If you have decided to embark on a merger or acquire another business as part of your growth strategy, a major consideration will be how to handle the coming together of the two brands.
A merger or acquisition can pose some major challenges, as they often involve large-scale changes across the board, in areas such as branding, positioning, leadership and HR management. M&A activity almost always causes uncertainty and disruption in the workplace and also in the marketplace in which you play. However, successful organisations embrace this as an opportunity.
Here are some strategies to thrive under the pressure of a merger or an acquisition and in doing so, build a stronger and ultimately bigger business:
While management is responsible for planning and implementing mergers, ultimately employees are the ones who will act out these changes to allow the organisation to realise their vision. A positive workplace culture contributes significantly to employees’ productivity and satisfaction and helps to reduce turnover. According to a study by The Harvard Business Review, 70 to 90 per cent of mergers fail to meet their objectives, and one study found cultural issues cause 30 per cent of these failures.
Developing a positive organisational culture while merging or acquiring businesses starts with a strong internal branding strategy. It’s important for management to agree on a common set of values to bring everyone together and, in telling the story internally about why the merger or acquisition happened, enrol the staff in this set of common values. The next step is to develop a positioning statement that everyone can align to, that inspires the team and speaks to the market about the strength that this combined set of skills or solutions brings to the table.
The actual visual representation of the combined branding is a big topic. Whether to keep two separate logos or combine them into one comes down to the amount of brand recognition there is in the market for each logo. Perhaps it is time for one of the logos to be changed, as the market has become complacent about it, or it no longer represents what the business and the combined businesses stand for. There may be an option to transition the brand footprint over time, it all depends on the brand recognition and brand value at the time of the merger.
Perhaps though, each business may be focused on a different target market, so there may be a case for two brands supported by an enveloping Masterbrand. Another option is to create a whole new brand to represent the combined entity. This is probably the most expensive approach, but there definitely can be a business case for this strategy.
Fundamentally it comes down to how you want the market to see the combination of the two businesses, the budget available for rebranding and timeline in which the change needs to take place.
Once the decision has been made as to whether the merger or combined businesses will have a single brand or maintain two, every marketing channel or platform must be made consistent. The key messages and common positioning statement must clearly speak to the target market and inspire confidence in the benefit of the merger or acquisition.
One of the biggest considerations will be the website, as all marketing communication should be driven here. If a multi-brand strategy is required, there are ways to develop a hierarchical brand structure that can be effectively translated into a website.