Destroying the Acquired Brand Does NOT Make For a Successful Acquisition
Let’s imagine an acquisition from an employee’s perspective. You hear through a team announcement that the company you dedicated yourself to for five years has been acquired. Over the next couple of weeks, your company logo has been replaced, along with a new font, brand manual, and enforced culture. And over the space of a month, the entire brand and feeling within the company has been deleted.
Although this is an extreme scenario, it highlights what acquisition means to most people within the acquired company. Excitement for new branding doesn’t spread like wildfire – the feelings of loss for “the way things used to be” are far greater.
And this isn’t a new revelation. A staggering 92% of global senior corporate executives believe they could have handled communication and culture management more effectively post-acquisition. What people fail to realise is that branding is the tool to unify your workforce and communicate the merging of two companies internally and externally.
Your Brand is Core to Your Acquisition Strategy
I feel I still need to correct a common misconception: branding doesn’t mean slapping on a new logo, spending weeks selecting a thoughtful colour palette which truly embodies the company, only to repeat the process a few months later.
During an acquisition, branding plays a critical role in communicating strategic intent. Corporate branding informs about managerial mindset and future behaviour. It communicates how the companies will integrate and shares a clear vision, direction and expectations to customers, employees and investors.
But the potentially critical role of branding is often overlooked or realised too late. In order to be effective, it needs to be discussed as part of the acquisition negotiations. Afterall the brand itself is an asset: companies with strong brands are valued on the stock market 4 to 20 times their actual physical asset.
But in many cases, the corporate brand strategy is only given serious attention once the acquisition or merger has been announced. It’s a huge shame. Not only is the opportunity to build value missed, but both existing companies are put in a vulnerable position. With no solid brand platform to work from, integration between the two companies suffers, communication breaks down, and uncertainty is the feeling that spreads like wildfire.
Always Consider Both Companies Involved
The strength of an acquisition is in unity. Unity in people, technologies and vision. This unity is not created through a bitterness and resentment caused by poor communication and confusion. Whichever acquisition approach you choose to take, whether it’s assimilation, business-as-usual or fusion, always take both companies into consideration. Never delete a brand.
There’s plenty of successful elements in both companies. What’s more, simply the feeling that both sides are being listened to and involved in their combined future will increase their bond and success. Culture takes a long time and a lot of effort to develop and maintain, but relatively little to undermine. And that culture is reinforced and reflected in a company’s brand.
Branding is an essential factor of a successful acquisition. Right from the negotiation, to the future brand strategy, to the communication to employees and customers. The stakes of an acquisition are high as the outcome is not just the loss of one company, but the potential death of two.
Gear yourself for a successful acquisition by not only remembering a brand, but realising the value it can bring your future combined company.