FRIDAY 22 MAR 2019 12:27 PM

BLACK, WHITE AND BOLD

American litigation firm Kasowitz Benson Torres worked with Living Group on a radical, bold and striking approach to brand, content and digital communications. Why did it take home the ‘Grand prix’ award at the 2019 Corporate Content Awards?

Over the past year it has won 19 awards, including two major titles. It has unveiled an industry-leading approach to digital branding and it has changed the outlook for one firm with a distinctive personality. Living Group’s rebrand of American litigation firm Kasowitz Benson Torres is not an everyday kind of law firm rebrand – co-founder and executive creative director of Living Group Duncan Shaw says as much – but that’s what makes it all the more magical.

What was apparent from almost the beginning of the project, though, was that the firm needed a fresh approach to content. Because of the often high-profile and public nature of many of the litigation cases in the United States, this mean’t that there were stories the firm could tell.

But, that strategy meant going against the norm. Shaw says, “Only 18% of the top 100 law firms have any case studies on their websites. For an industry obsessed with evidence, there’s a lack of evidence, which I find quite alarming.” Living Group, which examines the most successful communicators among the global legal landscape in its Living Ratings research, understood the space Kasowitz could occupy to help differentiate it from its competitors. It did so partially by sharing cases and case studies from the Kasowitz annals.

That helped clarify the firm’s positioning as trial-ready lawyers who are aggressive, creative and relentless. Those values became the basis for the brand’s positioning and, in turn, all of its content. The other aspect that helped shape the content and brand strategies was that Kasowitz was not a firm with reams of thought leadership, unlike most of its compatriots. That meant it had a streamlined digital footprint, which could have resulted in a sparse brand.

But Living Group jumped on the opportunity by using expertly designed content in lieu of thought leadership. “We had to make do with what we had and make the most of it,” Shaw says. “That evidence around case studies and bringing the partners to the fore in a way that was quite unusual for a law firm were key parts of our strategy.”

The ways in which this was expressed visually were through a commitment to imagery that reflected the brand positioning, the implementation of punchy, aggressive partner-led films and a redevelopment of the firm’s visual identity. A new wordmark was rendered in monochrome with strategic cut-outs exemplifying a razor-sharp approach to litigation. The monochrome theme was extended across the site, with minimal splashes of yellow, and new partner photographs taken.

Living Group also developed an image library of licence-free photography that blends beauty with the brand’s three core values – aggression, relentlessness and creativity. “There’s a picture of a rose thorn which looks absolutely beautiful,” Shaw says, “But you wouldn’t want to touch it. That’s the essence of what we wanted to get across.” The carefully curated image library allowed for a more distinctive website, but also for clearer social media communications. The legal sector is rife with retweets, repurposed content and nonproprietary imagery. Kasowitz is now equipped to control its social expression more rigidly, resulting in consistency of content, but also ensuring that only its own content is shared through its channels.

The site is now also home to four impactful brand films that depict the firm’s partners speaking to camera about the firm and its positioning. The unscripted content was so successful because of the extensive research taken by Living Group and the trial-ready nature of the litigators themselves. Almost made for the camera, the partners communicate the brand’s positioning in little more than 30 seconds. One of the Corporate Content Awards judges said the films were assertive, aggressive, “totally unapologetic and absolutely attention grabbing!”

Judges also exemplified the somewhat polarising feel to the rebrand. “It’s not everyone’s cup of tea and we recognise that,” says Shaw. But it was never intended to be. Because of the nature of the brand itself, any capable rebrand would be at once intriguing and repellent. Many judges were put off by the aggression, confidence and striking visual style, but nonetheless rated it highly; higher than every other entry, in fact. Kasowitz and Living Group took home the ‘Grand prix’ award at the 2019 Corporate Content Awards.

One judge said, “The visual property is very strong. The work done is impressive. Fresh, combative, modern, young and skilled. I'm impressed by the boldness and the braveness. Just like a lawyer should be.” Another said, “Good visual representation of a very particular – and, in many ways unusual – legal brand identity. Some of the applications appear high risk on first reflection, but seemingly serve to support business objectives
and positioning. Definitely striking – and with a serious 'wow' factor.”

The impact the new approach had internally yielded similar results. Almost universally embraced by the firm’s young partners, and strongly supported by most others, there have been a few holdouts. For the more traditional lawyers who are used to the thought leadership approach that has led to a blandness across the sector, the change has been uncomfortable. But, because of the project’s success across numerous awards programmes, including Communicate’s Digital Impact Awards and the Transform Awards North America, where it took home the ‘Best overall visual identity’ prize, the marketing team has found it easier to start converting those holdouts to brand advocates.

And the brand is still evolving, with new imagery, film and business growth encouraging change across 2019.
But the core of the brand – its firm positioning and its striking, unique approach to content – will ensure its continued success.

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