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How to bring a new brand to a mature market

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon says,” A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” Ian Gilthorpe, senior partner of new entrepreneurial law firm, Square One Law, explains the challenge of bringing a new brand to an established marketplace.

Ian_Gilthorpe imageCorporate branding has changed a great deal over the years. It used to be about design and colour of logo, the firm’s name and size, but today a brand is all about personality, reputation, culture and how well it connects with its target audience. Twenty years ago I doubt that any law firm had a brand strategy; in fact very few even had a marketing department. Now the traditional legal model has evolved with very rigid, and expensive, corporate structures and brand building has been more about moving into large city based locations or increasing size by opening more offices, which has often created large faceless departments, where partners have become more remote from the client. The increased competition has changed the law firms’ approach to marketing and in the last ten years we have seen them spending large amounts of money on advertising, entertaining and numerous marketing events in a broad sweep approach.

Brands today are as much about your internal culture as the external marketing message. They are about what you stand for, what is your positioning and how well you understand the deeper psychological benefits of why a client wants to work with you.

The questions to ask when building any brand are – How well do you know your target audience? What can you do for your client, better than your opposition? What can your brand offer over and above your services, i.e. how can you add more value? It‘s mind boggling that with new technology, a company like Amazon knows as much about its customer base of 20 million as a corner shop used to know about its customers of around about a hundred!

To create a new brand in today’s competitive legal sector it was clear we needed to look for a gap in the marketplace and have a relentless and unapologetic focus on what clients want. We decided to start at square one and talk to our business contacts. Our research revealed that clients want to deal with experienced lawyers who have a real understanding of their business and not be delegated to inexperienced members of a larger team. They want great service combined with certainty on costs, great value for money and then help to achieve the best practical result.

Square One Law is designed with the needs of business leaders at its core, as they look to maximise opportunities in the highly demanding marketplaces of today and tomorrow.

Law firms have a tendency to over engineer solutions so we realised we needed to create a streamlined operation that will help to keep things simpler and we’ve attacked overhead in a way that is only possible when you are starting afresh.

All great brands are operational and being a start up has given us the opportunity to recruit great, client focussed people and to develop a fresh way of working. We have invested in the latest systems, services and programmes that can help us keep the promises we make about service delivery and today’s client based technologies mean we can work in a different, more efficient and responsive way.

Corporate branding is now all about building relationships that are strong and lasting with the relevant target audience. New brands hoping to break into the marketplace have to deliver something different and something special. We have created a smaller, leaner and more agile model.

We have enjoyed developing the name and the design of the brand with MBC Consultants and Hedley McEwan. I have worked with both for many years and interestingly, Tom Hedley and Duncan McEwan of Hedley McEwan have recently set up a new business, after working together for 25 years at Robson Brown. They are facing similar challenges bringing a new brand to a competitive marketplace and although very different sectors, they can also see an opportunity for cutting overheads and offering expertise from talented people to give clients an interesting alternative. We are told it’s a brave move to start afresh, but I’m pleased to say that both businesses have got off to a flying start.

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