Within the realm of post-merger branding, CEOs and marketing heads face challenges beyond the financial. Read on to uncover the indispensable role of branding during M&A success and explore strategic approaches to guide your brand through a seamless evolution.
Initiating a creative brand project as a consequence of an M&A or a sudden ‘forced’ rebrand needs careful consideration, starting with establishing very clear objectives.
Mention a merger or acquisition and what springs to mind? Most commonly, it’s the financial value of the business in question. An M&A decision is generally commercially driven: be it to gain market share, eliminate a competitor, take hold in a new market or diversify.
According to EY, M&A transactions are a fast-track way of achieving transformation. In their latest report, Global Capital Confidence Barometer (March 2020), they reveal that despite the COVID-19 crisis, more than 54% of CEOs still expect to actively pursue merger or acquisition activity this year, with stressed companies struggling to survive and confident investors ready to seize upon the opportunities.
As finance teams pour over the accounts and sales projections to carefully assess past performance and future revenue potential, they often fail to grasp that the most valuable assets of many companies are the intangible components. They don’t sit on the balance sheet but do directly contribute to the bottom line. These elements comprise the often misunderstood and undervalued area of Brand.
A target company’s brand is often a critical factor in its attractiveness to management, shareholders and investors. But the brand is often overlooked or glossed over in M&A situations, as an awkward addendum to the financially led process. Initiating a creative brand project as a consequence of an M&A or a sudden ‘forced’ rebrand needs careful consideration, starting with establishing very clear objectives.
Ignore the brand at your risk! Perceived as something hard to put a finger on, it’s an asset to be embraced as a critical part of the M&A process. Managing it effectively and efficiently by those who understand all aspects during the transition, should not be underestimated.
'Initiating a creative brand project as a consequence of an M&A or a sudden ‘forced’ rebrand needs very careful consideration and this starts with establishing very clear M&A objectives.'
There are tangible and intangible aspects to every brand. All tangible assets have to be identified, quantified and where possible, valued in detail. The most obvious assets are the physical and digital manifestations of your brand, expressed in any number of ways: signage, buildings, places, uniforms, stationery, vehicles, online and mobile presence, etc. All of these are reasonably easy to identify, quantify and value.
Then there are the intellectual aspects of your brand, which include: positioning (vision, values, purpose), brand identity (logo, fonts, colours, patterns, photography) and other creative assets (narrative, tone of voice, strapline, key communication messages). These are usually outlined and documented in brand guidelines, which describe and specify the details of all relevant brand touchpoints.
The intangible aspects are harder to pin down. For example, a brand’s reputation amongst its customers, suppliers and employees is the sum of all the emotional and perceived interactions that they have had with it, in the form of products, services and the organisation itself.
Beyond tangible assets lie the heartbeat of your brand—the intangible essence formed through emotional interactions. It's not just about logos; it's the narrative, reputation, and emotional resonance that define your brand's true worth.
Decisions relating to a merger or acquisition can be very complex. What’s critical to remember is that a brand and business strategy are inseparable, with future success reliant upon selecting an appropriate model for managing the brand’s key M&A objectives.
Any board or executive team tasked with implementing a merger or acquisition has several options when it comes to managing the brand. These range from the most conservative – doing nothing, to the most radical – developing a completely new brand. Several alternative possibilities bridge the gap on the ‘evolutionary to revolutionary’ scale.
First, assess and analyse the existing equity of the two brands and decide if there are synergies and benefits to be enhanced in merging them. Or, could this change result in immediate or long-term damage to the business? For example, if an acquisition is a means of removing a key competitor from the market, then it would make little sense to keep that brand alive. However, if the company is being targeted precisely because its brand appeals to a new and desirable set of customers, it would seem self-defeating to lose that brand and the means for its customers to recognize its value.
'Decisions relating to a merger or acquisition can be very complex. What’s critical to remember is that a brand and business strategy are inseparable, with future success reliant upon selecting an appropriate model for managing the brand’s key M&A objectives.'
Choosing to do nothing to your brand during M&As maintains both the equilibrium of equally strong brands and minimises initial changes (and costs). However, it may spark concerns about missed synergies and lead to questions about the merger's benefits.
Engaging your employees within your existing and new business, whichever part of it they work in, is critical to aligning your practices with your vision. Each day, it’s they who deliver products and services to the customer and help create a positive relationship and experience.
From a purely financial perspective, HR costs make up a substantial piece of the pie and may even be the biggest cost in a service-driven business. It therefore makes sense that employees are engaged positively in the change and are consulted and included in key considerations.
To do this, they need clear roles and purpose within the change, they need to be ambassadors, equipped with the tools and knowledge to perform their roles in a way that supports the business. It’s natural to feel apprehensive about change, so being included in the process and being active in it helps develop confidence and leadership, which transmits to colleagues and others who experience the brand.
'Engaging your employees within your existing and new business, whichever part of it they work in, is critical to aligning your practices with your vision. Each day, it’s they who deliver products and services to the customer and help create a positive relationship and experience.'
Having the right management team involved during the earliest discussions regarding an M&A is vital to defining the path to success. Financial teams are important but so too are Brand and Marcomms specialists, in addition to Legal, HR and IT.
Planning an appropriate brand strategy requires thinking far beyond the transfer of ownership. How your customers and other stakeholders will perceive your new venture, needs careful consideration – so take time to consider the advantages, relevance and pitfalls of each approach.
Your current and future teams will ultimately make or break your plans, so including representatives early in the process to gauge and test your ideas could avoid future setbacks. Regular consultations during your engagement plan build-up will help the transition with a higher chance of success.
Our team of rebrand specialists is on hand to help with your rebrand, from strategy through to implementation. Contact us for an initial no-obligation chat.