Mergers & Acquisitions (Part 5): Brand Governance and How to Protect your Brand

Merging titans is no easy feat. The clash of cultures, product lines, and, most importantly, brands can send integration plummeting like a dropped IPO. In this final chapter of our M&A branding series, we unveil the secret weapon for a smooth transition: brand governance. Forget siloed marketing teams and haphazard messaging. We’re diving deep into the three pillars of effective brand governance that will transform your M&A from a potential quagmire into a value-generating powerhouse.

A robust Brand Governance approach is key to risk management, providing the framework to ensure that your brand continues to move forward and develop in the right way.

Discover the three key success factors:

  1. People
  2. Process
  3. Education

In part one of our series, we looked at Five Rebrand Strategies to help you define your joint brand goals. In part two we delved into the Creative Process of developing a new brand.

Part three covered Brand Engineering – a detailed look at the three key steps in preparing for your brand rollout. And part four examined the Brand Implementation process which sees the physical transformation take place.

From Brand Cop to Brand Steward

So much has already been written about the shift from ‘brand cop’ to ‘brand steward’ or ‘brand coach’ – a model that allows brands to be agile and responsive in today’s fast-moving environment.

For deeper insights, read Landor’s excellent article on the ‘Brand Community model’.

As far back as 2017 this new approach inspired our thinking – read how in this short article in Transform Magazine where we asked, “Does the new approach to brand governance impact on the practical implementation?”

Why This Shift?

  1. Brands are shaped by experience more than ever
  2. Detailed guidelines can become out of date as quickly as they are written
  3. There is so much user-generated content. Companies can no longer exert the same levels of control
  4. With lightning speed, anyone with access to the cut-and-paste function can easily publish branded content
  5. If you teach and inspire rather than tell, you achieve greater engagement
  6. It allows your brand to be more authentic, reflecting greater individuality whilst maintaining core brand values
  7. Cost savings by teams getting it right the first time

This is not to say that we are now amidst brand anarchy – far from it.

Litigation still exists but a good brand governance model will avert the need for legal recourse, protecting your brand identity and improving engagement.

So, it’s farewell ‘Central Command & Control’ and ‘Hello, Agility’.

'Litigation still exists but a good brand governance model will avert the need for legal recourse, protecting your brand identity and improving engagement.'

What Factors Make for Good Brand Governance?

When it comes to managing your brand, do you relate more to the ‘Brand Cop’ model but want to shift to the ‘Brand Coach’ model? Let’s look at what each entails:

Brand Cop Model: Tightening the Reins

  • Policing & Compliance: This model prioritises adherence to strict brand guidelines, often seen as restrictive by employees. Think legal contracts with rigid clauses, leaving little room for creative interpretation.
  • Micromanagement & Closed Channels: Brand cops control every aspect of brand usage, limiting employee autonomy and communication channels.
  • Manual Processes & Instruction: Everything gets done the ‘cop’s’ way, with cumbersome manual processes and prescriptive instructions.
  • Lack of Pride in Brand: This model often fails to foster brand pride among employees, leading to a disengaged workforce.

Brand Coach Model: Inspiring Champions and Unlocking Potential

  • Enabling & Coherence: The coach guides employees, offering frameworks and resources to interpret brand guidelines creatively.
  • Objectives & Open Access: Brand coaches set clear goals and empower employees to achieve them independently. Think open doors and transparent communication, allowing employees to contribute their diverse perspectives.
  • Automated & Inspirational: Technology simplifies workflows and automates routine tasks, freeing up employees’ time for innovation.
  • Shared Motivations & Monolithic Architecture: This model fosters a united purpose and sense of ownership among employees.

Where to Start?

An audit of both companies involved in the merger or acquisition will help you to scope the size of your task. Unlike the implementation phase, this is not a physical audit of your branded assets, but of people and processes:

  • Who is responsible for the brand?
  • Is there a centralised or decentralised approach?
  • What are the approval processes?
  • Is there automation?
  • Is there a central system for capturing and creating content?

If each organisation has a different approach, then finding common ground is vital. Most organisations now follow the brand community model, with a much more nuanced approach to brand management.

As a result of the brand creative process, you will already have developed and set the ground rules for your brand identity and established the non-negotiable elements, for example, colour and font. This includes non-graphic positioning elements and statements – brand purpose, values etc. Use these as your way-markers for your brand’s onward journey.

Remember, successful M&A branding isn’t just about merging logos; it’s about uniting cultures and unleashing the combined energy of your powerhouse brands. With a pre-flight audit and the essential building blocks listed above, you’ll be well on your way to crafting a unified brand identity that resonates with the world. The following are three building blocks to creating a solid brand ecosystem within your organisation:

'Remember, successful M&A branding isn't just about merging logos; it's about uniting cultures and unleashing the combined energy of your powerhouse brands.'

01: People

Businesses and brands are driven by people, so it’s key to identify everyone involved in the management of both brands and to recognise any overlaps and differences in approach.

Start by plotting all stakeholders.

The brand is traditionally owned by the brand or marketing teams but in reality, the brand is embedded in every level of your organisation. Public relations teams and HR are also heavily invested.

Next, scope the decision-making structure and clarify roles and responsibilities. The merger may result in cost-saving streamlining and this must be managed sensitively.

In addition to employees, consider other stakeholders, such as external agencies and how they are managed.

'Businesses and brands are driven by people, so it’s key to identify everyone involved in the management of both brands, and to recognise any overlaps and differences in approach.'

02: Processes and Systems

Even if both companies have a similar approach to managing their brand, they will have different processes for brand management.

  • How is content created?
  • What is the approval process?
  • Who manages the communication?
  • What legacy systems or software is used?

Start by mapping the processes within each company, so that you can adopt the infrastructure that works best for the newly merged company. Or maybe build a new brand infrastructure that combines the best of both worlds.

Technology is the great enabler of brand ecosystems – there is no shortage of proprietary systems available.

Many larger organisations develop their own technology solution which encompasses:

  • Digital Asset Management (DAM) – logos, videos, artwork etc.
  • The automation of workflow
  • New asset creation
  • Templates
  • Approvals process
  • Portal for all guidelines
  • Showcase for best practice

As well as being more efficient, by harnessing technology to pull all of this into a single framework, you will offer a more user-friendly and accessible interface.

It will also help provide important data analytics so you can better understand how your brand is being deployed globally.

'Technology is the great enabler of brand ecosystems – there is no shortage of proprietory systems available.'

03: Education and Empowerment

Last but no means least, is the education and training of all your stakeholders. In the Brand Community model, this is more important than ever. Guidelines are purposely open to allow for interpretation by local markets. So, it’s vital to communicate your brand’s purpose clearly so that it is translated correctly.

You should aim to inspire and inform rather than instruct.

Communication pathways need to be established – starting with onboarding for all employees and then considering how brand is communicated to all employees. They are your brand ambassadors so it’s vital to continually engage with them, bottom up and top down.

User-generated content is increasingly important so equip your entire organisation with the tools they need to creatively and accurately represent your brand.

In addition to systems training for all those involved in brand management, think of brand education in its widest sense and how you can embed your brand into the organisation, for example through workplace branding.

Any measure that helps to build employee confidence in the new brand will help to migrate the transition to your new brand and improve motivation.

'Any measure that helps to build employee confidence in the new brand will help to migrate the transition to your new brand and improve motivation.'

Top Five Tips for Successful Brand Governance

  1. Embrace differences in a coherent way – a community approach will help your brand to reflect the diversity of your people, markets and cultures and keep it authentic
  2. Harness technology – it can support content creation and workflow to produce locally loved but globally compliant content
  3. Don’t lock your brand guidelines away – make them accessible
  4. Know the non-negotiables and create agility by inspiring and educating your people
  5. Remember to support and celebrate success

We hope this five-part series equipped you with the tools and knowledge to conquer your own M&A brand challenge. Translate our insights into action, stitch together a unified brand narrative, and unleash the full potential of your merged force. The world is watching – make your brand impact legendary.

Find Out More

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.