Dilemma: We recently purchased another company. It’s going to be a great growth opportunity for us, as we can offer our clients another transportation solution and additional services while reaching new clients in an untapped market. However, the brand transition is going to take some work—and a lot of heavy lifting—before we can reap those benefits. Figuring out how to integrate two established brands creates more questions. Do you have any suggestions?
Thoughts of the Day: Mergers and acquisitions can present a prime opportunity to examine and, if necessary, update your overall identity. But first, you’ll have to do an asset and liabilities assessment of the existing and incoming brands. Consider the long-term plans of your company and how this new purchase will fit into that bigger picture. Think about the story behind the acquisition and how it helps to improve what customers receive in the future.
As you consider the best ways to harmoniously represent your longstanding brand while honoring your newest addition, make sure to keep your eye on two important objectives: connecting your newly acquired customers to your company and making your new services and brand seem immediately familiar to your own longtime customers.
You’ll need a plan based on asking lots of questions. Do an honest, objective assessment of the strength of both brands:
❱ How well identified are they?
❱ Do customers buy because they recognize the name, the logo, or a core member of the team?
❱ What role does marketing play in purchases, and how many additional places will you need to advertise in order to maintain visibility with your new customer base?
Be mindful of establishing marketing solutions to retain customers as you work your way through this acquisition transition.
Take a look at the things you might need to adjust, marketing-wise. Does the incoming brand have any reputation issues that you want to get rid of—or need to address? Compare that to the standing of your own brand. Is one stronger than the other? Does one need to be reconsidered, or disappear altogether? Or are they equally beloved by their current customer base for different reasons? If both brands have loyal clients, you may want to consider promoting them on their individual merits while establishing that they’re two parts of the same whole now.
Think long-term as you develop your brand strategy. Is this the only acquisition you want to do, or will there be more in the future? Set your ego aside as you consider whether your brand is the strongest and most likely to survive over time, or if there is value in letting your acquired company’s brand eclipse the other. Do you need an all-new, broader brand identity that can accommodate future acquisitions?
Decide what to keep for identity purposes and what you want to have disappear. Consider how you’ll keep both names in the spotlight: Will it require two logos, two teams, and two brand names? If so, do the established colors of each brand’s logos and marketing efforts coordinate or clash? Two good examples of strong, stand-alone brands that are doing it differently are Boston-based Boston Car Service and Above All Transportation. They maintain their own logos, but their websites have a similar look. On the other hand, when New York-based Leros Point to Point acquired New Jersey-based Royal Coachman Worldwide, the companies maintained their own branding.
Or, if there are two companies on equal footing, is there more merit in a merged naming strategy that exemplifies how seamlessly they have been combined? You may find that it makes the most sense to take each brand’s names, or parts of their names, and combine them into one new identity like Dav El/BostonCoach did.
You may want to keep only one name or brand, which happens often with smaller companies. How will you educate your target audience about the change? How long will that education process take and what will it cost? Customers searching for a specific brand may not need your services right away, so what happens when they try to come back a year from now and the identity that they’re used to searching for has disappeared?
Consider developing a strong overall naming strategy or logo that ties together multiple brands as a proactive fix that can be attached to all individual products, or an image that identifies all products under your umbrella.
Get a team together to work on this project. It’s a big job that is crucial to the company’s future well-being. Charge the team with researching customer identity, loyalty, and brand experience. Ask them to present examples of other companies that have gone through similar experiences.
You can even hire skilled professionals to work with you on name and logo concepts. Include thoughts on taglines as additional ways to tie together brands or reinforce a specific product’s identity. Whatever you do, dedicate the time and effort necessary to go through an effective rebranding process, as this will become your future look and feel in the marketplace for years to come. [CD1119]
Robyn Goldenberg is director of operations and marketing for Strategy Leaders. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.