Mergers, Acquisitions And Messaging

If you’ve ever read this blog before, you know that Anchor Marketing believes wholeheartedly in the power of a strong brand. It helps to define your business in the minds of your customers. It helps to differentiate you from your competitors. It helps to give prospects a head start on getting to know your products and services.

So what happens when two companies come together via a merger or an acquisition? How do you navigate a situation where two brands need to become one? Over the years, Anchor has dealt with this situation many times. Every merger or acquisition is unique, of course, but we’ve found that there are a few tried and true strategies that can guide this process, depending on the circumstances.

Strategy 1: Keep Multiple Brands

This is a tricky course of action, and we normally don’t recommend it. Not only is it confusing for your customers and channel partners, it can quickly become expensive as you work to maintain two separate identities. This is rarely a long-term solution, and instead this mostly happens when two relatively equal companies come together and can’t decide which way to go. Sometimes this has to do with financial or regulatory limitations, but too often it comes down to pride. Somebody built a brand, and they are understandably sad to see it fade away.

The key here is get everyone looking forward rather than backward. Once you do, they’ll recognize the benefits of consistency and unity. As such, the “one company, two brands” approach is almost always a short-term solution that leads to one of the next strategies.

Strategy 2: The Stronger Brand Assimilates The Weaker Brand

This is by far the most common approach, and here at Anchor we’ve become experts out of necessity. It’s tricky but effective. Very often this process starts with a period of “co-branding” that, unlike strategy 1 above, is planned and has a finite duration. The retiring brand is as large and important as it has always been, but also includes a small statement that says something like “now part of Company B.”

Over the course of months (or years), the primary brand becomes more prominent and the secondary brand begins to take a supporting role. This can be seen visually as logos change in size, with the retiring logo eventually identified with words like “formerly.” When this strategy succeeds, there is a smooth transition from one brand to the next.

Strategy 3: The Two Brands Come Together To Form A New One

This is also a popular strategy, but it takes courage. Essentially, both brands start over. This makes sense when nobody can agree on which brand to move forward with, of course. But it is also a great path to take when you recognize that this new organization is radically different than the old. For example, if the capabilities of the new company is significantly improved over the old ones, why not use the merger or acquisition as a way to reinvent yourselves to the world?

But as I said before, this method takes guts – and resources. Naming companies and products are some of the most challenging jobs we take part in here at Anchor. Brand names become very personal, very quickly, and it is hard to think of something more subjective (I wonder – did anyone think that “Google” was going to be a great choice for one of the most recognized brand names in history?). You will need to choose a name, create a new logo (another incredibly subjective process) and then re-set everything from your website to your business cards.

It can be worth it, however, especially if the old brands were getting stale, or simply didn’t describe your company any longer. One piece of advice here – try to minimize the number of committees or committee members involved in this rebranding strategy. They tend to slow things down and water down results.

If you’re getting set to take part in a merger or acquisition, contact us early in the process, and and we can help – because we’ve been there before. It’s a fascinating undertaking, but the results can be a huge boost to your business if they’re handled properly.