the beautiful and tiny Poison Dart Frogs that can kill you if you touch them.
Mexico’s pea-sized Tepin peppers that are among the world’s hottest. The 4-inch rhino beetles that can carry 850 times their own weight. The striking golf ball-sized blue-ringed octopus that have enough poison to kill 25 people.
Even the tiny computer chip that changed the world. See the popular and award-winning marketing materials here.
On the Front Lines of Workplace Law
Fisher Philips is one of the world’s largest and finest labor and employment firms. The firm’s conservative brand hadn’t kept pace with its prominence and competition from other national boutiques was brutal. The firm needed a complete refresh, with a new logo, tag line and graphics. It was time to take a big step forward and the “Front Lines” tag line was reinforced with ads that referenced other lines, like “crossing the line,” “picket line,” and “drawing a line in the sand.” We changed the conservative serif font in the logo to use a bold 3D design that conveyed a bold new style and image.
The Art of Law.™
(Williams Parker, Sarasota, FL.) Sarasota’s largest and oldest local law firm specializes in tax and trust and estates work, a conservative firm targeting the wealthy elderly retirees who live in an arts-oriented community. This marketing and advertising campaign leveraged this audience’s love of theater, opera, ballet, music, and other performing arts. Click here to see the other marketing materials.
A law firm that really moves.™
(Goldberg Simpson, Louisville.) A dynamic, entrepreneurial, full-service firm. “Full-service” here means the full range of business practices, plus a unique blend of less-traditional practices like both insurance defense and personal injury, complex divorces, international adoptions, hard-core criminal defense, high-volume real estate closings, etc.
With this disconnected collection of practices, the better approach was to market their fast-paced, creative, Type A style and personalities. And this theme was the platform of all their marketing efforts, including a dozen different “moving” logos, events, charitable contributions, sponsorships, etc. See the award-winning marketing materials here.
Putting Imagination to Work.™
(Shefsky & Froelich, Chicago (now Taft)). An innovative and entrepreneurial full-service law firm whose culture teaches its lawyers to find the unique solution to its clients’ problems. (Our first slogan was “Imagination at Work,” but just before we launched, General Electric started using it, and we didn’t want to look like we’d copied GE with their enormous marketing budget, so we changed it.) Click here to see the other marketing materials.
Seriously Unbelievable Client Service.™
(Sandberg Phoenix, St Louis.) Perhaps the nation’s first firm to offer clients a written service guarantee. Their clients rate them an A+ in objective surveys in an industry where overall, clients rate their lawyers barely a C+. At Sandberg Phoenix, they have terrific litigators, and equally terrific client service.
So, how likely is it that a law firm will offer a client-service guarantee? When pigs fly. When lightening strikes twice. When money grows on trees. Or when the Chicago Cubs Win the World Series (when we launched, that event was still a far-fetched concept)! Only in St Louis. Click here to see the award-winning tongue-in-cheek visuals.
Marlboro advertisement (c) 2021 Philip Morris USA (a branch of Altria)
Interested in booking Ross Fishman for your retreat, marketing training, or Ethics CLE program?
Click here for a sample video of Ross in action. Contact him at email@example.com, or 1.847.921.7677.
See also Law Firm Speakers and Retreats, a speakers bureau designed for lawyers, accountants and CPAs, and the legal and accounting professions. Offering 100 of the most-popular lawyer marketing training, law firm retreat, accounting firm training, and CLE and Ethics speakers, programs and presentations — all thoroughly proven and vetted. From Marketing, Social Media (e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, and Twitter), and SEO presentations, to the Future of the Legal Profession, you’ll find the best law firm retreat speakers.