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2020 Top Legal Innovations: “1990” brand-recognition campaign

Husch Blackwell

Steve Dunn

Steve Dunn

From DOS computers to flip phones, the iconic imagery of 1990s America has returned for one Missouri law firm.

“I was telling someone jokingly that anytime you can do an advertisement for attorneys that uses Hacky Sacks and scrunchies, I think that’s a win,” said Steve Dunn, a strategist with Husch Blackwell.

The retro visuals are part of a striking publicity campaign designed to highlight the need to maintain an evolving perspective on real estate. The idea had its genesis in a luncheon at which Husch Blackwell executives were looking for the best way to communicate that fact with clients.

“It just hit us all like a bolt of lightning,” Dunn recalled. “You have your top three expenses — people, technology and real estate — and you wouldn’t manage your people and technology like you did 30 years ago. So why are you managing your real estate the same way, which many companies are [doing]? It just really kind of caught fire from that point.”

David Linenbroker

David Linenbroker

The campaign employs visual images drawn from the 1990s, including DOS desktop computers, a video game controller, VHS tapes, a Walkman, hair-tie scrunchies and other items. Partners Melissa Smith-Groff and David Linenbroker, co-chairs of the firm’s corporate real estate practice group, said it was designed to dramatize a shift to a more dynamic perception of how to view real estate management that clients might not even be thinking about.

“The campaign was really just highlighting something that we’ve been doing and what we see our clients doing,” said Smith-Groff. “Really, if they’re not doing it, they should be.”

Linenbroker said the impetus for the initiative came out of a survey of clients, which found that some were not being especially proactive when it came to such matters. Even very large companies were simply handling things by hiring service providers on a piecemeal basis.

“If you were not positioned to take a broad view of your portfolio and manage it with a team of advisors who understand your whole portfolio,” he said, “you are probably missing a lot of the opportunities that are created by circumstances like this in terms of going to your landlords and negotiating savings on your leases or terminating leases.”

Melissa Smith-Groff

Melissa Smith-Groff

Husch Blackwell wanted to emphasize that the firm could add value by being on the lookout for trends and opportunities in a way that made their clients’ business decisions less reactionary, Smith-Groff said.

“I am also seeing clients coming to us because what they’re wanting to do is plan for the future, based off what they have existing,” she said, “and they’re leveraging our market knowledge and our experience to figure out how they can take advantage of the current circumstances, whether it is office, retail or what have you.”

The campaign, which has included social media, digital and print, began in September and is expected to continue for the next few months. Dunn said a white paper on the topic also is planned, noting that the clickthrough rates on the ads are impressive.

“From a marketing and creative standpoint, we certainly wanted to approach the market differently in a way that had a message and narrative that would resonate and also that would grab attention,” he said.

Missouri Lawyers Media

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