Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott (ESC&M) is Pittsburgh's fourth largest law firm, with more than 220 attorneys, seven offices, and expertise in litigation, corporate business, intellectual property, environmental, and tax law. We were asked to develop the branding that would serve as the platform to re-establish Eckert Seamans as a law firm equal to the caliber of the Big Three Pittsburgh firms, each of which boasted several hundred more lawyers---but with its own point of differentiation.
OPPORTUNITY AND CHALLENGE
Several critical issues stood in the way of success. Eckert Seamans was not top-of-mind with Fortune 500 legal departments and large and midsize private companies who were their client prospects. Among the audience where Eckert Seamans was known---their current clients---they were recognized only for the area of expertise for which they had been engaged. The challenge of discovering a brand image that could serve as an umbrella for all the practices seemed daunting. In addition, rumors questioning the financial health of the firm abounded, resulting in higher-than-average turnover in a highly competitive market. Finally, the firm’s leaders warned us that achieving consensus within their ranks would be extremely difficult. We would need to adopt a careful working style to be accepted by the highly intellectual and opinionated attorneys!
RESEARCH, PLANNING PROCESS, OBJECTIVES
We conducted both internal and external audits with current clients in an attempt to uncover possible areas for differentiation. The audits revealed perceptions that would become the foundation for the brand's essence. Repeatedly, clients described Eckert Seamans as "extremely responsive" with a "true sense or urgency" as well as being "very professional" and "very thorough". They claimed that "you have everybody's home phone number and you can call them any time and that gives you a huge sense of comfort." "If you have a burning issue, they are all over it." One client summed it up, "When they are handling my work, I feel like I am their only client."
Our discussions with senior partners led us to the recommendation that a branding would need to work from the inside-out, with messages conveyed first to partners, members, and associates. We identified the annual firm summer outing as a venue to launch the new brand and what it meant for all ESC&M stakeholders. At the same time, we announced plans to establish a news bureau and to place a modest advertising campaign in the local business journals to reassure our target audiences that ESC&M is indeed “alive and kicking.”
Our objective was to engage internal partners at ESC&M in the marketing of the firm. Our hope was that we would be asked by ESC&M practice chairs to become involved in supporting at least three new marketing efforts during the first six months of the branding roll-out.
To succeed, ESC&M needed to have a clearly defined, well-differentiated, and highly relevant idea, an idea that captures the very essence of the brand. We used a client-collaborative process to help the firm articulate its Vision, Mission, and Values, then explored four areas of brand assets: functionality (what does the brand do); differentiation; source of authority (why should people believe us); and image/personality.
In a few well-chosen words, we articulated the brand essence, defining what the brand is and will be for the long term. For Eckert Seamans, it was a combination of "effective legal solutions" and "attorneys who care about their clients". Then we identified the brand’s positioning with its target market. The resulting brand management matrix serves as a roadmap for all future work and helps us to integrate the brand consistently across all points of experience.
Further research conducted by telephone with ESCM clients refined the brand's positioning, which led to the development of the brand theme line: “Passion with Purpose”. The launch ad used a series of oxymorons to dramatize the fact that attorneys who care are not a contradiction in terms at Eckert Seamans.
Based on the branding, we created an advertising campaign that featured true stories: "Field Office" concerns an attorney who agreed to join his client on his daily jog since this way the only way they could meet. "Fast Forward" highlights the ability of the technology practice to adjust its speed and responsiveness to the needs of clients.
We were then called in to develop campaigns to promote several different cross-practice efforts: a high technology seminar; a Web site called Product Defenders featuring ESC&M’s expertise in products liability law; and the Annual Report to Clients and Friends (which had not been sent out for three years!). We were also asked to provide strategic counsel to ESC&M’s newly christened cross-practice new business team. We were even charged with producing the firm’s annual holiday card, in which we were able to capture the “Passion with Purpose” spirit.
The campaign began running in Fall 2000 to rave reviews by Eckert Seamans attorneys and external audiences. We have been told that the very fact that we were able to get the lawyers to agree on a campaign is a major victory in and of itself! The firm plans to roll out additional Passion with Purpose initiatives in 2001, including a video of scenes from famous movies showing lawyers passionately practicing their craft. Through our efforts for the high technology seminar, ESC&M was able to attract a standing-room only group of 225 attendees. The Product Defenders Web site had an astounding 4,000+ hits in its first month and significant press coverage including a television feature. The new business team has been able to target ten key client prospects against whom we can develop individual marketing plans. Most important of all, individual attorneys have begin to call us with their ideas for news and stories to place.