As with any organisation, a strong, distinctive brand is integral to a law firm’s success, and rebranding is not something to be undertaken lightly.
For Blake Dawson, formerly Blake Dawson Waldron, the firm’s rebranding was about crystallising the firm’s position in the market.
“We were getting feedback from both our people and our clients that our brand was getting fuzzy,” Blake Dawson’s managing partner, John Atkin, said.
Atkin explained that the firm had three different versions of its name floating about in the market — Blake Dawson Waldron, Blakes and BDW — which had resulted in some diffusion of the brand identify. The key objective of the rebranding, he said, was to collaborate with staff, clients and alumni to identify and reflect what is unique and special about the firm through a clearer and crisper brand.
“We were keen to come up with an understanding of a meaning of the brand that related to everyone. It really came down to two things that were really important to the firm. One was the quality of the work that we do and the second was how we do that work and how we relate to the people we’re doing that work with,” he said.
“So for us [the issues were] excellence in terms of the quality of work we’re doing and building real rapport with our clients, with each other, and with the other professionals involved with our work.”
Blake Dawson worked on the project with brand consultants, Principals, for the best part of 18 months and it was officially unveiled on November 5 last year. The effort paid off, and the rebranding was recognised as one of top five of the year in the 2008 ReBrand 100 Winning Brands awards.
Central to the rebranding was shortening Blake Dawson Waldron to Blake Dawson. Ideally, the firm would have gone simply with Blakes, however that name had been snapped up by a Canadian firm. The firm also decided to remove the word ‘Lawyers’ from the firm’s logo, believing that the firm is sufficiently recognisable as an “unquestionably top tier” law firm for the name to stand on its own.
Also integral to the new look was incorporating cartoons by American cartoonist Charles Barsotti, probably best known for his work in The New Yorker, into the firm’s marketing communications material.
“We see how humour and our ability to have a laugh at ourselves is a pretty essential element of who the firm is,” Atkin explained. “It’s always been the case that we’ve had a pretty irreverent sense of humour and acknowledging that and bringing it out was a key element of what we did.”
For HWL Ebsworth, the end result of the recent merger between Home Wilkinson Lowry (HWL) and Ebsworth & Ebsworth, one of the biggest challenges was limited time. “We had a very tight timeframe,” said national marketing manager Sally Downs, explaining that the agency, Lemonade, had just over a month to come up with the new brand design which was officially unveiled on April 11 this year.
“So one of our requirements [for an agency] was not only good design and being easy to work with, but also one that could realistically work within our tight timeframes,” Downs said.
An important part to the design, Downs explained, was giving both firms equal prominence in the new logo. “We wanted something that was representative of both firms and to make it very clear that it is a joining of the two firms,” she said. “It wasn’t one firm taking over another. We wanted it to be something that represents that they’re both quite complementary firms.”
As part of this process, the firm has retained the distinctive ‘W’ from the former Home Wilkinson Lowry logo and incorporated the ‘offset stack’ format which was a unique feature of the former Ebsworth + Ebsworth logo. The ‘L’ from HWL also links with the E of Ebsworth, signifying the two firms’ union.
“Most of our clients were aware of both firms and clients are always concerned about how things will affect them,” Down explained. “It was about communicating that this is a positive [move] because they’ll have access to expanded expertise. It was a good message to staff as well: that we’re keeping parts of the heritage of [both brands].
For DLA Phillips Fox, the firm’s rebranding in November 2006 was a result of its alliance with international firm DLA Piper.
Formerly Phillips Fox, the firm took ‘DLA’ into its name, adopted the DLA Piper logo, and traded in its distinctive purple for blue, which became a feature of the firm’s website and marketing material.
In early 2007, DLA Piper embarked on a global rebranding, which DLA Phillips Fox has also taken on board.
“It’s a clarification of the global brand,” said Libby Maynard, the firm’s general manager - business development. “DLA Piper has been growing at a fairly rapid rate and this is really a clear articulation of what the brand is on a global basis. [For DLA Phillips Fox] it’s to send the message that we’re part of that global alliance and now actually have that global reach.
Maynard said that while DLA Piper and DLA Phillips Fox’s names and logos will remain the same, changes have been made to the overall visual identity of the brands.
Most noticeably, DLA Piper has moved away from using blue as the primary colour in its marketing, which Maynard said was a deliberate strategy. “As part of the global rebrand, it has adopted the whole colour pallet, which reflects the vibrancy and diversity of the brand,” she said.
DLA Phillips Fox has been rolling out the changes more gradually. “We wanted to retain blue for a time so we didn’t completely confuse the market,” Maynard explained. “[But] we’re gradually moving from the blue into the broader colour pallet.”