A Merger of Equals: 5 Brand Questions for Dow-DuPont

The merger of Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co. will bring together two of America’s oldest corporations into a $120 billion behemoth. The deal is just another example of the recent wave of mega-mergers following the likes of Pfizer and Allergan, which merged to create the world’s largest pharmaceutical giant, and Anheuser-Busch InBev’s acquisition of SABMiller to create the world’s biggest brewer. And now there’s the world’s largest chemical company.

Mega-mergers can be extremely complex from a brand perspective. Here are five key questions that we imagine would already be on the white board of the executive charged with the Dow-DuPont brand strategy and integration:

1. What’s our go-forward brand? With the aggressive goal of shedding $3 billion of excess fat before splitting into three distinct business units (agriculture, material sciences, and specialty products in nutrition and electronics), the brand architecture component is massively complex. With strong product brands like Dow’s Styrofoam and DuPont’s Teflon, we will have to figure out how to leverage our history while communicating who we are moving forward. Since both brands have a lot of existing equity, we will have to decide what the brand will be moving forward and how to communicate our value.

2. What are the markers of success? Everyone plays a role in building and growing our brand. By working across business lines, Dow-DuPont can come up with higher-value and more sophisticated solutions, and new ways to serve the needs of overlapping clients more seamlessly. On top of product-driven value-adds, we will also have to consider how to educate and inspire our employees to live the new brand to achieve success within a shared culture.

3. How does this influence our culture? During times of uncertainty, it’s important to maintain a positive culture. A rebrand is a journey, and employees need to be brought along for the ride. The new company will have to consider how to get buy-in from stakeholders, influencers, and even potential detractors up front to avoid potential roadblocks further down the line. The most successful organizations foster brand champions and use brand as a lens to guide all they do, including culture. In this sense, our ability to partner with HR will provide more ammunition in keeping culture top of mind with the rest of the leadership team.

4. How do we break down silos? No stranger to having multiple account managers across departments serve a single client, large companies like Dow are guilty of one hand not talking to the other. Now, with the addition of DuPont, communication will be key to breaking out of siloed factions. We will have to move away from a model of inefficiency if we want to realize our true potential. When a business unit leverages the knowledge and skills of the others, it can innovate on the spot to create something new.

5. How will our brand be managed? Once the brand is launched, the real work of ongoing management begins to ensure the integrity of our brand is maintained. That’s where the people, processes, and tools required for the ongoing management of the brand come into play. Once the go-forward brand is established, countless decisions need to be made and the process has to be managed going forward. During this time of significant upheaval, we will have to define a clear governance and engagement process to bring new people together and maintain a positive culture.

In a merger and acquisition as large and complex as Dow-DuPont, you can be sure that many sleepless nights lie ahead. One of the best ways to plan for unanticipated outcomes is to learn from others who have been down the same path. Our forthcoming guide, “What to Consider During an M&A,” aims to uncover some of those learnings to help you navigate through the M&A storm.