All the advertisements in the world can’t create a law firm brand.
Have you seen the Slater & Gordon advertisement yet? Apparently it’s on peak-time television, but seeing as I’m still stuck on the Breaking Bad boxset, I didn’t catch it to start with.
Thank goodness for YouTube. Myself, along with 883 others at the time of writing, have caught this 30-second masterpiece online (currently it has two thumbs up and one thumbs down, but I suspect this is not a representative sample).
If you haven’t seen it yet, please do.
It starts with a woman in pain, struggling to stand or even chop up her courgette. First world problems in all their gory glory.
Fortunately, through talking with S&G lawyers her life is turned around in seconds. She can sit in the garden, chat in the delicatessen and even offer her husband, who pops up occasionally with an air of tired resignation, a chicken teriyaki meal (presumably not with the best cuts of chicken, we are living post-Jackson after all).
I don’t mean to make light of the plight of accident victims, but surely Saatchi and Co could have come up with something better? The woman doesn’t even look injured, plus she’s clearly that police officer who used to be in Midsomer Murders, and she seemed fine in that.
Slater & Gordon is currently gobbling up rivals like it’s in an enthusiastic game of Risk. Already it has Fentons and Russell Jones Walker on board, and rumours abounded last week (since dampened down by both parties) that Pannone was next.
The technical term for this is consolidation of the market, but in reality it means swallowing up any competition to secure the market for yourself.
These adverts are, as the firm admits, the next step in creating the S&G brand. Very soon accident victims will be calling the name of Slater & Gordon before they have even hit the ground. Injured people will camp overnight in advance of a new office opening of S&G, while eventually tourists will be flocking to S&G World in Leicester Square, leaving the souvenir shop with branded bandages or claims forms.
I admire the firm’s pluck, and from what I’ve seen it has some of the brightest legal and business minds on board to make it happen, but it’s an uphill struggle.
S&G wants to go from almost complete anonymity to a household name. Ask a non-legal friend tonight to name a law firm and, at best, they’ll pick the one nearest their house and some abbreviated nonsense like wkdsols4u.
Joe Public needs lawyers perhaps a handful of times during his or her lifetime and frankly doesn’t care whose name is on the masthead. They will be persuaded to use a firm through word of mouth, price, ease, reputation or place in an online comparison. They almost certainly won’t pick a provider based on an advert they caught during Hollyoaks.
Slater & Gordon isn’t the first brand in the domestic legal profession to announce its intention to be a household name. It won’t be the last.
The issue is whether households want to know. Law firms are a necessary evil to most clients, not a cuddly brand name to wear on a T-shirt. No amount of soft-focus advertising is going to change that any time soon.
John Hyde is a Gazette reporter