Validation: How to know it’s working when brands merge

Last week, I used this space to share incredibly exciting news — that the small but sharp brand content house I’d built lovingly and carefully had been acquired by a company I’d admired on every level from the day I’d met them.

Talk about validation. And with that validation has come the reality of merging one (great) brand into another (great) brand. This is that story.

When one brand becomes part of another, the to-do list is magically exhausting. As you cross things off, new things get added. Tasks that look simple become deep buckets of complexity. There are spreadsheets, lawyers, compromises, wish lists, shared objectives, big dreams, new clients, new helping hands, new friends… so much new. In the past month, all that new has reshaped the day-to-day for the good people at Dragon Army and for the good people they welcomed into their family. Good people like the members of my Watchword Brand team. Along the way, we have stumbled a little but mostly we’ve succeeded.

Fear and Optimism

You’ve probably heard the stat that HBR put out in 2011 (so horrifying that it continues to get tossed around) about the 70%-90% fail rate of M&A. Forbes claims it’s because of people — our hubris, our lack of clarity around what defines success, and lack of a social contract.

Ironically, it’s because of those factors that I’m so excited about what we’ve done and where we’re headed.

At the start of the year, I crafted my annual goals. As part of that process, I checked in on my BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goal) — to be known, referred, and relied on as the highest quality source of brand content for businesses. I’ll know I’ve succeeded if we’re earning and retaining the trust of celebrated brands, growing year over year, and gaining opportunities to speak to others about our experience and approach.

As I mentioned in my post last week, the vision that Dragon Army lives out is to be sought after by the world’s best companies for our creative problem solving. Quality message. And a total match with the vision my team shared.

One way we earn the trust of great clients that by attracting and retaining exceptional people. (Also a Dragon Army tenet.) Over the past two weeks of introducing my exceptional team of people into the exceptional team of people at Dragon Army (and Sideways8). I’ve had the great joy of watching new collaborations and friendships form. I’ve been surprised and delighted by all the ways we all are supporting and teaching one another.

It’s clear, we’re people who share a humble commitment to doing the very best work for clients we truly value, and doing it together to elevate the creativity and impact of each effort. (Want to see an example? Check this out — I’m so proud of it and I didn’t even have a hand in it. These new teammates are freaking brilliant.)

If hubris, uncertainty, and lack of a social contract are stumbling blocks, humility, openness to change, and shared objectives are success factors.

At Dragon Army, success starts with our vision. It shapes our grand and small efforts, and it unites us in purpose. Even in companies that have existed forever and a day, it’s those qualities that shape a healthy culture, keep the doors to creative thinking flung wide, and transform the workplace into a place where the people are 100% clear on their value. I believe that’s what elevates a group of collaborators into a culture.

Talk about validation.

How is your brand vision lived out by your people? Is everyone clear on it? Does it shape decisions and behavior?

Rachelle Kuramoto (Dragonwriter.)

Written by

Experienced Brand & Content Lead Coach at Dragon Army ( a purpose-driven brand, content, web, digital, and mobile agency in Atlanta.

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