Merger & acquisition series: Part 10/11 – Define the new experience
If you haven’t already, download our in-depth M&A playbook.
Experience defines how consumers engage with brand. It’s how your brand elements, employees, environments, products and services make people feel, and what transforms a basic interaction into a long-term relationship. Experience is where brands stop talking the talk and start walking the walk, and there’s much on the line in doing so. Getting it right means capturing the highest levels of consumer satisfaction, choice and advocacy. Getting it wrong creates a disconnect between what you say and what you deliver—a surefire way to disappoint people and lose consumer trust.
Creating meaningful, humanizing experiences is the ultimate goal for all brands, and it’s a particularly important consideration during an M&A rebrand. When coming together, each legacy organization will bring its own experiential benefits and baggage to the table. Creating a new shared brand requires establishing experiential consistency, so that you can deliver a reliable, unified and recognizable experience to your consumers, regardless of where and how they engage.
Learn More: Guiding Principles to Create a More Human Brand
As the most defining feature of your brand, it’s important to go deep when crafting your experience. During an M&A rebrand, you have a unique opportunity to not only define a combined experience, but to completely re-imagine it using your new brand strategy as a guide. Ask your team to think big when it comes to experience: how do we want to make people feel, and how are we going to do it in a way that feels uniquely us? It’s not about reskinning your various touchpoints and signage with the new brand, it’s about understanding your audiences and creating meaningful, signature moments that truly move people.
With that in mind, here are some top strategies for creating the most impactful brand experience:
Think beyond digital UI
Digital experience is top of mind these days, but unless you are building an entirely online offering, it’s only one component of your overall brand experience. Experience is the cumulative interaction and intersection of all the different touchpoints, moments, channels, and elements that define your brand—so it’s important to consider all the factors when crafting it.
Your team can start by conducting an in-depth exploration to understand experiential strengths and weaknesses at various touchpoints. Be sure to include environmental, cultural and physical audits in addition to digital, and keep an eye and ear out for inconsistency risks and red flags. If what you are saying in your advertising differs from what you are saying on your website, and what your customer service reps are saying on the phone differs from what your social media expresses, it will create a disconnect that can jar and confuse your consumers. Your main goal should be a consistent, human-centric, and impactful experience that aligns with your brand at every key stage of the experience, digital and otherwise.
Learn More: Five Tips For A Digital – First Design
Use persona mapping to identify opportunities
In order to deliver experiences that move people, you first have to understand them. Developing a clear sense of who your audiences are, what matters to them and how they engage with your brand will help you define the most meaningful brand experiences, tailored to their needs.
This type of persona identification and mapping work can range in levels of detail and investment. If budget and timelines allow, this is an area to really dig deep through comprehensive qualitative and quantitative research, formal experience mapping and thorough segmentation. At minimum, try to interview a selection of your consumers and the employees that work with them most closely. The more information and understanding you can gain when building personas, the stronger your experience can be. And remember, actionable personas are based on psychographic factors first (attitudes, aspirations, etc.), after which you can back out demographic data. Focusing on demographics first will cause you to miss the attitudinal drivers that truly dictate choice and advocacy.
Don’t forget the employee experience
Your people are your greatest brand asset, with the potential to become your strongest advocates and ambassadors. However, if you don’t consider their emotions, culture and experience, they have the power to be your adversaries as well. Spend time understanding and mapping the internal brand experience in addition to the external, so that you can identify opportunities to unify and enhance the employee journey. Remember that employee engagement is an essential part of the experience, and it’s an important step in bringing different teams together under one common culture during an M&A.
At the end of the day, your employees are often the ones charged with delivering experiences, so it’s important to do everything you can to help them feel equipped and empowered to live your brand. And often times internal policies, structures, programs, etc. can even incentivize employees for actions that conflict with your business and brand goals. Employee experience mapping not only helps retain top talent, but also allows you to ensure that employees are incentivized and enabled to deliver an amazing experience for customers. Treating people right creates a ripple effect—when you take good care of your employees, they can take good care of your consumers in turn.
Take your time
Experience is important, but doing it right is even more so. M&A rebrands often face short schedules and tight deadlines, and you may not have the luxury of time to conduct the robust exploration needed to optimize your experience before launch. Fortunately, this is one area where it’s perfectly acceptable to take your time. Unlike a name or logo, experience doesn’t need to be done by launch day—it can be an ongoing journey, with continuous enhancements and improvements made over time. It’s worth it to put in the time and resources to do it the right way, while making the small changes and quick fixes where you can.
We’re coming close to the end of our M&A series, and we’re so happy you’ve followed along with us as we’ve discussed everything from picking a new name to organizing your portfolio. In the final installment of our series, we’ll close out our conversation with a topic that is top-of-mind for many M&A rebrand leaders: how to bring consumers along for the ride. In the meantime, you can reach out to us on social or contact us anytime. We’d love to hear your feedback on our series, and how it’s applied to your own M&A experiences.