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Morgan Lewis Took Risks in Its Rebranding

morganlewis.pngIn ALM’s The Legal Intelligencer, reporter Gina Passarella writes on Morgan Lewis Took Risks in Its Rebranding. She spoke with me about the effectiveness and controversial aspects of the mega firms’ new look, which included a new website among the various rebranding efforts.

Passarella points out that with a new chairwoman and two mergers, the firm is undergoing change. The article also mentions that the rebranding initiatives, led by the firm’s marketer, Despina Kartson, started prior to the Bingham McCutchen and Stamford LLC mergers.

While the article states that the firm’s goal was to balance the classic and the modern, you can’t help but see the dreaded Executive leadership compromise in the end result. The logo itself is staid and very old school. The website and the content “below the fold” (logo and imagery) is closer to The Huffington Post in design, appearance and functionality. So if you cannot agree on classic or modern–do neither and both. I’ve been at the table of plenty of these branding and rebranding conversations at law firms. I can’t say I win many of those battles either.

In my conversation with Passarella, I noted that I quickly picked two sites to compare the ML site to–Coke and Deloitte–basically confirming what I expected to see–very corporate, content driven sites that were more about being a resource or information repository than a sales tool. Just as I do not need Coke to tell me about its brand and business to get me thirsty or Deloitte for professional services, I do not need an explanation as to who the firm is or what they might offer. As the old adage goes, “if you have to ask,” you are probably not a Morgan Lewis client (that they want). In the ALM article, I also note that there are a handful of firms (I said dozens, maybe 100, which was stretching it) that have the name recognition amongst their client pool for the “marketing” to have much of an impact.

Morgan Lewis has come a long way since that first website in the late 90s. I enjoyed working with them when it was still MLB.com. Ironically, mlb.com is probably one of the sites today that I access most–for scores and highlights. As a local firm based in my backyard–Philadelphia–they have greater breadth of international locations and practices today. They certainly get diversity points in the leadership category. There is increased sophistication and commitment to business development. Like many mega firms, a compromise on logo and messaging is not going to hurt anybody. But from a corporate branding perspective, it still sends a mixed message.