The clearer you are about how you differ from competitors the easier it is to reach your aspirations in business. As an IP lawyer interested in branding, I looked into how to differentiate a law firm in a series of blogs in 2011 when I wanted to better differentiate Azrights.
I concluded that the time to engage a branding agency to reflect your distinction visually is after you have decided your point of difference. I had not known this back in 2006 when we first branded Azrights.
It has been a struggle to do it, but now at long last we have worked out our niche and USP. So, we recently engaged a designer to design a new identity for us. Our story may hold clues for others.
Our old logo
We chose this old fashioned typescript logo because of its connotations with creativity and copyright. These suggested Intellectual Property (IP), which seemed suitable for an IP firm.
According to Differentiate or Die, subject specialisation is a sufficient differentiator. But the problem was that it did not distinguish us from the many other IP law firms out there.
We launched the brand in 2006 with a website featuring images of a violin, piano, art, books and similar, all chosen to denote creativity.
The years 2006-2014
Since then the site and our logo have undergone numerous changes – partly because we were trying to better differentiate ourselves. We have added the bull to our logo, a new tagline ‘Legally Branded’ to replace our initial slogan ‘brand protection, creative rights’ (although we still use this slogan on our newsletters and letterhead), and introduced another tagline: ‘Easy Legal Not Legalese’. We have also added the words ‘Internet, IP, Identity’ to our logo. The logo was looking distinctly messy by now.
The clue to how we differ is in our client base and range of work
Our core work revolves around IP services, particularly trademarks and patents. During the past 8 years we have had hundreds of clients, and the stereotypical view of these being from IP rich industries is simply not borne out by the reality.
While many of our clients are, of course, from the creative industries, quite a sizeable number are from industries not traditionally associated with IP. And we do a wide range of commercial work for many of our clients too such as IT, internet and social media related contracts and dispute resolution.
Clarity about our niche took time to evolve. A branding agency may well have been able to help us work this out sooner, but my first branding experience left me feeling you have to arrive at this yourself. Only then can you properly benefit from external input.
Ironically, the signs were there all along, and yet it took us years to articulate our difference. For a while, I tried to differentiate Azrights through our specialisation. For example, in my book, Legally Branded, I described us as brand lawyers, and as such very different to trademark attorney firms, or law firms that do IP but don’t do registration work.
However, since writing the book, I have realised the title of the book, and the description, brand lawyers, do not adequately encapsulate our point of difference. The topics included in the book reflect the wide ranging work we do, encompassing traditional IP work combined with commercial work often with an IT or online bias. It is the digital nature of our work, rather than the trademark aspects of it which properly describe our niche.
The world has changed
In the digital world IP is centrally relevant to all businesses, not just to those in the creative sector. This is because there are many IP implications in the digital environment and nowadays the internet plays a huge part in business life. For example, the risk of infringing on the rights of others is far greater nowadays, as is the likelihood of being found out. It is also more important to stand out with distinctive names and to protect your distinction with IP registrations in our increasingly global environment.
Also, our clients need much more from us than IP advice. They require support with a range of commercial agreements such as for ecommerce, privacy, social media and more. Often they seek help to successfully commission sophisticated websites and software, or to resolve disputes when things go wrong.
The digital world calls for a new breed of lawyer – lawyers like us. We have called ourselves a hybrid firm for years, as we are tech savvy. Our team have backgrounds in computer science, and IT. I myself worked at Reuters for 5 years, which involved a marked IT dimension. So, at Azrights we understand the internet, and social media, and can add far more value than simply focusing on IP, or the purely legal dimension. Our skills are relevant to businesses in the digital world which explains our new tagline.
It has been evident that Azrights is all about making IP easy to access since I founded the firm in 2005. Yet I didn’t realise that making IP law easy could be a sufficient differentiator. I now know that that is enough.
We make things easy by publishing a lot of information on our website, blogs, and in my book. We are transparent in our pricing and have always had a commitment to using plain English. I am careful about our emails communicating complex information clearly and succinctly. Possibly this comes from the fact that as an in house lawyer I received advice from law firms that was technically excellent but very difficult to understand – even for other lawyers like me.
It is not easy to explain a complex area like IP law in simple terms, but it’s an important ideal we constantly work towards at Azrights. Other firms may say they believe in plain English, but do they carry that commitment through to everything they do? Your brand values can’t be empty statements.
For me the commitment to making the law easier to access, and to strip away unnecessary complexity, runs deep. I believe in making law easy. It does not have to be complicated.
The fact that our logo was looking distinctly messy was detracting from that message of simplicity.
We now have a brand that reflects our brand values, a tagline that distinguishes us from other IP law firms, and a logo that much more clearly demonstrates visually our ideal of making IP easy, and the digital nature of our work.
It’s taken 8 years to arrive at this clarity, but I am sure that now it will be a lot easier to grow the business and to fulfil our mission of making it easy to access and buy worldwide IP services online.