Mergers acquisitions

How to manage brand perception during mergers and acquisitions

13th Jan 2017

News broke in November of Samsung’s intention to buy Harman, the automotive electronics company. The high profile acquisition brought into sharp focus the difficulty of maintaining brand strength when going through mergers and acquisitions. For instance, how will Samsung achieve positive brand perception in the midst of a difficult year following the Galaxy Note 7 blunder?

Mergers and acquisitions can be a great thing for brand identity, offering the opportunity for a refresh. However, branding is not always the first focus. When companies go through a merger, they often prioritise the figures involved, contracts, financial models and tax implications. Of course, Samsung and Harman are not totally removed from each other and the merger does not come as a huge surprise; one is an automotive electronics maker, the other is a tech company making a visible push into the realm of connected car technologies.

However, regardless of how similar companies might be when they merge, all brands must consider how a merger will affect messaging and positioning. Taking on another company with its own separate brand entity is no easy task but a strong unified brand message displayed from the outset is key to ensuring future business success and limiting instability.

Colour within the lines

It is important as a brand to be able to respond confidently to real-time events and opportunities. Customers increasingly expect brands to be involved in the day-to-day dialogue of real-time events. However, it can be harder than it looks to be consistently spontaneous when you can’t risk breaking the rules of a new brand, or if you don’t even know what the rules are yet. It is important for brands to create guidelines when they merge or acquire another company. This may seem like policing by the marketing department but in fact it is the opposite; it allows new employees to colour, but colour within the lines.

However, this does not come simply. Dynamic marketing and movement on a global scale which is often required by big brands can be difficult when mass global collaboration systems need to be put in place. A centralised digital asset management platform allows for this type of mass collaboration, and enables agile marketing as approved assets are made easily accessible to all international markets. This protects the marketing department, freeing up time spent on managing admin around brand materials and allows a newly merged brand to start off on the right creative foot.

Who’s who?

When Unilever acquired Ben & Jerrys in 2000, many questioned if the brand name and brand message including their social, environmental and corporate justice missions would survive under the possession of such a multinational food giant. However little has changed in the way people think of the ice-cream brand and their brand messaging is still going strong nearly two decades later.

In addition, when EE combined a strong branding campaign with the physical action of merging Orange and T-Mobile’s High Street shops, their revenues rose by 10%. It might seem like the simple solution when one company acquires another for the acquirer to simply dissolve the identity of the other company, but there are many options. As well as remaining two separate entities, or the acquired brand identity disappearing entirely, M&A could be an opportunity for a new brand message that entwines both company’s separate cultures.

All about the visual

Visual branding is key to ensuring brand success; website branding is a simple but key example of where brand messaging and consistency can suffer in the throes of a merger. Accessibility, consistency and message are key to consider.80% of visual information we take in is related to colour and the most famous brands in the world like Facebook, Google and Coca-Cola for example can be recognised by colour alone.

So how does a newly merged brand proceed? Too many different contrasting visuals could confuse a consumer, whilst the right combination produces a winning harmony. Every company is different and there is not one answer, but when going through a merger an important issue for business leaders to consider is whether they change their design, merge it or leave it where it is. 

Branding can be incredibly powerful and when managed correctly brings clarity to mergers and acquisitions. It would be to the detriment of business leaders to overlook how they will manage their change in branding during M&A and as a result they should explore the technologies able to aid with this transition.



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