Advertising legend Lee Clow has had it right from the beginning; the brain behind Apple’s famous “Think Different” campaign believes emotionally engaging storytelling is the best disruption of all. Applying Clow’s brilliance to marketing strategy for information-driven industries — law firms, cybersecurity businesses, information governance consultants — can be challenging. Traditionally, these industries avoid innovation and go with the tried and true. Tried, true, boring, and somewhat ineffective, that is.

How can your business “Think Different”? How can you position your business or legal practice as an industry disruptor, an innovator? It takes, courage, a bit of humor, and determination to break out of the “same old, same old” approach. Sometimes you need some help to do so. (More on that later.)

Innovate or Imitate?

There are two ways to approach marketing: by doing something never done before (innovation), or by imitating another successful campaign. That brilliant “Think Different” campaign? It was a riff on Microsoft’s “Think” campaign. So, despite its brilliance, “Think Different” was a form of imitation.

Imitation is ubiquitous. It’s standard practice for brands to copy-cat new products; Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese vs. Marie Callender’s; Pillsbury pie crusts vs. a generic store brand; Uber vs. Lyft; the list goes on. In fact, Oded Shenkar, professor at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business, claims nearly 98 percent of true innovations are imitated by competitors.

Transformation vs Innovation and Imitation

Another approach to consider in marketing is transformation. Transformation and innovation are often used to mean the same thing, but there are differences.

Transformation distinguishes itself from innovation or imitation as transformation is a fundamental change of systems, processes, people, and technology across the law firm with the goal of measurement improvements in efficiency, effectiveness, and stakeholder satisfaction. The first transformations that come to mind were created due to the global digital transformation. e-filing, e-hearings, remote working, artificial intelligence, and predictive coding. Other transformations can occur in the organizational hierarchy such as a transformation from the associate/partner model to a flatter structure or a more corporate model. A future article will focus on this exact need due to the Supreme Court forcing a change in business models in Arizona and four other states. The law firm model is going to transform, innovate or imitate.

Evoke Emotion

Every powerful brand builds customer loyalty by provoking an emotional reaction. According to the Harvard Business Review, advertising is a media art devoted to causing an emotional response in people, be it laughter, tears, surprise, or providing information. This can be done by great storytelling, which includes compelling visuals, whether still or video.

Is your marketing team willing to push the envelope? If you’re an executive, are you able to speak the truth to others in the C-suite? To be, as Steve Jobs, once said, “a pirate”? Or are you avoiding push-back by following the conventional path?

Know Your Audience

Frankly, you may think you know who your audience is but be sadly mistaken. Who exactly are you marketing to? Or are you taking the approach of throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks? Have you taken the time to interview your customers and create unique personas? Buyer personas are fictional archetypes of audience segments. Personas are key to successful targeting which converts into revenue. Messaging, visuals, ad buys, even the timing of e-mails can be impacted by using personas.

Do You Know Your Brand?

You may think you know your brand, but without talking to your customers (see the paragraph above) you may not have a realistic view of how your business is perceived. Industries involved with information are typically unimaginative with their branding and marketing. Is it time to disrupt? Are you game?

Do You Know Your Competitors?

Every business has competition — your goal is to differentiate your brand so you will stand out. Time to do some research on your competitors, compare your branding to theirs and make the appropriate changes to stand out. Their branding will help shape yours.

What’s Your Goal?

It’s important to focus on your goal. Do you need more customers? Is your sales team struggling (or worse, are they creating their own marketing materials)? Do you want a steady sales pipeline, or are you focusing on a particular niche? Or, do you just have a gut feeling your marketing isn’t as strong as it should be? Once you have a clear focus on your goal (or goals), you can begin to refine your planning.

What Quality Assurance Guidelines Are You Following?

Or perhaps, more importantly, do you have any, especially for your digital marketing? One common mistake is not having your website optimized for mobile use. Seriously. That’s right — even though more than 50 percent of internet use is done via digital devices. Is your messaging consistent across all channels? Do you have color and font guidelines? These are just a few of the most common issues faced by information-driven businesses.

How Are You Advancing Your Industry?

Information-driven businesses are proliferating rapidly. Whether cybersecurity, the law, or information governance, the demand for your services will continue to grow.

The emergence of data security legislation (think GDPR in the U.K., the NY SHIELD Act in New York, or the California Consumer Privacy Act) requires constant nimbleness and continuing education. And, for the legal profession, there are ethical and other regulatory measures that must be met. A new trend is the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in law practices, which raises concerns about how to deploy AI ethically. By staying on top of these trends and informing your constituents about them as a trusted source, you’ll boost your marketing — and your industry.

A Fractional Strategist is One Click Away

Sometimes, the road less taken is filled with weeds and debris, and you need a hand in clearing it away. A fractional marketing strategist is an experienced Chief Marketing Officer who works with you either part-time or by contract. Contracts can be as short as several months or last up to a year. This gives your business the best of both worlds: an expert leader who is far less costly than hiring a full-time permanent CMO. Let me help you “Think Different” by contacting KSG today to get started.