In case you missed it, you can always go back and review every chapter of our full M&A rebrand playbook here.
Over the past year, we dove into the ins-and-outs of navigating one of the most significant branding challenges out there: the M&A rebrand. From choosing the right name to planning launch day, we’ve laid out our thinking, proven strategies, and can’t-miss advice for optimizing every step in the process.
While there’s a ton of information unique to each individual step packed into the different chapters, there’s also a series of overarching themes that hold the whole process together. These are your ultimate must-do’s, the essentials, and the non-negotiables. Getting these things right will help you at every stage of the process, so you and your team can sail through your M&A rebrand from start to finish. If you only remember five things from our playbook, make it these.
Top 5 Key Takeaways:
1. Define teams and objectives early
As we discussed early on in the playbook, assembling and managing people will be critical to your success as an M&A rebrand leader. Your core team will be with you for the whole process, and they’ll be the people you turn to in order to make sure things get done. The ideal working team is small enough to be manageable and effective, while diverse enough to take on the various brand, marketing and communications tasks that the project will entail. Aim for 3-5 core team members, each with clearly assigned roles and responsibilities. Include representatives from each organization involved in the M&A. Not only will this ensure everyone feels included, it can also help you understand the nuances and decision-making quirks of each culture. And make sure you have the project management support you need given you will likely need to manage and coordinate a lot of workstreams over a short period of time.
Once you have your core team in place, it’s time to align on objectives for the M&A rebrand. This includes deciding everything from what kind of company you will be after the M&A, to determining the degree you need to signal change. The earlier you can establish and socialize these guiding objectives, the better. Be sure to educate all key stakeholders and leadership that will need to sign-off on key steps (like naming) before you move forward. Having agreed-upon objectives to fall back on will help keep potential feedback productive and on track.
We can’t emphasize this step enough: don’t put yourself or your core team in a position where you have to course-correct to accommodate high-ranking ruffled feathers. Make sure all key leaders feel included, involved, and listened to from the very start. Consider establishing a monthly leadership meeting, where you can gather key stakeholders, revisit your objectives and provide the latest status updates. Remember that this is less about incorporating every single board member’s opinions into your new logo design, and more about ensuring everyone has an opportunity to feel involved and heard throughout the process.
2. Data, data, data
In addition to your unifying objectives, data can be a powerful tool for establishing direction and reducing subjectivity during decision-making. That’s why it came up in nearly every single chapter of our playbook: during an M&A rebrand, data will be your best friend. Here’s why.
While M&A rebrands can be emotionally charged endeavors, it’s hard to argue with stats and numbers. The more data and information you can accumulate to back-up your rebrand decisions and direction, the easier time you will have convincing leadership and key stakeholders to get on board.
Internal politics aside, data will also empower nearly every creative choice and strategic decision you make during the M&A rebrand process. Research can be conducted to explore existing brand offerings and equities, and to identify key legacy strengths, weaknesses, and integration opportunities. Data can help you determine how to organize your portfolio, and can uncover critical consumer insights that should drive your new brand experience. The learning opportunities for you and your team are essentially endless.
Our top data-gathering tip? Be resourceful. While it’s true that an M&A rebrand is the perfect excuse to conduct fresh brand research, you are probably already sitting on a ton of information that can help you. Re-examine the data you already have, conduct in-depth interviews with employees from across the different organizations, send out quick questionnaires. Even without a big budget for research, there are always strategies you can use to answer questions and establish a foundational understanding.
3. Know your audience
A critical step in every M&A rebrand should be developing a comprehensive understanding of your key audiences: who are they, what matters most to them, what are their needs and pain points, and how do they want to engage and interact with your brand? Getting to know your audience on an intimate, human level will help you build a brand and experience that resonates with them most impactfully.
Understanding different segments and consumer journeys, and developing personas based on learnings, can help your new brand connect and communicate with your audiences. As we explored in our playbook, truly effective persona research dives deeper than demographics. A psychographic approach to segmentation, taking into account the emotional, psychological, and sensorial factors that impact human perception and behavior, will paint a much richer picture of your audience (and their ideal experience) than just knowing age, race, and household income ever could.
Persona identification and mapping can range in levels of detail, as well as cost and time investment. If you are able to, this is an opportunity to really think big: a comprehensive mix of qualitative and quantitative research will provide the best results. At minimum, we recommend interviewing a panel of consumers, as well as the employees that work most closely with them, to develop baseline understanding of different audience segments.
4. Prioritize culture
Your most important brand asset isn’t your offerings, service lines, portfolio, or capital. It’s people. That’s why we emphasized how important it is to prioritize your employees and internal culture throughout the series. Don’t overlook this critical element to your success.
Today, culture has become near inseparable from the concept of brand—and for good reason. How your brand’s employees and staff come together, engage with consumers, and connect with the brand are all core to your overall experience. During an M&A rebrand, the importance of culture is amplified, as you will be tasked with bringing together two or more unique, distinct groups—each with their own cultural quirks. Despite the challenge this may pose, investing in your people and culture is essential to the success of your brand. If you do it right, your people can be your biggest brand ambassadors and most powerful advocates. If you neglect them, they may just become your biggest adversaries.
At every step of your M&A process, consider culture. That may mean conducting employee experience immersions and ethnographies, or mapping the employee journey for different departments and functions. You will need to create a plan for engaging your employees and implement trainings that will help them understand the brand. Remember that your people are the face of your brand, and you want to make sure they feel educated, equipped, and empowered to bring it to life in the best way possible.
5. Embrace change
Throughout our playbook, we encouraged you to dream big, think bold, and capitalize on this unique opportunity to tell a new story. To do so requires a level of comfort and excitement around change. But, as we’ve explored, change doesn’t always come easy during an M&A rebrand. In fact, it’s human nature to fear disruption to the status-quo. You will have to navigate your team and leadership’s uncertainty and fears with tact and empathy, but ultimately it’s your job to get people on board with a new story.
During an M&A rebrand, you have an opportunity to rethink your purpose, reimagine your portfolio, grow your footprint, reach, and market share, all while crafting a new, improved experience for the people you serve. This is exciting, groundbreaking stuff! Don’t get stuck only communicating about “the same great service” or “business as usual”. Beyond reinforcing what’s staying the same, encourage your team to embrace what will be new, different, and better.
Overall, an M&A rebrand is a time to get excited, and to look forward to the future, together. Your new brand identity, portfolio and messaging are all part of how you share that energy with the world. Whether it’s a revolution or an evolution, make sure that new story you tell is an inspiring one.
Before you go, here’s a bonus takeaway: take the time you need to do it right. While there may not be much wiggle room in your close date timeline, much of your M&A rebrand work can be accomplished after the fact, too. Don’t feel like every single thing needs to be polished and perfected by launch day. Take the time you need to collect data, craft a new brand identity, prioritize culture, and create a new experience. And don’t forget to enjoy the journey, too.
We hope you enjoyed following along for our M&A rebrand series. Let us know what you thought, and what kind of playbooks you’d like to see next! As always, we’re here to help.