How to lay the groundwork now for your next M&A-driven rebrand — and improve your ROI in the process

How to lay the groundwork now for your next M&A-driven rebrand — and improve your ROI in the process

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Sunday, June 7, 2020 | Andy Pollock, Nicole Kemp

If your organization is actively acquisitive — or if you plan to pursue an acquisition in the not-too-distant future — then the time to start preparing for an M&A-driven rebrand is now. Of course, you can’t yet run detailed rebranding scenarios. Those specifics haven’t yet materialized. But you can lay the foundation now for a much smoother M&A rebrand later by getting your organization’s brand and marketing operations in order. This move pays off whether you need to rebrand one organization, both, or simply find efficiencies.

The process of streamlining brand and marketing operations is a lot like cleaning and organizing the closets in your house – but with a much bigger ROI. Cluttered closets don’t get in the way of your household’s usual activities or prevent you from doing things like hosting guests. That probably explains why you’ve put off the “extra” organizational project for months or even years. But taking the time to organize your closets will ultimately help you run your home more efficiently — and save both time and money. For example, you’ll be less likely to buy extra supplies simply because you can’t find the items you already own. And when it comes time to renovate or move to a new home, the process of packing everything up in an orderly fashion will feel much less overwhelming.

The same principles apply to your brand and marketing operations. The truth is, many organizations enter M&A rebrands with the equivalent of cluttered closets. They have not optimized their marketing operations for efficiency and agility. They don’t know where to begin when it comes to gathering inventories of branded assets or figuring out what their processes will look like. They pay for it in the form of less efficient, more costly rebrands – and inconsistent brand expression.

Is it time to streamline your brand and marketing operations?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have a clear picture of your own organization’s current branded asset holdings? How about the branded assets (like fleet, uniforms, and billing documents) that aren’t produced or “owned” by marketing?
  • Does your marketing team follow well-documented processes for reviews and approvals?
  • Do you regularly review and rationalize your branded assets and vendor relationships?
  • If you acquired a company tomorrow, would you know how to begin the rebranding process?
  • Would you have a plan for inventorying the other firm’s branded assets? How would you enter the other organization to get the information you need?
  • What review and approval processes would you put in place as you worked to transition assets?
  • What review system would you use to rationalize assets and vendors? How would you prioritize?

If you aren’t able to answer these questions with confidence, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and start organizing.

By getting your marketing operations in order, you don’t just ensure a smoother and more efficient rebranding process at some point moving forward. You immediately gain measurable, tangible efficiencies — and free up funds for your marketing budget that can be put to more powerful use.

How to organize your brand and marketing operations and set the stage for a successful M&A rebrand

Are you prepared to clean out your organization’s proverbial closets so that you’re ready to improve operations and to smoothly integrate and rebrand your next acquisition? Here’s how to get started.

Conduct an assessment with an emphasis on a branded asset audit

There are several different types of branded asset audits. For example, you might conduct a branded asset audit with the goal of improving your brand governance by assessing how your brand is expressed on marketing collateral.

When it comes to laying the groundwork for an M&A-related rebrand, you should conduct a branded asset audit that is more like a business inventory. Your goal is to functionally capture all of the branded assets that exist within your organization. In addition to cataloging each asset, you should:

  • Record the quantities of each branded asset throughout your organization
  • Collect information about how frequently you deplete and replenish various asset inventories.
  • Document each asset’s procurement process, including which team “owns” the asset and which vendors they use to manufacture it
  • Identify the current cost of manufacturing or maintaining each asset

By conducting this audit, you give your organization a complete picture of your branded asset portfolio. You also uncover key opportunities to rationalize branded assets and the vendor partners you work with to produce them. To do this, assess which assets you use frequently and which sit on the sidelines. Of the assets you use most frequently, identify which are high impact and which keep a low profile. Branded assets that aren’t carrying their weight — or that are overly duplicative — can be retired or rationalized.

Streamlining your branded asset portfolio affords your organization year-over-year operational savings. It also makes future rebranding projects more efficient. Finally, if and when you acquire another company, you’ll have the necessary infrastructure in place to seamlessly audit and transition the acquired organization’s assets.

And one last thing: If your organization is angling to be acquired by a bigger firm, then a branded asset audit is one way to further differentiate your company and make it a more appealing acquisition.

Find more opportunities to improve speed to market, brand consistency, and resource efficiency

Look more deeply and you’ll find more ways to achieve sustainable improvements in brand and marketing operations—actions you can take to  that deliver savings year after year, provide a consistent and agile customer experience that reflects your brand strategy—and keep you “M&A ready” so your team can hit the ground running when the time comes.

  • Examine current operations to find ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of key processes such as brand governance and agency and vendor selection and management. Do people in your organization understand your brand and how to use it? Do you provide robust guidance so every new initiative builds brand value? Do people know and follow creation and approval processes, and can you audit compliance? By doing the work to streamline your brand and marketing operations you will develop a clear, bird’s eye view of your current operational behaviors — and find ways to improve the way you function.
  • Take a look at the roles and responsibilities of your internal team, vendors, and agency partners. Who is responsible for what? To what extent are roles and responsibilities clearly defined and delegated? How are people trained? If you can start to optimize this now, it will be far easier and efficient—and less expensive—to rebrand when an M&A or other significant organizational change hits and you need to mobilize to get a tremendous amount of work completed—both quickly and well.
  • Examine the key technologies you use to manage brand and marketing operations. What tools do you use to support your processes and communicate with your internal teams and external partners? Is your brand management system supporting organizational efficiency? Are there redundancies or marketing tools that aren’t really working for you? What are the strengths and weaknesses in your technology stack? With technology such a major component of brand and marketing operations, you need to understand where your organization sits in relation to best practices. Having a good understanding will also enable better decisions in the event of an M&A transaction that melds together two or more marketing departments.

Your marketing team is under more pressure than ever to demonstrate your ROI. By finding ways to operate more efficiently, you can free up “found” budget to reinvest in your marketing program and positively impact your ROI. And, of course, when the time comes to rebrand an acquired company, you’ll be poised to jump right in and manage the transition seamlessly and cost-effectively.

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