Brand Thinking

Mergers and Acquisitions Rebranding RoadMap


From experience one of the essentials in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) rebranding is to have a RoadMap with clear mapping of what must be done to make the whole process seamless and avoid unnecessary disruption to existing client business, or any negativity in market perceptions as a direct result of your changes.

The following checklist should give you some useful pointers on what to consider when drawing up an M&A Rebranding RoadMap. To be clear this is the middle stage in the set, where a clear Brand Strategy is defined at the front end (with a comprehensive brand audit, research and assessment phase); and a detailed Rebranding Project Plan makes up the final key element in the trio.

Here are the most important factors in your M&A Rebranding RoadMap checklist:

  1. Be Strategic – leave nothing to chance Think of the RoadMap for your integration or new entity as a Process Blueprint. It is based on the already defined Rebranding Strategy (i.e the what you want to achieve out of the rebrand and how it fits with your business goals), providing an overview that details how the strategy is implemented. The RoadMap identifies the pathway to effectively and seamlessly manage the transition in distinct stages. An important element of being strategic is to address the following brand issues:
  1. Timescale – speed & phasing of change From the point at which your M&A activity is finalised you should be clear on how quickly you want to rebrand. For some this is relatively quick (within a few months), but for most it is managed carefully (typically after a year or two.) The market status and reputation of the companies involved hugely impacts timing., as does the presence or absence of an established rebranding process. The main point here is not to leave the rebranding timescale open-ended, set a target date and work toward it with your project team. Consideration also has to be made of the phases of the rebrand, which can be one extended phase or a multi-phase approach.
  2. Project Team & Representation That leads nicely on to the third point, set up a project team. This is part of the central thread of the checklist, namely that you should not leave anything to chance. Make key people responsible and have a designated Project Manager for your rebranding. We perform this task for our clients, but if you want to manage everything in-house make sure you have someone appropriate to lead the team with enough status to make things happen, along with good enough people skills to manage differences of opinion. There should also be a broad cross-section of representation in the project team. Despite the title ‘rebranding’ is not just the prerogative of the marketing team. Different perspectives are valuable to deal with issues as they arise.
  3. Internal Branding – taking the team with you Essential to every Rebrand is the recognition that your internal audience matters just as much as the external audience. If you don’t take the team with you then key people may well leave and others will be frustrated or distracted. This is not just about company bulletins or newsletters, it should involve surveys and consultation to ask for input. It’s amazing what can come back out of this process but you need to ensure anonymity to receive open and honest opinions. All the team need to be aware of what is happening and be kept informed as the project develops. It absolutely should not be a ‘big reveal’ at the end of the rebrand project with no staff involvement. Buy-in requires understanding and input.
  4. Alignment of Company Culture Wherever you have a merging of companies attention has to be given to the alignment of culture and values. In an acquisition the lead will be the purchasing company but the culture of the acquired business should not be forgotten, or a force fit made. Where there is a merger then the new rebranded business needs a clearly defined new set of culture, ethos and values that fit the new approach. Specialist HR training and support to employees may be needed to ensure the smooth transition.
  5. Brand Identity – design style Whether your rebrand is an integration or a new entity, the RoadMap needs to lay out the process. It might involve interim phases like co-branding such as ‘Company X – a Brand Y Company’ or a plan to create a new identity design. This needs to cover all brand identity aspects from logo, colour palette, imagery, styling, typography, illustration, social and digital assets. This can take a considerable amount of time so the RoadMap needs to be realistic not only about what needs to be done, but how long it will take.
  6. External Perceptions – client & marketplace Given the priority to achieve a seamless transition during the rebranding process, having knowledge of the client perspective, including how they believe it will impact them, is very important and should be a key input to the management of change. In the wider marketplace planned change in positioning is central. Is your branding at a premium level, so the focus is on maintaining that top level status; or is it at a mid to high level position with the potential to improve? Are you already a leading player in the market, or in a growth stage with scope to challenge or exploit new markets or segments? All these assessments and your strategic goals are part of your RoadMap.
  7. Marketing Communications – compelling & authentic This stage is not about the detailed content and design of communications (that comes in the Project Plan.) In the majority of cases, clients and prospects are less concerned about what you are doing -let’s be honest there are so many rebrands done these days – it’s about doing it smoothly and ensuring it has a strong business logic, that it makes sense. The RoadMap needs to understand and define what matters most to your external audience, not overly focused on the new offering and a sales-led approach. Nobody wants the hard sell! Be clear on your business rationale and how the new entity is better placed to meet client needs. Always aim to be compelling, authentic and customer-focused.
  8. Key Points of Difference – integration detail Your RoadMap should also identify what are the key components that can make a tangible difference to the ultimate success of your rebrand. During the brand research and assessment process specific issues will inevitably emerge and feed into the Rebranding Strategy. This could include a multitude of factors ranging from website and social presence, specific market trends and drivers to address, how to maintain client focus during the transition, or positioning your offer with the right story, terminology and appeal. No two rebrands are exactly the same, so you need to define your own key points of difference and map how you plan to take advantage of them or negate the downside.
  9. The Big Picture – with the plumbing As the plumbing diagram below shows a rebranding has many facets and it is advisable to think through the layers and ensure that the Project Team stays on top of every part. This is shown to illustrate the approach and is not exhaustive in detail, so you need to define what matters most to your circumstances.

In summary, every M&A Rebranding Project needs three parts: Rebranding Strategy, RoadMap and Detailed Plan. This article has focused on the middle section, which is often the forgotten part of the process. By addressing the key items listed above in the RoadMap, you can navigate the complexities of M&A rebranding more effectively and help to position your newly formed entity for long-term success. Best of luck, enjoy the ride!

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