Brands are critically important to the success of every business, and nowhere are they more important than during times of transition. Brands launch conversations – both internally and externally – and provide a way for you to showcase what it is that differentiates you in a meaningful and memorable way. It’s simple – strong brands help you attract both customers and recruits. And they can also be a large factor in helping you keep them and compel them to relay your story to others

I recently gave a presentation to the Young Presidents’ Organization-World Presidents’ Organization Global Plastics and Manufacturing Networks that explored the importance of brands, especially for mid-market B2B companies. One participant posed an interesting question – when going through a merger or acquisition, how do you make the decision to integrate brands, or keep them separate?

A simple question. But not a simple answer. During an acquisition, companies often miss the opportunity to move strategically, and instead make spur-of-the-moment, tactical decisions regarding their brands. Far too often it results in unsupported brands, marketplace confusion and diminished brand value.

Here are 5 key considerations to help you take a strategic approach to determine the best path for the future of your company and its brands:

  1. Assess the equity of acquired brands. How well-known are the acquired brands in the marketplace? Does this reputation extend to the markets you’re targeting? What’s the equity or reputation you’re going to leverage as you move forward with a new strategy?Courtyard-by-Marriott
  2. Ask yourself “For the sake of what?” Take a step back and explore why you would or would not choose to integrate the brands. Is it worth the investment – of both time and money – to keep multiple brands alive and well? Are you willing to make that investment? Or, are you better off transitioning brand equity from one brand to another?
  3. Be strategic. Companies will oftentimes keep a brand alive for fear of losing brand equity or even customers. But this may not always be the most effective path. Determine the strategy that is aligned with your company’s growth strategies, and focus on creating both differentiation and clarity in the marketplace. If your customers think you’re going to take good care of them, chances are they’ll stay with you if you decide to transition brands.
  4. Choose a brand architecture that makes sense. Consider which brand architecture is best for your business. There’s a house of brands, where individual products and services are promoted on their own (think Procter & Gamble). Then, there’s an endorsed branding strategy, where a parent company adds credibility to products and services, like Courtyard by Marriott. Finally, there’s the branded house approach, like FedEx, where all products and service align within the parent company’s master brand.
  5. Build brand ambassadors. If done well, employees and customers can become your best brand ambassadors in the marketplace. Use your brand to launch communications that connect emotionally and create employee, customer, and other buy-in and alliance. The results will multiply exponentially if you do.

Bottom line: Don’t lose sight of your brand during an acquisition or a merger despite all the other things on your plate. Telling a cohesive story, whether by bringing brands together or keeping them separate, will differentiate your company and help you to quickly reach customers and recruits with a clear signal about what’s different and special. Contact us for more information.