How to Protect Your Brand In a Merger or Acquisition
Typically after a merger or acquisition, the owners and leadership team will get to work on the brand. It typically starts with easing the nerves of customers with assurance they will still experience the same level of great service and benefit from the strengths of the two brands joining forces. While this easing of customer nerves is happening, employees may not be completely clear on what is happening, where the company is going, and what is going to happen to them, personally. If this seems backwards to you, you’re right.
Two brands merging together, or one brand acquiring another, is similar to marriage – two families (cultures) must learn how to move in with each other and make everything work. And there will inevitably be conflict along the way. This is precisely why it is so important to start thinking about the kind of culture that will make the merger or acquisition a success long before the contracts are signed.
Your number one focus must be placed on employees. They are directly responsible for the quality of service delivery to your customers, the productivity of the entire organization and the quality of products shipped to your customers stamped with your brand name. The new leadership team must communicate with them, and often. Why? Through my experience and research, one of the largest complaints employees have with their company is infrequent and poor communication from management. Poor communication is responsible for cancerous rumors, “Us versus Them” cultures and feelings of betrayal. This is the opposite of what you need in your culture to make everything run smoothly, so take control by communicating with everyone, and often.
Next, the new brand must be properly defined in relevant and meaningful ways for employees, customers and channel partners. For the CEO, the benefits of the merger or acquisition are obvious – growth, market leadership, market dominance, etc. For employees, the benefits must translate to job security, opportunities for advancement, meaningful work, strong leadership and a vision. Customers expect better service and improved product quality. Channel partners care about service excellence, superior product quality, short lead times, products that can sell themselves based on brand strength and reputation, and the ability to charge a premium for them.
Once the brand is defined with absolute clarity, it’s time to get to work on creating and implementing programs and team-building activities to get everyone on board with the new brand and explain how they will be rewarded and recognized for delivering on brand expectations. Employees will want to know what the new brand means to them in their own world and what they can expect to witness moving forward. Trust me when I say that your employees will greatly appreciate knowing your intentions. They will also appreciate frequent communication from the C-Suite. This is the easiest, fastest and most effective way to get everyone on your side – the very thing that will make your brand a success. Most importantly, do what you say you are going to do, and act fast. If your employees hear about all the great changes you plan to make, your credibility, and your brand will be based on your actions.
Once you have your house in order, you can confidently move forward with a strong marketing communications campaign knowing that your employees are motivated to deliver on your brand’s expectations. If you time it right, everything will fall into place perfectly.
If you’re intrigued and would like to discuss how we could help you manage your brand through a merger or acquisition, let’s talk.