Why are legal marketers stuck on creativity?

Posted on May 7, 2015 by Clare Granville

photo by Getty

Demand for creativity is at an all time high

The role of marketing has perhaps never been so broad, but one expectation remains the rule: marketing brings the creativity. This is the case now more than ever, and particularly in the legal services sector - both traditional and new - where an unprecedented degree of change has created the need for outstanding marketing.

To give just a few examples of these drivers: alternative business structures are gaining profile; new and nimble challenger brands are storming the UK market; traditional firms are launching new propositions and joint ventures and client buying behaviours continue to change, making it even more difficult for firms to target the highest-value decision makers.

Everyone is affected by these changes, and the legal marketer’s all-too-familiar struggles with differentiation and converting awareness into action are intensifying. No rest, but no small opportunity to drive creativity into the business and effect significant business change. The legal services industry is entering a new era of ideas-led selling and marketing is at the helm.


Creativity requires a radical new way of working

Is this a reasonable expectation for the leadership team to have of marketing? And can today’s legal marketers fulfil this need for the imaginative, the inspirational, the impressive and the outright leftfield - in a market traditionally defined as conservative and a follower rather than setter of trends? Of course the answer to both is yes, but significant changes to culture, approach and capabilities are needed.

According to a recent study by Man Bites Dog, three quarters of professional services marketers believe that they and their peers are facing a crisis of creativity. More than half suggest that if professional services marketing were a colour, it would be grey. The same proportion admit that most professional services marketing campaigns do not capture the imagination.

Solving this ‘crisis of creativity’ is business critical, not just a marketing niggle. All professional services marketers say ideas-led conversations are a key element of their company’s business development strategy. Four fifths believe creative content based on a compelling idea is their most effective sales tool. The same proportion agree that to be more creative, professional services brands require a radical new way of working.


How do we embed creativity in a way that is right for legal services industry?

Making this change is easier said than done, and the disparity of cultures and readiness within law firms means that everyone will find their own approach. There are however some guiding principles that will help all legal marketers to get into a new creative gear.


Embrace rather than shy away from creativity - Creativity does sit well with legal services. Some of my most creative clients are commercial lawyers and they enjoy the creative process and use the outputs to incredible commercial effect. Being creative doesn’t mean taking risks; it means thinking of more inspiring ways to start a conversation and to engage an audience.

Reinforce creativity’s strategic purpose - As our research shows, creativity is a business critical need, not a marketing want. This is something that partners should recognise is changing client communications for good, and that they need to support. It has the power to make your marketing more strategic - for example by coming up with ideas that support the whole firm, not just one group - and to position you as the partner of choice for key services.

Make your ideas stretch - The more ‘stretchy’ an idea in terms of its focus, the number of partners it supports and the number of audiences it can engage, the more visible it will be to the firm and the greater impact it will have on the business. Creativity can also help you build campaigns that last - meeting PR, marketing and business development objectives over the course of a year, not just days or weeks.


Clare Granville is head of law at Man Bites Dog

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