To Be Fit For The Future Professional Services Need To Leapfrog To Emotive Branding

Professional services like law firms would do well to move beyond the rudimentary basics of branding such as identities, symbols and colors, according to a recent blog post on

We couldn’t agree more.

Like all businesses, professional firms face a challenging future with hyper-competition, commoditized knowledge and accelerating change all looming on the horizon. These firms clearly need to get fit for the future – and  their preparedness plan needs to include a major tune-up for their brands.

However, we believe professional firms need to also leapfrog over the traditionally time-consuming, expensive and inwardly-focused branding approaches and go straight for the meaningful outcome offered by emotive branding.

Here’s why:

  • Becoming fit for the future is about connecting more meaningfully to people today.
  • People – be they clients, partners or support staff – are today seeking new levels of meaning in the ideas they embrace, the firms they engage and the practices they choose to join.
  • People will rally behind brands with a clearly articulated meaningful ambition.
  • People will forge close bonds with brands that touch them emotionally.
  • Firms that bring people along, through shared ambition by consistently evoking appealing emotions, will prevail over firms that settle for traditional branding. 

Emotive branding is the practice of using positive emotions to create meaningful change in the way people inside and outside the business think, feel and act.

Through a relatively quick process, we uncover the meaning lying dormant in your law firm right now. We then determine how to change the way you do business now to convey the right meaning and to evoke appropriate emotions. This “master plan for meaning” becomes the platform for your brand and your culture.

From the way your brand presence is managed, to the spirit of your workplace, emotive branding will help your business thrive today as it makes your firm fit for the future.




Comments (7)

  1. There’s one fatal flaw in your sales pitch – not all people respond equally well to emotive appeals and, in the professional services space in particular, emotion at the expense of professionalism and clarity may well undermine the firm rather than promote it. Researchers Blair Kidwell and colleagues writing in the Journal of Consumer Research in June 2008 were able to demonstrate that individuals with higher levels of what they termed “Emotional Intelligence” (EI) were found to make better choices than those with lower levels of can find an overview of their work here:…In summary, higher EI people were able to choose the best product despite the influence of branding. Individuals with lower EI were too heavily persuaded by brand information and were unable to resist the comfort of the well-known brands despite their inferior product attributes.That’s a significant advance in knowledge. But it does also demonstrate emotional appeal can be a bit to a two way street.My suggestion to law firms is that there’s no one fits all solution, but overly emotive appeals at the heart of your brand positioning would be a potentially risky move.For those looking for more quality driven positioning, a more standard (yet still excellent) approach might be more sensible.Here’s a very good law brand positioning project that will help illustrate my point (which I suspect wasn’t time-consuming, expensive or an inwardly-focused branding approach!!!):'s world-class brand and design work, it doesn’t just talk to hi EI people, yet it clearly delivers strong positive differentiation. That’s a better space and way for quality-driven law firms to try and position themselves in my view.

  2. Thanks for your thoughtful and detailed comment.Now I suppose it is my job to convince you that what you refer to as our “fatal flaw” is actually our saving grace.First of all, let me say that we see a world of difference between brands that are highly emotional in ways that people can readily see through and what we refer to as “emotive brands”. Indeed, we’ve written on this topic before: “Five Differences Between Emotional and Emotive Brands” is curious to us why so many people respond to the idea of emotions – by getting so emotional.Some assume that when we speak of brands and emotions, we’re talking only about the extremes: tear-jerking brands that make people cry themselves to sleep or, conversely, life’s-a-party brands that make you die laughing.However, we have identified over 300 positive emotions that lie between those extremes. And we honestly believe that many of those can be used effectively by law firms and not, as you said, “at the expense of professionalism and clarity”.After all, emotions lie behind all our actions, thoughts and memories.For better or worse, there will always be an emotional connection between a law firm and the people vital to its success.We focus on the nature of that emotional connection. We argue that brands which set a meaningful goal for their emotional connection – and then work to consistently evoke a specific set of emotions – will be more valued by customers and staff today and be more fit to deal with the future.I invite you to consider what would happen if these feelings were the basis a law firm’s emotional intent: UnderstoodWiseThrivingI hope you will agree that these are not extreme emotions that would compromise a law firm’s professionalism. A commitment to actions which evoke emotions such as these evolves a law firm’s brand as the firm’s people approach their jobs and serve their clients more purposefully, and every touch point of the firm’s communications program is crafted more meaningfully.By subtly evoking emotions – rather than slamming people over the head with a hammer of extreme feelings – a law firm with an emotive brand becomes far more relevant and important both internally and externally.You say your advice to law firms is that “overly emotive appeals at the heart of your brand positioning would be a potentially risky move”. Our advice to law firms is to put meaning at the heart of their brands. By becoming an emotive brand and evoking credible and professional emotions, you will create stronger bonds between your brand, your staff and your clients With respect to your points about Emotional Intelligence, we firmly believe that our approach is a respectful and thoughtful way for brands to reach out to those whose “high emotional intelligence” make them resistant to the “influence of branding”.After all, since when wouldn’t smart, professional people with high emotional intelligence not want to feel “understood”, “wise” and “thriving”?

  3. Cheers Jerry, but you’ve clearly not read the research by Kidwell et al, it’s not at all about people being highly emotional, but about the fact that some people can respond to emotive appeals and others can’t (or are at least are far less able to). For the latter group your assumption that “emotions lie behind all our actions, thoughts and memories”, simply isn’t true. That’s your fatal flaw.I note neither your Blog, FB page or website seem to carry examples of your emotive brands in action, and neither the Blog nor your website have a particularly distinctive emotive appeal. Is not walking the talk intentional? Would love for you to post some projects you’ve worked on that show the influence your work has had on client brands.If I understand your final few comments correctly, that it’s important to put meaning at the heart of their brands, well no argument from me there – that’s simply just good old fashioned brand and marketing practice. Just like Saatchi’s so called Lovebrand methodology, I’m afraid your approach in that respect sounds little more than a repack of the same thing advertising agencies and brand consultants have been doing for several decades. Nothing more, nothing new. And one final comment, my response to your article wasn’t “getting emotional” as you seem to want to imply, it simply highlighted some quality independent research published in a leading international marketing journal that I’m afraid suggests your point of view may not be that well founded.

  4. I love when people challenge our thinking and you do a good job at it @everythingdesign — I for one am appreciative of your feedback. For context, we have worked with some of the top law firms in this country, and have won many awards for our work. Our client roster includes brands like: Gibson Dunn, UPS, MilerCoors, Zynga, McGuire Furniture, Kallista, Hanson Bridgett, Belkin — and they seem happy with our approach and obviously believe what we believe. Be sure to keep reading our blog and we hope you are able to understand more clearly what we believe. I will look forward to more commentary from you. For now, I suppose we will have to agree to disagree.

  5. Hi Tracy, a good reply. Thank you. If I could see your work in action doing what you say it does, then I think I’d be more convinced about the validity of your premise. With that in mind, could you please post a bit more of what you’ve done and how your emotion based brand strategy delivered great outcomes for your clients. Seeing is believing : )

  6. Thanks Tracy, nice to see some of your work. And there’s some really nice work there, well done… but from what I’ve seen (and I accept it’s a small slice only), it’s no more “emotive”, “engaging”, “compelling” or whatever other industry buzz word you might want to use than a lot of other good design work out there. Effective communication is what makes good design excellent and that’s what’s at the heart of what good design companies deliver for their clients. I would hope we share that belief at least! (and I’m sure we do).Glad we’ve linked up via Linkedin, I look forward to seeing your new website etc go live some time soon.All the best.John V

  7. Interesting discussion going on. I wish to give some further input and questions from our branding practice in Amsterdam. Seems we all agree on the power of emotional branding. And also on the observation that many professional services would do well moving beyond the rudimentary basics of branding.John V points to research indicating that people with high Emotional Intelligence were found to make ‘better’ choices than those with lower levels of Emotional Intelligence. In reply thereto I wish to point to recent fMRI research that indicates all human behavior starts with unconscious ’emotive’ brain processes. Thereafter our behavior (and preference) is post-rationalized. Earlier this year we have started cooperation with Prof Victor Lamme on measuring and interpreting brain activity in function of branded stimuli. Read about this scientific work on it be that all humans are highly receptive to emotive stimulus and that only certain people are ‘better’ in post-rationalizing?Back to professional services firms. I believe that a highly emotive branding strategy which includes sufficient rational elements to allow for ‘post-rationalization’ is most effective for all brands. John V, wouldn’t such a strategy be effective for people with both low and high EI?Alexander KoeneBR-ND | The brand appeal

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