Law firms are too easily discouraged from breaking free from the crowd when it comes to marketing.

We drove to Austria for a skiing holiday directly after Christmas.  It seemed that most of Northern Europe was on the same German autoroute with the same objective in mind.

Looking around, you could not help but admire the German loyalty to their automotive manufacturers as we sat motionless in a queue. Then as you looked out across the fields, you occasionally noticed a solitary car speeding across the snowy countryside on a road parallel to the autobahn.

It soon dawned on us that nearly all these travellers were following a GPS system which directed them onto the same autobahn, and into complete gridlock. Thirty minutes later, having purchased low-tech road atlas, we too were speeding along hIgh quality Regional roads and feeling rather pleased with our progress!

You may be wondering what on earth this has to do with law firm marketing, but it reminded me how often I see the “me too” approach, and how often it fails to deliver any competitive advantage (1,000 miles provides plenty of time to think).

Mishcon de Reya is a great example of a firm that has embraced a range of media connections and influences to build a very distinctive brand, which includes its own jazz radio programme. Granted that many firms don’t have comparable budgets, or connections, but it’s not always about money. A low-budget example of innovation involved the head of conveyancing at a regional firm casting aside her fears last year to ride pillion on a motorbike around the county collecting money for the Bloodbikes charity.

A recent example of jumping on a fruitless bandwagon was when everyone and his dog seemed to be writing an article about the cookie regulations. This thrilling piece of legislation was seized with great enthusiasm, and yet I don’t know any lawyers who got rich on cookie policies. I do know a number of website design agencies that benefited immensely, thanks to all the free publicity generated by the legal profession.

I have lost count of the number of times that I have heard “If Firm A’ is doing it, then we need to do this…” As a justification for an unplanned initiative at Firm B, usually one that bears little direct relation to the adopted marketing strategy. A few months later Firm A discontinues their experiment, and Firm B realises soon why.

But it takes daring to break with the crowd, and it is easy to be discouraged. Sadly there are too many internet trolls with time on their hands and nothing better to do than criticise anyone who is prepared to be even a little bit different.

I recently posted a comment on LinkedIn about a legal video that I had particularly liked, as It had a fresh and original approach. Pretty soon a couple of naysayers popped up with some negative gripes - this seems to with the territory nowadays. 

But, they are probably sitting on the autobahn, wondering when the traffic will start to move. Meanwhile, if you have left the pack behind and taken the road less travelled, who knows how far ahead you will get!

Happy new year.