“Un” Commoditize Your Product

I was in the grocery store yesterday and I was buying some fruits and vegetables. It stuck me that I was not buying “apples”, I was buying “Washington apples”. I was not buying “potatoes” I was buying “Idaho potatoes”. Looking in my basket I realized there were “California eggs” and “Berkley farms milk”. The commodities in my basket were all “branded”. Not a single “generic product” made it into my basket. Am I a victim of ad campaigns spawned by Madison Avenue? Perhaps I am. But the lesson for attorneys in all this is that “it worked”.

Generic products (generic branding) reinforce the commodity. It takes the idea that “cost” is the main motivation of the consumer and runs with it. It is an effective way to keep product cost down and rely on volume to produce the profits. If that is your business model then you will look forward to the continued wave of commoditization of legal services.

The commoditization wave is a very real market pressure that legal organizations cannot escape, except through “branding”. Do nothing and you are a commodity, an apple... a potato... an attorney. For example:

Generic: “I am an excellent family attorney with 10 years experience. I will work hard for you.”

Branded: “I am a family attorney with three kids who understands how difficult divorce can be on your family. I will help with the legal process but also with finding good child care.” “I put the “family” back into Family Law”.

Which “attorney” is going to be selected by the consumer? I suggest that even if I am getting a divorce and I don’t have children I want to hire the person who "...put family back into Family Law.” Because it shows me that this attorney is special and connects to the reality of the consumer’s situation. Good “branding” confronts the negative view of attorneys, the negative “expectation” of the experience, and overcomes it.

Nothing is going to stop the constant and steady wave of commoditization of legal services, but you can build a “business” strategy boat to ride the wave. The most important element to branding is having a firm understanding that “you” are the product and “you have to understand the product”. Micro to big law, all the same.

What is “special” about you? What “capacity” do you have that makes you stand apart? What “voice” do you have that would connect with your perspective clients? How can you “activate” your brand to highlight your product? Even the smallest steps are steps on the right path.