Post-Merger Branding: Why Good on Paper is not Good Enough

What are the common bonds that can unite the two firms? What does the shared future look like? And how can employees be inspired to get there?

It’s official: 2014 was a breakout year for M&A. According to Thompson Reuters, last year was the strongest year for dealmaking since before the recession. And this momentum seems to be carrying into 2015.

Mergers and acquisitions are most often viewed from a financial perspective. However, as brand strategists, we have seen firsthand that success often relies on less tangible factors. The “fit” may look great on paper, but achieving that promise requires more than a rationalized product portfolio. Success requires a rationalized workforce that understands the how’s and the why’s of the merger — and what it means for customers. In other words, success in M&A requires a hard look at the brand of the combined organization.

“We are two companies who use the same stationery.”

This is how one company we talked to described its new brand after a merger. It had invested in developing a new name and logo, but without a clear brand strategy to support it, the new identity had not translated into one cohesive brand. With little uniting the organization at a strategic level, employees were at a loss when trying to articulate the common purpose they shared with their new colleagues.

The problem was an absence of a common story and a framework for communicating that story to the market. Internal and external stakeholders alike need to understand how the merger changes the new entity’s approach to the market; how this strengthens its position to help do what they do better. Providing all audiences with a ‘reason to believe’ and a clear understanding of shared strengths will help to break down internal silos and drive collaboration. This will naturally lead to a different type of dialogue between employees and clients, one that easily crosses legacy divisions and product groups and showcases a single, compelling value proposition.

To find that common story, newly merged companies must uncover their shared DNA — the thread ties together everything you do and that indicates why you bring greater opportunity and value to your clients together than apart. What are the common bonds that can unite the two firms? What does the shared future look like? And how can employees be inspired to get there?

Answering these questions will enable you to align your brand strategy with the new business strategy and empower your most important stakeholders with the knowledge they need to understand the organization’s true value proposition beyond the bottom line. Ultimately, this will help elevate the company’s position in the marketplace and increase the potential for success post-merger.

DeSantis Breindel is a B2B branding and marketing firm. Read more about our work in branding.