Why companies should consider rebranding after an acquisition

Dan Ratner

Dan Ratner is managing director of branding and communications agency, uberbrand. He has more than 15 years’ experience in marketing, communications and branding and is passionate about branding as an enabler to fulfil organisational objectives. Working closely with uberbrand’s clients Dan works to understanding the current customer perception in the context of business goals and aspirations. Dan works with well-known Australian brands across a variety of sectors including financial services, travel and education.

An acquisition can present exciting opportunities for organisations. It can, however, also be a confusing time for both employees and customers, particularly when it brings together different offerings and departments.

When an acquisition is made or organisations merge, the attributes that define the organisation may change. This means what an organisation says about itself and how it behaves should also be reconsidered. Changes to an organisation’s culture, values and beliefs need to be managed and communicated carefully.

To ensure this is done effectively, the organisation should re-articulate its brand to align with its messaging and offerings. Branding techniques can be used to help employees and customers better connect to the new brand. This will maintain clarity for customers and staff as well as maximise the opportunities the acquisition or merge brings.

Remember, a brand is a perception held in the minds of both customers and employees of a company. These perceptions are made up of all the impressions and experiences people have of your organisation, which are conveyed by what they look like, what they say and what they do. This doesn’t necessarily mean a logo or name change because a brand is more than this.

Also note that everything communicates, therefore changing your name or logo says to the world that you are now significantly different. Therefore, it is up to your discretion as to how much change you want to communicate.

If the merger or acquisition changes the capability or services to your customers, a new logo or name can be beneficial. If you would rather reassure customers that the business will not change as a result of an acquisition or merger, then it is probably best to keep the current name and logo.

Whatever path you choose, there are four key steps businesses should take to develop an effective and compelling new brand following an acquisitions or merger:

1. Develop a strategy

Organisational change means new opportunities in the marketplace. To effectively leverage these new opportunities, you must create a robust brand strategy. This starts with understanding the current perception of the brand(s) in the marketplace and mapping the company’s market position along with its competitors’ positions. This allows an organisation to understand its role within the market, the relationship of its competitors and where there may be new opportunities.

For example, if all the competition is focused within one market sector, repositioning will potentially open up a new customer base by differentiating the new brand from its rivals. This is also a chance to review the organisation’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The brand strategy therefore, becomes a roadmap for closing any gaps between the current position and how the organisation wants to be known (it’s desired positioning).

As well as effectively identifying the current and desired market positioning, implementing a rebrand also helps clearly define an organisation’s goals and values. Often the two merged companies will have differing aspirations, so it is important to agree on the new brand’s strategic intent. Aspirations should be aligned to the physical attributes and functional benefits the organisation provides.

Companies should define a brand strategy in advance of developing any creative ideas so they can imagine a future that is truly reflective of the newly integrated organisation and its people.

2. Develop the written identity

To make sure messaging is consistent, it’s important to develop a written identity that reflects the organisation’s new or changed capabilities. The written identity includes what you say, how you say it, and who you say it to.

A written identity includes establishing key messages, a messaging hierarchy, proof points and your brand’s unique tone of voice. By communicating in a tone of voice that reflects your brands personality, you are more able to form a deeper emotional connection with your audience and bring your brand to life.

3. Develop a visual identity

Although a rebranding project can be done without any visual or name changes, a new or refreshed visual identity can help communicate change. A visual identity clearly communicates to customers, stakeholders, and even competitors who your company is and what it stands for. It includes everything from the logo to the images and iconography used across every touch point.

Developing the right brand identity may include changing the company’s name to reflect its new strategy, or to make it more easily recognisable. Even choice of font conveys a message: A serif font might be more appropriate for a bank for example, Lloyds, while a more lower case, san-serif font might be better for a dot com like Facebook.

4. Communicate the change

Finally, it’s important to communicate any changes to employees and stakeholders. In order for a new brand to succeed, its employees must reflect the desired new brand. Gaining a thorough understanding of the aspiration and values of the organisation allows them “live the brand” and properly convey key messaging to their customers.

A merger or acquisition can significantly change an organisation’s goals and culture therefore it’s important to managed the changes effectively. A rebrand, or brand refresh, can help provide context and structure for communicating the changes and help engage staff by aligning aspirations and values across the organisation.

Most importantly, it clarifies the new opportunities the acquisition or merge brings, providing peace of mind and clarity for employees.

In a global market where disruptors are constantly changing the marketplace, having an up-to-date, relevant brand is vital. A strategic, informed approach to a rebranding smooths the transition for employees and gives an organisation the strongest possible chance of future success.

Tags: marketing strategy, brand strategy

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