A friend told me recently that if she listened to her lawyers on a new product launch, the packaging would be blank.
Marketing and legal are often the functions with the greatest friction. A legal review of an idea is akin to running the gauntlet. There is inevitably risk in any idea. Removing the risk entirely can sand the edges off the idea.
Yet much of this tension is a result of how the relationship is set up. I recently talked to a brand manager for Axe (known as Lynx in Europe). Axe puts out some of the most risqué creative of any mainstream brand. And it does it from within Unilever.
I asked him how they got their more controversial ideas (like this bawdy video for the Axe Detailer) past their legal department. He said that the key was in having the legal department help create the ideas in the first place. He tried to get the lawyers to think of themselves as marketers on the marketing team. In helping originate the ideas, they came to the work with greater enthusiasm.
To bring across this mindset change, he brought them the ideas as rough sketches, not final concepts. Rather than simply identify risks, the lawyers brought solutions to mitigate them. They helped move the idea forward. This included guidance in the creative execution as well as contingency plans for different types of potential backlash.
Enlisting the legal department as part of the marketing department sets them up, not to critique, but to create.
As an epilogue, an in-house attorney named Bob sent me an email with an alternate version of the legal/marketing dynamic from his perspective. It cracked me up, so I sketched this too. I think both points of view are funny…