Winning Words: What Do We Mean When We Say “Experience”?

In a post on The Great Jakes Blog yesterday, Robert Algeri made an important point about vague or undifferentiated positioning and messaging in law firm taglines:

A quick glance reveals tagline after tagline of monotony. Here are a few examples from the AmLaw 100:

  • Experience. Creativity. Results.
  • Experience Innovation
  • When Experience Matters
  • Everything Matters

I agree that advertising taglines generally don’t provide value for professional services firms (mostly because they’re not pervasive enough to generate top-of-mind awareness), but a unique value proposition is essential for crafting an effective marketing communications program.

Crafting a pithy, evocative expression of your brand’s essence — whether it’s a tagline, a positioning statement or an “elevator pitch” — is tremendously difficult, but it provides coherence and focus.

For example, “Experience. Creativity. Results.” might not move the needle as a tagline, but could be a powerful editorial blueprint. Think of a blog where every post reinforces one or more of those attributes. Likewise, clearly and consistently incorporating those characteristics into case studies and presentations given by individual attorneys — whatever their niche — has a cumulative effect and distinguishes both the attorneys and the firm as a whole.

Differentiated positioning and messaging are:

Direct – Specific words convey clearer ideas. “Experience” is not an inherent strength, let alone a unique advantage. Also, unless it is contextualized, it can be high-sounding but basically meaningless — consider the Rommelwood Military Academy motto from “The Simpsons”: “A Tradition of Heritage.”

 At base, “experience” only conveys longevity, which is comforting but not compelling. If what you’re really talking about is superior insight or a record of success derived from experience, say that.  Similarly, if you have unique experience in a niche (e.g. international adoptions), lead with that.

Ownable – If you can credibly replace your name with a competitor’s in your positioning and messaging, it’s not ownable. How many times have you seen lawyers touting “We Fight for You”  or “We Have a Passion for Justice”? Unlike all those other surrender monkeys who are indifferent to justice?

What’s your secret sauce? Connections? Creativity? Big-dollar awards? Reassuring manner and pleasant phone voice?

Identify it and communicate it.

Defensible – You can easily and credibly support your claims with data.

Comments

  1. Great points. Positioning is key. The challenge is that for many firms, (especially the large ones) it’s not so easy to do. The broad array of service offerings results in mushy positioning, and thus weak taglines.

    Kudos to any firm that can do it well.

    Thanks for the trackback!

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  1. […] contrast to that, most law firms are still addicted to combinations of high-minded but ultimately generic terms in their advertising (i.e. what firm doesn’t have “experience?” […]

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