Blending two disparate elements together is never an easy task. When it comes to mergers and acquisitions(M&A), however, that’s precisely what executives and marketing professionals are called upon to do. Just like forming a stepfamily, there will be false starts, growing pains, and incongruences. That’s why proper attention to acquisition branding is so vital, especially in the M&A’s early stages.
Companies that fail to embrace a well-thought-out and cohesive merger branding strategy risk underperforming –or even failing altogether. According to the Harvard Business Review, companies that fail to develop purposeful acquisition branding experienced an approximate 25% loss, while those that embraced merger branding strategies enjoyed up to a 3% boost during the transition period. Our goal is to help you avoid any M&A backslide. Today, we’re going to look at some key merger and acquisition branding tips specifically designed for marketing professionals and their c-suite counterparts.
Five Acquisition Branding Tips and Tricks
At this point, the term ‘Industry best practices,” may seem like a stale buzzword, but nevertheless, there’s great wisdom in analyzing your competition. Whether your company is seeking a B2B brand merger or to update your industrial branding during a time of transition, mergers and acquisitions are a complex animal, especially when it comes to the topic of acquisition branding. Below are five of our best tips, tricks, and industry best practices for completing a successful B2B brand merger.
Take a 360-View of Everything
Knowledge is power. Not only is it advantageous when heading into a merger or an acquisition, but it is also a necessity. With any M&A, the purchasing party must perform an exhaustive amount of due diligence prior to the sale being finalized. That includes sifting through a vast amount of financial information, dealing with human resources issues, and hammering out logistics if applicable. Marketing professionals are held to the same standard.
Start the acquisition branding process by examining each existing brand. Understand who their existing market is composed of and look at the direction they are headed in the future. Also, examine the people behind the brand, understanding each entity’s values and culture. As they say, a stitch in time saves nine.
Identify the Strengths of Both Organizations
Contrary to public perception, mergers and acquisitions don’t mean that either company is failing. In fact, mergers between successful companies take place all the time. Take the following brand merger examples:
- Exxon and Mobil
- Dow Chemical and Dupont
- Disney and Marvel
Merger branding is all about identifying the strengths of each existing brand before attempting any form of synergy. Use your due diligence window to look for net positives rather than only focusing on the red flags. The resulting B2B branding will be more effective by orders of magnitude.
Keep the Customer in Mind
The customer is king. This idea is central to the world of marketing. No matter the size, scope, or nature of your product offering, nobody creates for the sake of creation alone. We all have an audience in mind.
For well-established brands, tapping into that audience is relatively easy. Adding two sets of industrial branding to the mix makes things exponentially more complicated though. When developing your acquisition branding strategy, keep laser-focused on your end user. In the case of larger industrial brands, that means keeping your brand messaging in close orbit with the B2B sector by communicating intangibles like reliability and trustworthiness. Regardless of the tone that your merger branding takes on, make sure to start with your end-user in mind.
Refine and Polish Your Image
As a professional, your word is your bond, and your chosen acquisition branding assets are proof positive of your company’s image and reputation. You want to keep your image stellar while going full speed ahead on value-added products and services.
When developing your merger branding strategy, carefully consider elements such as the company logo and other visual identifiers. Address key considerations such as:
- The colors you use
- The fonts you include
- Whether or not legacy elements are included
- Whether you use a synergy of your constituent parts or develop an entirely new brand
One of the top reasons that mergers fail is due to asynchronicity between existing company values and cultures. This isn’t just an HR problem though; it extends into the marketing department’s purview as well.
The secret to overcoming these hurdles? Give your workforce a voice during the transfer of power. Make employees from both companies feel a sense of ownership over the process by involving them in the company’s public persona.
Acquisition Branding Strategies
Now that we’ve had a chance to review some acquisition branding best practices, let’s turn our attention to the various methods for carrying out your merger branding strategies.
Retain the Identities of Both Companies
Far and away the simplest way for your brand(s) to proceed following an M&A is through a “business-as-usual” approach. That means retaining each individual brand, both operating under a newly formed corporate umbrella. This method involves minimal acquisition branding and is best suited for business entities with a long history of quality and reliability.
Combine Both Companies
Another tried-and-true merger branding strategy involves complete synergy between existing brands. Under this method, neither brand completely disappears. Instead, the two are wedded together into a radiant fusion that is more than the sum of its parts.
This strategy works best when both constituent companies offer similar products, allowing you to integrate your messaging for each into a new and seamless whole that features both product lineups in a relatively unaltered format.
Elevate the Better Known Brand
Not all companies are created equal. Neither are mergers. Sometimes company A will acquire company B simply to augment their resources and their reach, despite company B having a weaker service or product. One way to address this kind of disparity is by elevating the better-known brand.
If one of your brands is stronger, pour your marketing efforts into its branding post-merger in an attempt to transition the other brand’s customers to your stronger, more profitable offering.
Create a New Brand
Sometimes progress means burning your house down to build something even better. Our fourth strategy involves taking the strongest aspects of each existing brand, scrapping your existing marketing assets, and starting over again with a brand new identity. Customers will know your pedigree, but their attention will be on the bright future that you offer them.
At its heart, acquisition branding is a creative venture. It involves a thorough, no-holds-barred look at the health of both constituent companies as well as their pre-established marketing assets. To thrive in the chaotic interim and come out the other end stronger and more agile means developing a clear and purposeful acquisition marketing strategy that speaks to your strengths while engendering the end user’s trust.
If you are involved in an M&A and need help finding your way forward, HyFyve can help you navigate. Book a free consultation today.