Brand Migration Tips for an Acquisition

505620793An acquisition is an exciting and nerve-wracking time for all involved – the company making the acquisition as well as the company being acquired. Employees of both organizations will likely wonder how things will change as a result of the acquisition, not to mention what the impact will be from a marketing and branding perspective. Having been on both sides of this experience during my time in the corporate world, I know first hand how many opportunities there are to properly introduce and integrate the acquired company into your existing brand. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as your company embarks on the acquisition process:

Catalog all of the brand assets owned by the company you’re acquiring. In addition to working closely with their marketing team (if they have one) to implement the brand initiatives, do a Google search of the company name to see what exists out there besides the obvious assets. Typical assets include:

  • Website
  • Social media channels (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr, etc.)
  • Marketing and sales collateral (sponsored industry reports, PR outreach, etc.)
  • Other online listings or advertising (such as on Staffing Industry Analysts, HRO Today, Glassdoor, etc.)
  • Business forms (business cards, letterhead, etc.)
  • Internal communications (including web-based portals) & forms
  • Client communications & forms
  • Candidate communications & forms

Once you have a full list of the assets, you’ll be able to take the next step which is:

Create a timeline. Typically companies want to have a few key marketing assets transitioned and ready to go live once the acquisition is formalized so work backwards from that acquisition close date to help you identify when you need to get started. Keep in mind that some tasks can be completed in less time than others so take that into consideration as you’re creating your timeline as well. Oftentimes we counsel clients on taking a phased approach to transitioning brand assets, with the most important visual assets such as the website, social media channels and business forms completed first, and others completed within 30, 60 and/or 90 days post acquisition.

PREMIUM CONTENT: North American Staffing Mergers and Acquisitions 2014

In a previous life, the company I worked for was acquired by a much larger company and the brand migration approach by the acquiring company was to ease into it over the course of 9-12 months. Because my employer was an established, well-known firm in their industry and their geography, the acquiring company didn’t want to dispense with the name and brand immediately. So the first step was to “tack on” the acquiring company’s name, much like a last name, thereby introducing the new company name gradually (ex: Existing name | new name). Gradually over the course of a year we phased out the existing name and were known simply by the acquiring company’s name.

In other cases the name and brand will stay intact for the company being acquired. In that case, while the brand transition task list is much shorter, there are still a few things you’ll want to address. Making sure your PR boilerplate (the “About ABC Company” at the end of your press releases, on your website and in any collateral materials) is updated to reflect the new ownership should be at the top of the list. Along those lines, making sure everyone in the company knows how to refer to the new ownership agreement is also important to ensuring brand integrity. For example, is the company being acquired now a subsidiary or part of a family of companies?

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Remember, this is a time fraught with rumors and uncertainty for a lot of people, especially for the company being acquired. Not only are they wondering about their job security, but processes are likely changing, the materials they use every day will be changing and the company name might even be going away. Keeping the messages consistent and the lines of communication open as much as you can is critical to making the acquisition as smooth as possible AND ensuring employee retention. Hosting town hall meetings, sending out update emails on a regular basis, and prepping managers to both share information and solicit feedback are all effective ways to keep people in the loop.

Establish a comprehensive PR strategy. An acquisition provides a great opportunity to establish and/or deepen relationships with media. If your company is acquiring another one in a geography where you don’t currently focus, find out if there are media contacts already in place you can talk to. If the acquisition brings a new industry focus to your portfolio, that’s another great reason to reach out to industry and trade publications. Think carefully about the PR approach (other than just a straight acquisition announcement) and how you can use it to further your company’s position in the minds of key stakeholders. If you’re looking for help on getting the most PR mileage out of your acquisition, turn to an expert. This is definitely one news opportunity you don’t want to squander.

Make the brand unveiling fun. Creating excitement and enthusiasm about the “new” brand that is being unveiled can make the transition a little easier and speed the buy-in process internally. Invite employees to a formal “unveiling” process where you do things like explain the brand story to the newly acquired employees (remember, they won’t know the history or story behind your brand), provide promo items with the “new” logo on them, even have cake or cookies with the logo on them. In one instance in the past, the company I was working for created a scavenger hunt around the office so all the new employees could learn about the history of the organization in a fun and engaging way.

So while an acquisition is a big undertaking and there are lots of moving parts, don’t lose sight of the marketing opportunities that exist to position your company in the right way with key stakeholders (media, existing and prospective clients, etc.), start off on the right foot with your newly acquired company and reinforce your brand story with your existing employees. Handled correctly, you can create a lot of brand momentum both internally and externally.

MORE: Marketing to grow your business


Michelle Krier

Michelle Krier
Michelle Krier is vice president of marketing and digital solutions for ClearEdge Marketing. She can be reached at mkrier (at) clearedgemarketing (dot) com.

Michelle Krier

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