Acquisitions can be exciting and confusing in equal measures, and one of the most important ways to minimise that confusion is to consider a strategic rebrand after the acquisition. In this opinion piece, Dan Ratner, managing director at Uberbrand, has four tips for brands on why they should consider a rebrand.
An acquisition can present exciting opportunities for organisations. It can, however, also be a confusing time for both employees and customers, particularly when it brings together different offerings and departments. When an acquisition is made or organisations merge, the attributes that define the organisation may change. This means what an organisation says about itself and how it behaves should also be reconsidered. Changes to an organisation’s culture, values, and beliefs need to be managed and communicated carefully.
To ensure this is done effectively, the organisation should re-articulate its brand to align with its messaging and offerings. Branding techniques can be used to help employees and customers better connect to the new brand. This will maintain clarity for customers and staff as well as maximise the opportunities the acquisition or merge brings.
Brand is a perception held in the minds of both customers and employees of a company. These perceptions are made up of all the impressions and experiences people have of your organisation which are conveyed by what they look like, what they say and what they do. This doesn’t necessarily mean a simple logo or name change because a brand is more than this.
Every change communicates a message, so changing your name or logo says to the world that you are now significantly different. Therefore, it is up to you how much change you want to communicate.
If the merger or acquisition changes the business capability or services, a new logo or name can be beneficial. If you would rather reassure customers that the business will not change as a result of an acquisition or merge then it is probably best to keep the current name and logo.
Whatever path is right for the organisation, there are four key steps businesses should take to develop an effective and compelling new brand following an acquisition or merger:
1. Develop a strategy
Organisational changes can mean new opportunities in the marketplace. To effectively leverage these new opportunities you must create a robust brand strategy. This starts with understanding the current perception of the brand(s) in the marketplace and mapping the company’s market position along with its competitors’ positions. This lets an organisation understand its role within the market, competitor relationships, and where there may be new opportunities. For example, if all the competition is focused within one market sector, repositioning will potentially open up a new customer base by differentiating the new brand from its rivals.
This is a chance to review the organisation’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The brand strategy therefore, becomes a roadmap for closing any gaps between the current position and how the organisation wants to be known.
As well as effectively identifying the current and desired market positioning, implementing a rebrand also helps clearly define an organisation’s goals and values. Often the two merged companies will have different aspirations, so it is important to agree on the new brand’s strategic intent. Aspirations should be aligned to the physical attributes and functional benefits the organisation provides.
Companies should define a brand strategy before developing any creative ideas so they can imagine a future that truly reflects the newly-integrated organisation and its people.
2. Develop the written identity
To make sure that messaging is consistent, it’s important to develop a written identity that reflects the organisation’s new or changed capabilities. The written identity includes what you say, how you say it, and who you say it to.
A written identity includes establishing key messages, a messaging hierarchy, proof points, and your brand’s unique tone of voice. By communicating in a tone of voice that reflects your brands personality, you can form a deeper emotional connection with your audience and bring your brand to life.
3. Develop a visual identity
Although a rebranding project can be done without any visual or name changes, a new or refreshed visual identity can help communicate change. A visual identity clearly communicates to customers, stakeholders, and even competitors who your company is and what it stands for. It includes everything from the logo to the images and iconography used across every touch point.
Developing the right brand identity may include changing the company’s name to reflect its new strategy, or to make it more easily recognisable. Even choice of font conveys a message: a serif font might be more appropriate for a bank, while a sans-serif font might be better for a dot-com like Facebook.
4. Communicate the change
Finally, it’s important to communicate any changes to employees and stakeholders. For a new brand to succeed, its employees must reflect the desired new brand. Gaining a thorough understanding of the aspiration and values of the organisation lets them ‘live the brand’ and properly convey key messaging to their customers.
A merger or acquisition can significantly change an organisation’s goals and culture so it’s important to manage the changes effectively. A rebrand, or brand refresh, can help provide context and structure for communicating organisational changes, and help engage staff by aligning aspirations and values across the organisation.
Most importantly it clarifies the new opportunities the acquisition or merger brings, providing peace of mind and clarity for employees.
In a global market where disruptors are constantly changing the marketplace, having an up-to-date, relevant brand is vital.
A strategic, informed approach to a rebranding smooths the transition for employees and gives an organisation the strongest possible chance of future success.