What is branding? Branding is an attempt to evoke an image that is retained in the mind of the target audience by use of a memorable symbol or name. Why create a brand? Would Yahoo or Google be where they are today if they chose a generic name like “Best Search Engine”? I don’t think so!
A brand capable of graphic representation can be protected by registering as a trademark or servicemark. A trademark or servicemark can be claimed under common law simply by using a TM or SM with the mark. Greater protection can be had by registering with the U.S Patent & Trademark Office. Upon acceptance of the registration, the brand can be shown with an R in a circle.
What can be branded? Almost anything can be branded, names, words, symbols, style, shape, color, sound, smell, look of a product, or even someone’s face. NBC’s® three tone chime was the first audible servicemark registered in 1950, Harley-Davidson’s® motorcycle exhaust note is a distinctive brand which they attempted to protect with a trademark but later withdrew their application, and the distinctive shape of a Coca-Cola® bottle is a trademarked image indelibly branded in everyone’s mind.
The goal of advertising is long-term branding, direct response or a combination of both. An example of advertising for long-term branding would be TV commercials for Jaguar®. Jaguar doesn’t expect you to see their commercial and call a 1-800 number at the bottom of the screen to order your Jaguar, but it is intended that repeated viewing of their commercials will create a positive image in your mind that you won’t forget. Direct response advertising sells a product or service with the expectation that consumers will directly respond by calling a telephone number in the advertising. A vanity telephone number (a number which spells something) will usually be sought for direct response advertising, however, when unavailable, some ads use numeric telephone numbers or sometimes only a web site address.
Even in direct response advertising, branding is of paramount importance because it creates both residual value and increases advertising effectiveness. In other words, branding will result in what I call residual advertising because it will work long after someone has seen your advertisement. If you brand a 1-800 phone number, they will remember how to call you. Additionally, because of the familiarity and comfort level created by branding, your direct response advertising will be more effective because someone seeing your advertising will be more likely to call you.
Before deciding on how to brand your law firm, you need to determine what you want your advertising to accomplish, which will depend upon the field of law that you practice. Corporate law firms will advertise more to facilitate “sales” and for future business, then to have the phones ringing the moment their commercial airs on TV, while law firms servicing individuals in practice areas such as personal injury, divorce, bankruptcy and criminal law will lean towards direct response advertising.
Corporate law firms can focus on long term branding of the firm name alone or together with the message to be associated with the name by emphasizing practice area and/or aspects important to corporate clients, such as access to advice and billing issues. Seeking to make sales easier when their salespeople called on companies, a previously little known insurance company, Aflac™, decided to try something different to increase name recognition. Daniel P. Amos, President & CEO of Aflac, says he has worked to increase brand name recognition by cutting operating expenses and spending that money on advertising. With a very large budget and a brilliant idea using humor and the now well know Aflac Duck, Aflac’s web site says it achieved an increase in name recognition from 2% in 1990 to 71% in 1999. Now, Aflac’s sales people have an easier time, because the people and companies they sell to have heard of Aflac. This idea worked because Aflac committed the advertising dollars, the name is easy to say and because the duck was different, funny and they made the name sound like a duck quack.
If a corporate firm has a vanity number matching the firm name, it should be used in the advertisements. Drug companies have quickly learned the value of using vanity telephone numbers even in advertising solely for brand enhancement. Although they can not sell prescription drugs by direct response advertising, the companies use their vanity numbers and web sites to provide further information for the consumer and to garner caller information which can be used to send coupons and brochures. One of many examples is Imitrex (for migraines) which advertises 1-800-IMITREX and imitrex.com. In his study, “Direct-to-Consumer Prescription Drug Advertising on Television”, Juhee Cho at Michigan State University, found that of the 11 ads studied, 90.9% (10) advertised a 1-800 number and 90.9% (10) advertised a website.
Lawyers have unique issues which make branding their firm name difficult. Law firm names typically comprise the names of various partners. Partners come and go and the names change. Law firm names can be quite long and are frequently difficult to pronounce or cumbersome to say, unlike Aflac. It would be best for branding purposes to limit the name to only one or two names. For instance, the Law Offices of Pedrangelo, Schneider and Woodward could be more easily branded as The Woodward Law Firm or “Woodward… the law firm corporations rely on”. The national law firm franchise Jacoby & Meyers® has successfully branded their name because the name is short, easy to pronounce, easy to say and they spend many millions of dollars for continuous and sustained advertising. Their focus of branding is the firm name “Jacoby & Meyers”, but no one can remember their telephone number. Because Jacoby & Meyers offers services to individuals in direct response advertising, they should brand a 1-800 vanity phone number.
Direct response advertising for law firms concentrating in areas such as divorce, criminal, bankruptcy, divorce or personal injury, primarily seeks to have consumers call the law firm right now, during or after the commercial airs. With direct response advertising, the method for contacting the advertiser is of paramount importance and it should be by telephone, not a web site. It is even more important that the consumer remember how to call the law firm.
Since advertising is a long term proposition, direct response advertisers frequently look to build some branding into their advertising, thus creating a hybrid of both direct response advertising and branding. Branding is defined by simplicity and consistency. Consequently, if the vanity telephone number doesn’t match the firm name, the vanity telephone number should be the sole focus of branding. Branding both the vanity telephone number and law firm name, will result in competing brands and substantially decreased retention of both the law firm name and vanity telephone number.
When using short duration media, such as TV, a 1-800 vanity number is critical for increasing call results, decreasing average call cost and being competitive. Using 1-800-HURT-911® resulted in a 51% decrease in call cost when advertised on New York TV from August to December 2004. When advertising on even shorter duration media, such as radio and billboards, a 1-800 vanity number will produce far more dramatic results. Which number will you remember at 65mph, 1-800-487-8911 or 1-800-HURT-911?
Choosing a really good vanity telephone number is difficult and finding one is even more difficult. If you have a large advertising budget, your vanity number must be 1-800, not 1-888, 1-877, 1-866, or 1-xxx (people will dial 1-800 when they see another toll free area code such as 1-866); and must have no more than 7 letters (90% of cell phones can not be connected if an extra digit is dialed). Your number should be good for branding, easy to spell, and easy to remember. Additionally, if you will advertise for a specific area of practice, such as personal injury, you should select a vanity telephone number that is specific to your area of practice to avoid receiving a substantial number of unrelated calls. People who see your ads and also visit your web site will always type the domain name using the same format with a 1 in front of the number, so if your number is 1-800, you should have a matching domain name in the format of 1800NAME.com such as 1-800-HURT-911 and 1800HURT911.com (www.1800HURT911.com).
Whether branding a name or a telephone number, your brand should have what is known as USP or a Unique Selling Proposition. In other words, does it tell a story? Slogans can also be used to enhance memory of a brand by further telling the story. For instance, in a commercial for a personal injury lawyer, 1-800-HURT-911® tells a story. It says if you’re hurt in an accident, you can get legal help fast.
The slogan “When you’re HURT in an accident, call 911, then call 1-800-HURT-911,” ™ enhances the USP.
The strength and success of your law firm brand is its continuing ability to influence the thoughts and actions of potential clients. Your brand should differentiate your law firm from others in a way that influences prospects to think of you rather than your competitors, and to trust and utilize your services. In the consumer’s mind, a strong brand will increase the positive feeling toward your services, and increase memory retention, thus influencing potential clients to think of you first when they need you. A brand becomes stronger as the consumer becomes more aware of the brand due to the 1) Frequency of advertising; 2) Length of advertising; 3) Distinctiveness; 4) Simplicity; 5) “Memorability;” and 6) “Likeability” of the brand. For instance, people easily remember Brands which score well in categories 3, 4, 5, & 6 and those brands will become the dominant brands. FedEx which has been heavily advertised for years, has USP, it says Federal and Express, which says a host of quality things to different people. FedEx is also 3) distinctive, 4) simple, 5) memorable, and 6) it’s easier to say, so people like saying FedEx, rather than Federal Express.
This article is a short synopsis on the subject of branding. If you’re considering TV advertising for personal injury cases and would like information about advertising with 1-800-HURT-911 or 1-800-USLAW-911 with full advertising agency services from Inter/Media Advertising, the largest direct response advertising agency in the U.S., see Advertising with 1-800-HURT-911