Merger & acquisition series: Part 6/11 – Determining the degree you need to signal change
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An M&A can mean many different things for brands, their employees, and their audiences. Sometimes, it means a fresh start and an exciting new story. Other times, it’s less about a clean slate and more about a stronger presence and an expanded portfolio. Some leaders decide to create a big splash, while others prefer to keep to business as usual as much as possible. However you look at it, an M&A is an opportunity—and it’s up to you to decide how to use it, and how to utilize your rebrand efforts to signal change accordingly.
Is the M&A more about expanding your reach and market share? Or is there a need to clearly signal to your audiences that something is different and new? These are questions that will need to be answered before getting too far down the M&A rebrand path. As soon as you can, engage leaders from across the organization to make sure everyone is aligned on what the vision of the new, shared organization is—so that you can pinpoint where you need to fall on the evolution-or-revolution rebrand spectrum.
Learn More: Five Signs its time for a rebrand
Identifying where your desired future-state falls along this gamut will allow you and your rebrand team to evaluate the gap between where you are and where you need to go so that you can determine what needs to be done to most effectively propel your new organization into the future. Here, we’ve described some of the circumstances that might land your organization on either end of the spectrum.
Scenario 1: Revolution
We need to tell a completely new story to the world
If the vision of your M&A is to create something entirely new and meaningfully different than before, then the situation calls for a significant splash in order to ensure your audiences recognize just how much has changed. Impactful, highly visible brand updates (such as name, logo, messaging, signage, and more), as well as larger-scale launch events, are generally called for in order to convey this level of revolutionary transformation.
In these cases, an M&A rebrand is a unique and unmissable opportunity, particularly for organizations that are eager to change the narrative around their current-state brands and offerings. By taking control of the script, organizations can transform the way current and potential consumers view them and potentially shed negative legacy perceptions along the way. Sparking this type of shift generally requires more significant changes from a brand identity standpoint—think name, logo, and strategic foundation updates. Further, delivering on this new vision typically requires a culture shift as well, aligning your actions and behaviors with who you want to be. Simply refreshing the design system alone or slapping on a new tagline won’t achieve the results you are looking for.
Learn More: Renaming Your Brand Stress-free
Scenario 2: Evolution
This is more about expansion than transformation
The other end of the M&A rebrand spectrum is evolution. An evolutionary, not revolutionary, approach is more appropriate when the M&A is more about growth and expansion than innovation and transformation. The focus for these organizations is often more about streamlining, optimization, and integration, which calls for a more incremental approach.
Rather than dramatic logo changes or over-the-top brand reveals, an evolutionary approach emphasizes efficient integration of operations and building on the brand equities already in place, spending time and effort to ensure the transition is as seamless as possible for internal and external audiences alike. A big focus could be on brand architecture and making sure audiences understand the combined portfolio, so you get credit for increased breadth and depth. In some cases, this looks like the stronger brand simply taking over the other and making an effort to assure those involved that this change is about being better, and the things they love will remain true. Visual and verbal identity may be refreshed, rather than completely restructured, and names may be modified rather than removed.
In any M&A there is an element of “newness” that needs to be communicated internally and externally. But in this case, it is more about building on who we already are and being able to better deliver on the current brand, rather than needing to communicate a whole new story.
Learn More: Guiding Principles To Create A More Human Brand
What if we fall somewhere in-between?
It’s likely that your M&A vision and rebrand needs will fall somewhere in between these two ends of the spectrum. For example, you and your stakeholders may determine that an updated visual identity is needed, but the core essence of one or both of the brands needs to stay the same. Or, you may determine that even though your vision isn’t totally new, you still need a new look and feel to showcase how much the M&A has improved the offering. In some cases, even though the M&A is transformational, it is part of a longer journey or is something that is such a natural extension of what your brand already stands for, that a big name or logo change is not required and may even be damaging.
Thinking back to the previous article in this series, data can also inform these decisions by helping to understand current equities and how they align with the future vision. In general, the more you need to move away from current and legacy perceptions, the bigger signal of change you will need. Every M&A rebrand is a unique case that needs a custom-built path forward.
Whatever degree of signaling change is determined, save the surprises for your brand reveal. Be sure to align with leadership early to make sure everyone’s expectations are set, and that the entire team is working towards the same direction.
Speaking of teams working together, be sure to look out for the next installation in our M&A series, where will be sharing how to make culture the centerpiece of your new shared brand. We’re looking forward to continuing the conversation.
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