MEDIATIONS ON MONOCHROME
With a reputation built on strong personalities and a human face, law firm Kasowitz updated its digital assets to eschew traditional perceptions of legal practice. Melina Thalassinou reports on its new website and digital strategy
Challenge: The times when a brand was as good as its word of mouth reputation are long gone. In today’s business environment, a company’s digital presence can easily make or break its brand. For New York-based law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres, the disconnects between its own personality and people’s perceptions of it, versus the digital message it was portraying, were huge. With a virtually non-existent digital presence and an outdated website, Kasowitz was due its first rebrand since its establishment in 1993.
According to Emily Thall, director of business development and marketing at Kasowitz, branding agency Living Group approached Kasowitz at the right time. Kasowitz wanted to find an agency that would not stick to clichés and would be able to differentiate Kasowitz’s brand from its competitors. Being a small firm, Kasowitz comes to decisions relatively quickly, and Thall says Kasowitz and Living Group could see eye to eye. “We felt like Living Group was operating at our speed,” she says. What started out as a rebrand for the website, later became a brand challenge as well. Thall says, “We were focusing on the website as the driver and then, moving from there, into other pieces of marketing collateral, like our pitch materials which we are actually tweaking now.”
The objective was to align what the firm was like externally – its reputation – with the brand, its visual identity, its messaging and its proposition, all of which were pretty much non-existent. “It was what we describe as the ‘brand gap,’ which in the business was quite huge,” Duncan Shaw, executive creative director at Living Group, says.
Strategy: Kasowitz and Living Group began with a series of workshops in New York to determine the approach for the task of rebranding. “There were brand and digital workshops with everybody from across the firm. We had a lot of people there, who were talking to clients on a day-to-day basis, so they had a clear understanding of what the clients need,” Shaw says.
The research that junior staff members, who were new to the firm and potentially the future of the business, wanted a more dynamic brand. There were five words that came up time and time again and became the foundation of Kasowitz’s brand and digital strategy: creative, relentless, aggressive, pioneering and commercial.
Those five words were used as a point of reference for the architecture of the new website. Shaw says, “Kasowitz identified five competitors and we have a propriety research called ‘Living Ratings,’ through which we gave a rating analysis for each of those competitors. That enabled us to really identify the brand gap and clarify where they need to be and what they need to do different from their competitors, while also matching the ethos of the brand.”
The key driver was to differentiate Kasowitz’s brand from any other law firm and to create a digital product that matched its unique personality. “What’s different about us is that we are largely a litigation firm. We don’t do all things for all clients and this is where some firms struggle to differentiate themselves. We are extremely focused on being excellent trial lawyers,” says Thall.
To achieve Kasowitz’s goal, Living Group came up with a brand that relies heavily on photography and film. Shaw says, “Kasowitz’s lawyers are almost like actors; very eloquent and great in front of people. In the workshops, we realised this, and it became a key part of the strategy to focus on them. We created something that conveys the creative, relentless, aggressive, pioneering and commercial feel, which is this very strong, black and white, short and choppy film with a very strong base behind it.”
Results: High quality, sharp photography and stark film were the final products of the digital rebrand. A script in a question and answer format – written by Shaw – was not shared with the lawyers upfront, so the film could come across as naturally as possible. The two-day shoot took place in Kasowitz’s New York offices.
“We filmed them for 20-25 minutes, asking them questions and then we moved them next door to have their portrait photography done. The film crew was from New York, but the production team was from London. Then it got to editing,” says Shaw. The videos are a big departure from the videos clients typically come across in the industry, “We wanted something that looked different and grabbed people’s attention,” Thall says. According to Shaw, people are a law firm’s brand, and that’s why people became the focal point of the videos. “Shooting in a black and white, bold, slightly aggressive way was deliberate.”
The black and white approach, with accents of colours only when necessary, was used to announce that these guys mean business. It has powerful cut through online. Furthermore, in the main brand film, everyone talks to the camera; in another film, no one talks directly to camera. Shaw says, “That was the skill of my production team, my editing team, who came up with that suggestion, which I think is incredibly powerful and unexpected.”
The redesigned website offers easy navigation without sacrificing its aesthetic quality. It carries through the monochrome theme, with accents of vibrant shades of orange, green and blue only peeking through to differentiate the various sections of the website. The videos, also in black and white, can be seen across the website’ homepage, while the choice of impactful music, captures the viewer from the very first seconds.
The new digital brand for Kasowitz dares to be different despite the risk-averse culture of the industry, standing out from its competitors and marking a new chapter for its future. The web redesign, films and photography have helped to close the gap between the real and visual identities of the brand, now reflecting exactly what Kasowitz is all about: charismatic lawyers who do their best to defend clients.