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Brand Migration in M&A: Seven Factors for Success

Amid record merger activity, companies continue to underestimate the complexity of integrating brands.

Global M&A activities have seen record levels this past year and are expected to grow even further in 2022. With this, Post Merger Integration (PMI) – the bringing together of two organizations, each with its own processes, structure, culture, and management – will be high on many organizations’ strategic agendas.

PMI is profoundly challenging and one of the most cited reasons for M&A failure is poor PMI. It demands massive executive attention and resources, both in terms of financial investments and people.

While most organizations have established robust processes for the integration of IT systems, HR policies, financial reporting and other vital business model elements, brand migration is a frequently underestimated factor in the PMI equation. And the results of this neglect could be devastating. Switching from a familiar brand to a new one is massively disrupting to customers, business partners, employees, and anyone else who has enjoyed positive experiences with a brand bound to be retired and replaced by a new one.

“PMI is profoundly challenging and one of the most cited reasons for M&A failure.”

Over the last three decades, Prophet has supported numerous organizations with post-merger brand integration. From this work, our teams have learned what works and what doesn’t. While every PMI scenario is unique and requires a bespoke approach, we’ve found that there are common ground rules regardless of industry, region, or market dynamics.

Before diving into the factors of successful brand migration, let’s start with a few of the most common mistakes made post-merger. They are:

  • Leaving brand migration to the marketing or comms teams
  • Positioning brand migration as a mere re-naming exercise
  • Waiting on brand migration planning until after deal closing
  • Developing the brand migration plan without detailed customer input
  • Defining a fixed end date for the brand migration without understanding the full range of implications

Make only one of the mistakes above, and brand migration will end in a disaster.

The Most Important Objectives and Key Success Factors

Successful brand migration starts with defining appropriate objectives. On top of company-specific objectives, these three generic brand migration objectives have proven to be very valuable for steering all related activities in the right direction.

Brand migration must:

  • Ensure the facilitation and enablement of the synergies expected from the merger
  • Unlock incremental growth
  • Happen in a way that avoids losing important customers, business partners or employees

After the appropriate objectives are established, it’s time to move forward with the seven key factors for successful brand migration. They are:

1. Prioritize the Brand Topic Early On

Make brand considerations a fixed topic from the beginning to the end of the M&A process, this includes:

  • Using brand fit already as a filter criterion during target screening
  • Understanding employee and customer concerns before moving on
  • Assessing brand equities and the ability to migrate during due diligence

2. Define Objectives and a Roadmap

Develop a brand migration plan early on, during or right after the due diligence. Define and agree on the target picture for the post-integration brand portfolio. Be sure to include that in the letter of intent as well as later in the contract.

3. Connect the PMI Workstreams of Brand Migration with HR and Culture

Marry the PMI’s brand migration project stream to the culture and people stream. Brand migration is nothing short of a business transformation for the acquired organization. Brand and culture are inseparable, and in terms of organizational migration need to be covered in conjunction.

4. Utilize Existing Values

Systematically transfer valuable equities of the brand that will be retired onto the surviving brand to enrich the customer experience. Make the final switch from the old to the new brand only after this has been accomplished.

5. Make the Necessary Investment

Before making the switch from the old to the new brand, invest sufficient time and resources to demonstrate the benefits of brand migration to all employees affected by it. Resolve any concerns they may have so they feel enabled and motivated to tell the migration story.

6. Define the KPIs

Define and track brand migration KPIs throughout the process. Make progression from one phase to the next dependent on hitting pre-defined KPI thresholds (e.g., the awareness level of the continued brand with customers of the to-be retired brand).

7. Go the Distance

Do not stop halfway. Dual branding can be a necessary interim step on the journey to full integration. It is tempting to get stuck with dual branding because it creates the least resistance internally and externally. But rarely is it the most effective long-term solution since it prevents the stronger of the two brands from unfolding its full potential.


FINAL THOUGHTS

Successful brand migration in M&A can have a disproportionate bearing on protecting and creating value for the entire integration. Taking into consideration these seven factors will create a solid foundation for effecting that impact.

Does your M&A approach require a new playbook? Our M&A strategy consultants can help you to drive growth while minimizing risk, get in touch.

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