Cassels new brand is legal counsel with a cup of coffee

Who: Cassels (formerly Cassels Brock) with London, Ont. creative agency adHome.

What: A rebranding and ad campaign for the 130-year old corporate law firm with a goal of seeming, well, less like a 130-year-old corporate law firm.

When & Where: The new branding was unveiled in late October. An ad campaign is in market now until the end of December, targeting mostly corporate legal counsel and business leaders in print (The Globe and Mail, ROB and Lexpert), digital screens in airport lounges, online including retargeted display, and sponsored LinkedIn newsfeed posts.

Why: The change began a couple of years ago, with senior leadership reviewing the brand in a contemporary context. “We just really recognized that the brand itself didn’t reflect our current client experience,” said Peter Wismath, director of business development and marketing at Cassels. That realization triggered the kind of introspection that any rebranding should. It wasn’t just about changing logos and brand colours, said Wismath. “It very quickly became an exercise of saying look, what do we actually stand for?”

And what was that? More than just being a leading legal firm with high quality lawyers. “There are lots of firms that do a good job of what they do,” he said. To attract and retain clients and land top legal talent that retains clients, you have to be more than that. “Top quality legal talent is not looking for the same things they were looking for 25 or 30 years ago. They’re looking to be part of a progressive firm,” he said.

“Are you reflecting what’s happening in society? Are you investing in communities or corporate responsibility or environmental initiatives? Your brand isn’t just about good legal work. It’s about being an actual pillar of community on a broad base.”

How: Going with the shorter name was a first and obvious step, said Wismath. Cassels is what most people called it anyway. But the larger communications strategy—to seem more progressive—was to make the brand more about clients and less about lawyers. “The focus for the campaign is that at Cassels you have our undivided attention,” said Wismath. Rather than shelves of legal books or lots (and lots) of copy, Cassels’ advertising features cups of coffee, with an updated website—see the old (left) vs. new site (right) below. “The idea is this marriage of professionalism and accomplishment, with genuine people you want to sit across the table from, actually have a conversation about the success of their business,” said Wismath.

Anything else: To introduce the new branding to employees, everyone got a gift box (which was reusable) with branded items, including a YETI mug, metal straw, and card describing the new brand—all meant to convey that Cassels is invested not only in its clients’ success, but also in its people and the firm’s culture.

And we quote: “You want to be seen as having years of legacy—so when people phone up with some sort of a legal problem, you can solve it because you’ve got all this experience—[but] we’re not just about 130 years of legacy. So it’s kind of that in-between pivot, and it is a real challenge to find the right messaging to marry those two,” said Wismath.


David Brown