The most recent episode of Better Call Saul, “Amarillo,” contains more important lessons about legal marketing than you could learn in a few hours with a traditional textbook.
If you’re unfamiliar with the series, it explores the early legal career of attorney Saul Goodman from Breaking Bad, a corrupt lawyer who helps his client launder the proceeds of his crystal meth operation. Better Call Saul shows how Goodman started out in a promising career at a reputable, prestigious firm.
In the Amarillo episode, Goodman (known by his real name, Jimmy McGill) wants to produce an advertisement to attract elderly clients who have been ripped off by their care homes. He watches the firm’s previous attempts at TV advertising, approved by the partners, which consist of screeds of text shown over a conservative swirling blue background. He thinks he can do better.
Goodman/McGill makes his own advert: a lonely old lady in a rocking chair who has been overcharged by her care home, followed by a simple message to call a number for legal help. The telephone switchboard is soon buzzing with calls.
What can we learn from this?
The simpler the better
You have seconds to grab a customer’s attention, whatever the medium. The ad designed by a committee of partners was crammed with information and lacked any clear message. The language was too complex and the overall message was too hard to understand. Unless you actually say something to your audience, it’s a waste of time and money.
People respond to emotion
Goodman’s ad pinged the heartstrings with sorrowful footage of an old lady, which was definitely overplaying the emotional quotient, but in general marketing needs to take feelings into account. Your clients are scared for their business, worried about the future, happy about opportunities, reassured that you are helping them; appealing to emotions makes you memorable and persuasive.
Images are powerful
Our brains are wired to respond to pictures more than to text, particularly if the picture is of a relatable person. The law firm’s ad assumed that the audience would respond to abstract words on a screen. In fact, people respond to images, graphs and testimonials.
Choice of channels and schedule is crucial
Goodman knows his target market: the old people enjoy watching a detective show then a game show in the afternoon, with an ad break in between. He knows this is the best time to reach his audience, so screens the ad in this window. This is vital to its success.
Of course, there are many lessons from Saul Goodman that UK lawyers would be advised to disregard. Even if British legal practitioners were allowed to use the garish advertising permitted to their transatlantic counterparts, Goodman’s ethics are rotten. He’d send a compliance department into meltdown in minutes.
On the other hand, the Amarillo episode contains a useful illustration of where legal marketing often goes wrong; being too staid, reserved and complicated. It also indicates how it can be done better, with clear messaging, vivid illustration and a sophisticated understanding of the prospective client’s needs, preferences and habits.
Is your legal marketing in need of a refresh? Why not talk to M2 about how we can help?Ben Hollom
March 9, 2016