Original blog can be found at https://ihearyoubarking.com/2021/03/13/marketing-madness-how-to-navigate-attorney-advertising-in-2021/ this is an update to that blog post.
There is a lot of fancy marketing out there that makes no sense when you think about it and people are fooled by it every day. While it is extremely prevalent in food products, the legal profession is not too far behind. Here is some of that food-for-thought.
Let me explain the insinuation-juxtapositioning that occurs when advertisers insert specific words into the advertisement that are designed to invoke a certain set of thoughts without explaining the terms or their context and let the consumer’s mind interpret the insinuation without further comment. It is a nasty trick that has been going on for years. Throwing out a few words or catch phrases that invoke a specific thought and then connect that notion to the object or service. In 99.9% of the time the consumer or reader is left to define the terms or phrase on their own without any guidance.
Right? So what does that mean… marketing 101. As long as the statement is marginally true, somewhere on the planet then… buyer beware (and marginally is a term of art that is open to extremely loose interpretations of what it might actually mean to most people).
Take for instance, “farm fresh.” It is completely meaningless phrase. Nearly all the food you purchase comes from some type of farm (unless it was grown in a laboratory or caught at sea). So, it starts at an oh and one count. But, have you ever been to a real working farm? Farms are fresh alright, but most farms, even super clean ones, are filthy, gross, and smell bad. If you have ever been to a farm, you do not actually want what is at the farm on your plate right away, but maybe after it has been cleaned up or prepared. “Farm fresh” is supposed to imply that the food is somehow fresher, healthier than other options, but the term upon a little reflection is completely silly.
How about the phrase “thoughtful ingredients?” What the heck does that mean? Seriously, the seller put a lot of thought into the ingredients, or the ingredients were thoughtful and sent a sympathy card to a friend when her cat passed? This is another example of a nonsense term that has zero meaning. Maybe “thoughtful ingredients” means that the ingredients contemplate great ideas. I do not know, but “thoughtful ingredients” is supposed to mean that the seller/manufacturer did some research, introspection, and refection, and decided to use healthier ingredients in the creation of their product then someone else’s product or a previous iteration of their own product. Come to think of it – when you follow a recipe – all the ingredients are there by design and, therefore, by definition are “thoughtful ingredients,” but what do I know.
This same malarkey goes on all the time in legal advertising. For instance, many attorneys will advertise that they are “aggressive,” playing on some fear that you, the client, will be taken advantage of and they can swoop in and fight for you, aggressively. In fact, the ads go something like this: “we will aggressively represent you in your claim with the insurance companies because we are aggressive.” Think about the term “aggressive” for a second. This is not what anyone wants when dealing with anyone in any aspect of life (other than in an athletic competition or maybe a war). Period.
“Aggressive” is commonly defined as “ready or likely to attack or confront; characterized by or resulting from aggression.” The term also implies being forceful. Aggression, the root word, means “hostile or violent behavior or attitudes toward another; readiness to attack or confront; the action or an act of attacking without provocation; forceful and sometimes overly assertive pursuit of one’s aims and interests.”[i]
Who wants that in an attorney? And if you do, then you have not been paying attention. “Aggressive” typically refers to their attitude or manner in which they approach the case, but it does not define their skill or experience because the term aggressive cannot. Afterall, you cannot be aggressively good at your job (while you can be aggressive ignorant of the truth). Attorneys who have aggressive attitudes (sometimes referred to as “bulldogs” or “pit bulls”) are difficult to work with, prone to being obstinate, and usually turnoff everyone in the room in a bad way (including the people they are negotiating with on your behalf). It is one thing to be a “hard-nosed” litigator who stands their ground when they are required to, but it is another thing altogether to be difficult simply to be difficult (or aggressive). The idea of disagreeing without being disagreeable.
“Aggressive” also suggests “careless” or “reckless.” Do you want your doctor to be aggressive in assessing your cardiac situation? Or when performing surgery, do you want them to be aggressive in suturing up your wound or poking around your abdomen looking for your liver? While you might want them to “aggressively” attack the cancer in your body, you more than likely want them to be thoughtful and reserved in how they assess the situation. It stands that you would probably want them to reasonably execute their treatment plan for your diagnosis in a measured fashion. No one wants a reckless or careless professional working on anything of theirs. No one.
On the other hand, if you have been paying attention, the smart client wants an attorney who has accumulated the necessary skill and experience, that can accurately assess the client’s legal situation, formulate a thoughtful and comprehensive theory of the case (or defense) in terms of an executable plan, and has the savvy and the moxie to execute the plan for the client with the client’s goals and best interests at heart. The attorney must also be able to manage expectations and have the courage to tell a paying client the truth when the chances are all spent and their might better to pursue other options.
You also want an attorney with honor, courage, and integrity. You want an attorney that has the courage to tell you truth when it might convenient not to and look the other way. You want an attorney that is honest and has a strong moral compass and is not in it to make money off you. You want a champion who acts like a champion because he or she has honor, courage, and integrity to treat you with dignity, honor, and respect.
This is common sense, but you know what Mark Twain said about common sense, “I’ve found that common sense ain’t so common.” Again, food-for-thought. If this post accomplishes anything and makes you stop, pause, and reflect at attorney marketing before hiring an attorney blindly from their pop-up advertisements, then I have accomplished my purpose. Good luck. And happy hunting for your attorney.
Anthony Candela is the Trial Dog and a three-time Board-Certified criminal trial attorney. He opened the Candela Law Firm, P.A. in 2014 and handles criminal trials and appeals (as well as estate planning, wills, and trusts). He received his J.D. from Duquesne University School of Law in 2000 and his B.A. in Political Science from King’s College in 1996. As an expert in criminal law and procedure, he has tried over a hundred cases to verdict. Since 2008, he has been certified and recertified by the Florida Bar in Criminal Trial three times. He has also argued several dozen appeals. In the federal system, he is admitted to the Middle District of Florida and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal. #candelalawfirm #thetrialdog @candelalawfirm @thetrialdog
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No. 21-018 Marketing Madness: Update June 2021