Mergers provide great opportunities for companies to rethink and refresh their brands. An effective brand merger requires the right people, plans, investments, measurement, and commitment. Here are five steps to a successful brand merger:
1. Communicate about the merger.
Your people are your greatest asset, so you should start by getting them on board. Depending on how you handle the transition, employees can either be your most powerful advocates or your biggest detractors during the merger. Staff at both companies are likely to feel threatened by change, and lack of communication will only cause unnecessary speculation and rumors, leading to attrition. Conversely, when your employees understand the vision behind the merger, and comprehend their role in the company’s success, they’re likely to get excited about the changes. Your staff also needs to know what to tell clients about the merger. Before the transaction is even finalized, you should establish a transition team in order to:
- Create and implement a visual identity for the new brand.
- Create messages about the merger.
- Disseminate these messages to employees, customers, and the media.
2. Engage in strategic planning.
Identify synergies between the brands by studying the ways each one creates real value for clients. Interviews and surveys can help you determine the value propositions that best resonate with consumers, so you know which attributes of each brand should be retained and which ones should be discarded. Once you have this information, strategic planning sessions will help you determine the best way to integrate the brands. Spark employee enthusiasm for your new brand by making these strategic planning sessions a priority. You can start by:
- Devoting some time to talking about merger messaging in each staff meeting.
- Emphasizing the key differentiators in marketing messages.
- Deciding whether or not to rename the firm, and create a new logo.
- Discussing allocation of marketing budgets and resources.
- Talking about client retention strategies.
3. Develop your visual identity.
The most obvious change for companies during a merger is the visual brand identity. The use of language, fonts, images and color can help you introduce your new company to the world. Creating a visual identity isn’t just about coming up with a new name and a logo. It’s about crafting the right relationship between the two brands in digital, print, and all other communications. When you’re developing a new visual identity, you have four choices:
The simplest, easiest, and most conservative strategy is to make no changes to the brand identity of either company. This approach makes the most sense for mature categories with clearly differentiated brands.
The second most conservative strategy is a fusion of both entities’ names or visual elements into a new identity. Since both brands are still represented, the newly formed entity can avoid alienating employees and customers of either brand.
This approach involves elevating the stronger brand over the weaker one when crafting a new identity. Doing so provides strong, clear communication of the brand direction, but showing a strong preference for one brand over the other may alienate some customers and employees.
The most aggressive option of all is to simply launch an entirely new brand. This approach makes the most sense when the merging entities are going through extreme changes, and you want to signal their evolution.
4. Reach out to the media.
You must keep your merger messages simple and consistent. Engage with the media so you can control the narrative about your merger. High profile employees should interview with trade publications, bloggers, and other media outlets on a regular basis. Conduct social media searches to see who is talking about the merger, and be sure to leave comments on those blogs and social media sites that are discussing it - especially if something is false.
5. Regularly reassess your strategy.
Whatever the reasons for your merger, the entire process starts and ends with strategy. You must be willing to constantly reassess everything, from your product, to your market, to your company culture. Change is inevitable, and brand managers and marketers must be willing to adjust to new opportunities as they surface.
Merging brands can be a daunting process, but it also provides a great opportunity to unify business cultures, improve client relationships, and strengthen your company’s market position.
If you have any question about this or about other marketing struggles, schedule a free consultation (no strings attached).