How to Map Out an M&A Brand Strategy

Here's a three-step approach to keeping your brand story straight and your customers in your camp through a roll up.

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This story appears in the June 2011 issue of . Subscribe »

Q: I'm considering acquiring a company that has some overlap with mine. What's the best way to roll up the two brands?

A: Before we get into the meat of things, some definitions (just in case there are any kids in the crowd who think equals ). "Brand is really the DNA that defines your company," says Jim Moran, founder and managing partner of Co-Op, a -based branding firm that is a partner of Havas Worldwide's branding and design division, Havas Design+. "Branding is about storytelling. It's about bringing the DNA to life and creating perceptions." And a brand plan is not the same thing as a .

During a merger or acquisition, it's important to keep your company's story from getting muddled. A brand-planning strand needs to run straight through the process.

"Customers want to trust the brand that they worked with or they have a relationship with," Moran says. Here's how to make sure that happens:

has to go beyond the books. Moran suggests a "situation analysis" to understand everything: the goals, audiences, competitors, employees and of each company.

You also need to get a handle on your M&A brand strategy and architecture, he says. What's the goal of the M&A and how will it affect your brand? How do the two brands and products coexist? Leave those questions to sort themselves out, and you'll confuse your employees and your customers.

The M&A is on. So, keep or toss a brand? Moran suggests looking at valuation, , and pre-M&A .

"Some people get very hung up on the fact that this brand has had a history," Moran says. "But maybe that history isn't as positive as they think."

Some of the best resources for figuring out--and, eventually, sharing--the story of your brand? Employees.

"Make your employees the brand ambassadors of your company," Moran says. "Who better to explain who you are than your combined teams?"

Whether you've decided to keep both brands, toss one or chuck them both and create something new, you have to let the world know.

"Don't expect consumers to come and discover you immediately," Moran says. "You have to actively go out and explain what you've done and how you've done it."

And be authentic. Customers know when they're being fed a line.

"The brand really has to resonate in a way that anyone can tell the story," Moran says. "When they say it, it comes off really easy and it's true to who you are." 


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