There is no set precedent for dealing with a brand strategy after an acquisition, common sense needs to be the main driver. However, inextricably linking the brand strategy with the business strategy increases the likelihood of a successful merger of the businesses.
The following are some branding principles that are worth considering:
- Corporate branding is ultimately about reducing the risk of purchase decisions and providing credibility, trust and confidence.
- Corporate brands are effectively owned by the perceptions of customers and not by the company, it’s important to know what these perceptions are.
- Everyone in the business needs to have the ‘brand mind set’ – they need to know who the company is, where it’s going and what needs to be done to get there.
- Changing the name and logo are meaningless gestures without a purpose.
- Consistency is critical in all engagement with customers and the market.
- Corporate brands need managing.
Research shows that in many cases the brand strategy only receives serious attention after the acquisition is complete and the brand issues become part of a post-acquisition ‘clean-up’. We should try and avoid this as it could harm staff morale and confuse customers.
Deciding the right identity post acquisition can be done by creating a new name, assuming the name of one company or maintaining both names together or separately.
This approach indicates the future direction and who owns the customer relationships.
Below are the benefits and challenges this transition strategy can have:
Before the acquisition is completed it will be worth considering the following;
- Name of the acquired brand
- Logo design
- Do we change corporate colours?
- Can we get input from customers?
- Plan and prepare messaging to all external stakeholders – customers, press, market etc.
- Plan and prepare internal messaging to all employees – sell the brand internally
- Future marketing structure
- Establish how we create uniformity when promoting the aquired brand services during the transition period to customers and their market
- Establish how we promote any additional services to existing/potential customers
- Establish how and when we merge the marketing function of the two companies
It is worth mentioning that all messaging, both internal and external, must focus on the positive impact the acquisition will have for both sets of customers and employees.
In many brand acquisitions the internal marketing is done poorly. Employees may be kept informed about the company’s strategy but they actually need to be convinced by the value and power of the new brand – this is what unifies and inspires and makes them great brand ambassadors.
- Inform the acquired company’s customers/potential customers of the changes and benefits of the acquisition
- Inform the acquiring company’s customers of the acquisition and benefits
- Implement agreed identity changes across the various brand assets – online and offline
- Communicate the agreed messaging across all channels – websites, e-news, social media, press, employees
- Continuous and appropriate communication which keeps customers and employees informed and expectations managed
- Identify brand ambassadors to help with communication and integration
- Measure and share feedback
- Launch event
- Eventually transition the identities into the acquiring company brand
- Transition the marketing function of the acquired company