Challenges and Considerations of Brand Mergers
It may be two or more entirely separate organisations coming together or it may be bodies within the same structure. Either way, the principles are the same and the thinking comes from a similar place.
Firstly, preserving the good stuff. What are the best bits of the entities involved and how can these aspects dovetail and enhance with the good parts of the others. Traditions, history and culture of organisations are almost always unique. Therefore, consideration of what can and should be kept and what needs to be sacrificed for the greater good, is critical.
Beware of the dangers of being swamped by one or other of the parties within the structure. Often this has little to do with size or significance and more to do with the one party being more bellicose or aggressive – and the other(s) more easygoing.
When Boeing merged with the dying McDonnell Douglas company in 1997, Harry Stonecipher, the CEO of McDonnell Douglas, was significantly more hawkish than Phil Condit, Boeing’s CEO. Though the proposed name of ‘Boeing McDonnell Corporation’ was abandoned, working practices, board seat allocation and a leadership role for Stonecipher (who later became the CEO) was agreed. ‘What you had at the time of the merger was a very collegial, bloated, flaccid management structure…’ words of a 30 year Boeing veteran, ‘when the McDonnell Douglas guys came in, they just went through them like a knife through butter.’ In effect in all but name, McDonnell Douglas took over Boeing from a much inferior position.
Most often there are good bits on both sides – if there wasn’t, other parties would not be interested in a brand merger in the first place. Deducing what those important attributes are comes from research and understanding. Balancing these characteristics and developing the core idea must be based on simple truths associated with the parties involved.
Brand mergers can be – and perhaps sometimes necessarily are – contentious. Critically assessing what forms the principle strands of the brand needs to be discussed, debated and critically assessed. Not each and every aspect of the former companies can be incorporated in a brand merger. Feelings will be hurt, traditions lost and emotional ties severed. This is a necessary part of merging brands and if managed well and considerately need not jeopardise the programme.
Three ways to help ameliorate the dangers and pain of a brand merger.
The greatest threat to brand mergers is not external but internal. There are three main ways pain can be alleviated and to give success the best chance.
Firstly, being open and transparent about the reason for change. This can be done using top-down percolation explaining simply and honestly the strategic rationale and describing the process of what to expect to relevant people.
Secondly, canvassing the opinions of representative parties within each organisation. Fairly and dispassionately investigating the thoughts and concerns of staff, stakeholders, investors, suppliers etc. At the very least involving representative people from every level suggests they are valued and important. Beyond that, it is surprising what revelations can come out of these sort of exercises and contribute to the brand essence.
And finally – positivity. Brand mergers have the best chance of success when all parties are embracing, upbeat and determined to make the new company a success. Concentrating on what unites them rather than separates them is key. Much of this must come from the outlook and drive of the chairman or chief executive. Articulating positiveness and confidence breeds a determinations to work together and forging a new and better situation for the company, its staff and stakeholders.
We are brand and design specialists in Bath, South West UK. To see some of our work on brand mergers, please hop over to Bath based Ice House Design website, www.icehousedesign.co.uk
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