In professional services, it used to be verboten to have a multi-dimensional brand identity.
The mandate was to carefully develop the business' branding because that would be forever.
It was assumed that it was very difficult to change a brand since prospects would become confused and clients might bolt. After all, branding had been invented in the 1930s by P&C to simplify choice for consumers. Ivory soap was this. If you want this, you will buy Ivory soap - and never switch.
One example is big accounting firm PwC. Globally, it has rolled out sophisticated ways of delivering legal services. Yes, PwC is presenting a threat around the world to traditional law firms.
The PwC edge in doing this is that it already knows the clients' business, inside out. The best way to serve the legal needs of a company is to have down cold everything about the business. After all, there is that old saying: The law firm won the trial but the company went bankrupt.
The reward is great for PwC. The risk is that it could be sued for malpractice in handling the legal transactions of a business. That goes high profile. Its accounting core competence could take a hit.
As for law firms, the reward seems great for Jones Day to seem to have access to the key players in the Trump Administration, extending from the White House to regulatory agencies. As many know, its former partner Don McGahn is the top lawyer in the White House. A number of other former Jones Day lawyers also have been hired into the Administration.
However, the risk is significant. If the Trump Administration implodes as had the Nixon one, the Jones Day brand could become broken. It could require years to restore.
On the level of solo and small-firm providers of professional services, "Mutt Branding" also is promising. I assumed it would be major risk to fuse my communications services with my coaching for those over-50 services. After all they represented two different kinds of brands.
But, once out there, the fused identities reinforced each other. For instance, the coaching niche demonstrated to those needing sensitive editing that I had the Emotional Intelligence to manage that. Also, the coaching opened the door to the growing demand for creating bite-sized engaging content for online instruction.
The risk was embedded in how I handled sales calls. One I blew. It was an interview with an outplacement firm for a coach for aging professionals. In the process I brought up my communications expertise. Yes, I said, I could assist with their marketing materials.
Immediately, the conversation went south. I concluded two things. My two-fold branding confused the prospects. In addition, my offer to redo their promotional content could have implied a criticism of what they had already done.
Takeaway: The potential reward for moving beyond one's current branding is great. In contrast, the risk seems small. "Mutt Branding" can be a tool for differentiating a business. My enterprise has migrated from being in a glut category to a high-growth one.
Contact Jane Genova firstname.lastname@example.org.