Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Staying Inside the Creative Box

Being creative at a law firm is a tall order. It is nice to think about doing all kinds of cool stuff "outside the box" yet law firms are most successful because they're bastions of order and reason...

...So I am talking to a new artist engaged to work on my branding project and trying to describe that I'd like to see creative that is edgy (we're working on advertising layouts) but it has to remain "boxable" (are you still with me?). I can only fall back on my theory of people being a herd animal, similar, but not like, sheep. I grew up around ranching so all of this makes sense to me.

Sheep in a sheep-pen cluster. In any space, without regard to its size, sheep stick together, like in box "A" to the right. At some point all of the sheep have visited every part of their pen and know that all of its confines are safe; Yet they do not spread out over all parts of the pen. They cluster together because safety is only complete when they are part of the herd.

The creative ebbs of law firm marketing are similar. At some point all of the different tactics and efforts are visited, but it seems that at any point only certain tactics are "safe" even when other approaches, at different times, have also been successful. When the herd moves (see box "B") it moves as one. So too move the marketing tactics and creative approaches taken by most law firms.

So, to be different, it is not necessary to be "outside the box", but to simply occupy a different part of an already safe space where the herd is not (have I lost you already?).

Example: I came across a printed announcement from my firm circa 1955 announcing the formation of, at that time, the latest iteration of the partnership. My first thought was, "this is really elegant and GOOD. Nobody does it like this anymore." My next thought was, "Why not?" Soooo, from inside a safe and proven box guess what my announcements will look like? Of course the announcements will tie neatly into my branding program, but we're going to have a bit of retro going on.

My point is that finding great and wonderful creative to accomplish differentiation might only require traveling as far as "C". Being different does not require us to do only those things that have never been done before. We need only to do those things that others are not doing right now.