Re-branding of patent attorney firms: stories from the trenches

I don’t have any issue with re-branding.  Brands become tired and, more problematically, old-fashioned.  They cease to engage the hearts and minds of the market and as importantly, of their staff.  They need to be updated!

So what is one to do?  Re-brand of course.  Well, I have been through four re-brandings during my time as a senior member of the profession and from my perspective the amount of banal self-indulgent navel gazing which is inevitably involved is in no way reflective of the end result which could quite often be decided by a single person with a few ounces of common sense and access to a competent graphic designer.

Instead, what is is often involved is an interminable process where every member of staff is engaged in endless working groups to discuss limited options provided to them by an expensive consultant.  I assume the intention is to engage the staff and get them behind the firm by giving them an illusion of choice…

Cynical, maybe….

Anyway, I have a few war stories which I find funny…

The first is a firm which had a triple barrelled name composed of the surnames of three of its founding/contributory partners linked by “and” (as in “surname” “different surname” and “another surname”) where the “and” was represented by an ampersand (like so: &).  As part of the re-branding process, the firm decided to focus on the ampersand as a convenient symbol and making it prominent on all promotional collateral (letterhead etc).  The upshot:  in the next re-brand, the ampersand, and the “and” disappeared entirely from the name.

The second was a very large law firm that had already lost the “and” from their triple barrelled surname name but had realised that nobody in the market was using the third name to identify the firm.  After a lengthy process of impassioned debate amongst multiple working groups each comprising staff from multiple levels of the firm (partners, lawyers, patent attorneys, support services and admin), the decision was made to lose the third name. Within a few years, this firm was merged with an international firm that had only a single name as part of its brand.  A lesson in efficiency (?).

The third was a firm that had a single name followed by “& Co”.  This was seen as old-fashioned and after a protracted process the gut wrenching decision to remove the “& Co” was taken.  To help overseas firms recognise that even though this drastic change of name had been undertaken, they weren’t corresponding with a completely different firm, a decision was made to educate the market.  Emphatic collateral was sent out emphasising the tag line:  “New Name:  Same Old Firm” or was it “New Name:  Same Great Firm” … I can’t remember…  Clear enough you would have thought!  However, at least one of the overseas firms, failing to recognise that removing the “& Co” was the point of the re-brand, assumed that the new name was actually “Same Old Firm” and changed the name in their records accordingly.

The fourth, well the fourth was a bit of a rush job where the firm, an affiliate of a much larger firm, lost the right to use the larger firm’s name and needed to re-brand fast.  The end result wasn’t bad, although you may well get them confused with the financial planners association if you are in a hurry.

So, was there a point to this blog , I don’t know really.  The re-branding process appears to roll out consistently in every case, so what would I know!  I guess one silver lining to the re-branding process is that you come up with a brand that is different from other firms.  The same, sadly, cannot be said about a firm’s values which tend to line up with absolute consistency across all patent attorney firms (and probably all professional services firms).  But we can discuss this some other time.


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