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Marketing: Dressed to impress

Every Issue

Cite as: (2005) 79(4) LIJ, p. 72

Clothes are used to convey a certain impression and so is a corporate style.

Image, brands and logos, all self-important huff and puff, but what about substance?
Country practitioner

It is easy to reduce the notion of a company brand and in particular corporate style to its component parts and then take each piece and argue that it is irrelevant and even frivolous.

However, think of brand and corporate style as the business equivalent of the outfit you don each day to go to work. On their own, the tie or scarf, the shirt and the jacket are not particularly meaningful, useful or even necessary, but together they make a complete picture of who you are.

They form key components of the impression you give people, whether it be slick and corporate, brash or understated, confident or dishevelled.

In being conscious of your practice’s corporate style you are not eschewing substance or technical excellence in the same way that selecting a wardrobe item does not impact on your ability to apply your mind to a legal problem.

You apply corporate style to all the components of your practice’s presentation. This includes each written document, from letters, business cards, contracts, invoices and receipts through to marketing tools such as brochures, newsletters, websites and seminar presentations.

The way you present your practice’s brand through its corporate style is nothing more than the ensemble your practice gets around in.

And the key to doing corporate style well is consistency. Having a consistent style promotes the perception that your practice is reliable, recognisable and professional.

Corporate style basics

Writing style
Ensure that use of capitals, acronyms, honorifics, dot points, punctuation, the way you number items or clauses and the way your own firm is referred to (do you use a short form or the whole name all the time?) are consistent.

Fonts and text layout
Use consistent font style and size throughout all business correspondence and promotional materials. This will mean that less time is spent being “creative” with fonts and colours, saving time and effort. When the style is not consistent it has the effect of making your firm look like it doesn’t have its act together.

Logos
If your firm has a logo, then apply it in the same way, to the same standard, in the same set places across all your communication tools – correspondence, website, publications etc.

Colours
Adopt a colour or suite of colours and apply them on all materials as your firm’s signature colours. Your firm’s colours should be specific, not just “dark blue”. If you have items printed regularly, you will need to select a “PMS” colour. Use the selected colour or colours with all documentation.

Design
If you have design elements, such as a stripe down the right side of a newsletter, apply the same concept to brochures, folders or other materials, including web pages. This consistent approach will reinforce your brand in customers’ eyes.

Phone
Make sure all staff answer the phone in the same way, with the same greeting and sign-off. This technique gives the perception of a polished and well-managed office, no matter how small it is.

Presentation
Apply your style (design, writing, colours) to all aspects of your firm’s presentation. This includes Powerpoint, handouts/folders or files, and even the office window if you have street frontage. You should ensure everything fits together. For example, if your firm’s colour is blue, then when you buy off-the-shelf folders, buy the same blue or use white, not red, yellow or purple.

Criticisms

A corporate style is sometimes criticised as irrelevant and superficial, expensive, time-consuming, of no real value and something that does not help in making money or obtaining clients.

While of itself a corporate style will not fix structural business problems, it will make your practice look professional, polished, reliable and organised. This, in turn, will help you make money by sourcing new clients and reassuring existing clients.

Ultimately, a corporate style is an investment in your practice.

Key terms

Brand: A brand consists of the values, both emotional and psychological, that a consumer associates with a company and/or its product/service.
Corporate style: The consistent image created by a company’s offline and online communications. This image usually consists of: consistent use of specified colours, typefaces, graphics, layout, logo, greetings etc.

To do this month

• Have a look at style guides and consider adopting one already available, such as the Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers.
• Review all documents and paperwork that come from your practice. Identify inconsistencies.
• Let your colleagues know that the practice will be adopting a consistent corporate style, and why. Talk through any adjustments needed and adopt good suggestions.
• Identify your practice’s “colours” and apply. Phase out things that do not fit.
• Review all versions in use of your firm’s logo or letterhead. Delete those that are out of date or do not fit the chosen style.


ALICIA PATTERSON is LIV Marketing manager and the former Victorian marketing manager of a large national law firm. She has extensive experience in marketing communications and PR campaigns. She can be contacted on ph 9607 9464.

marketingcol@liv.asn.au

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