M&A activity continues to pick up momentum, increasing the pressure on marketers to rebrand quickly and efficiently. KPMG reports that M&A transactions totaled $3.8 trillion in 2020 and $5.1 trillion in 2021. And this growth shows no signs of stopping as brands seek to overcome persistent supply chain disruptions, manage the widespread labor shortage, and meet evolving consumer demands.
Brands in sectors such as energy, manufacturing, financial services, and tech are particularly likely to finalize mergers and acquisitions in the coming months. So, if you’re a marketing leader in one of these industries — or if you see an M&A on the horizon for your organization — you need to be ready to get the ball rolling as soon as the whistle blows. You’ll have to move fast if you want to harness the potential of an M&A-driven rebrand to expand your brand’s value and propel your business forward. To successfully navigate the transformational change coming your way, start planning now. Here’s how to get ahead of the game so you can roll out your rebrand implementation the instant your deal is announced.
1. Develop a rebrand communication and engagement plan for employees and stakeholders
M&A discussions are typically shrouded in secrecy until the deal is finalized. So when it’s time to announce your rebrand, your employees and stakeholders might be genuinely surprised and even taken aback by the news.
Your communication plan should assure stakeholders that your new brand will continue to deliver the value and promise they're accustomed to.
That’s why it’s important to create a communication plan that you can execute the moment your M&A is official. You’ll want the plan to explain exactly how this transformational change will impact team members’ day-to-day responsibilities. Furthermore, it should either assure stakeholders that your new brand will continue to deliver the value and promise they’re accustomed to, or set expectations regarding the changes to come.
A good communication plan will answer the following questions before employees and stakeholders even have a chance to ask them:
- What are the strategic reasons behind this M&A agreement? Why is the organization moving in this direction?
- How soon will we see a new brand identity across touchpoints and branded assets? How pervasive will the change be?
- Will this rebrand change the way you expect employees to convey your brand promise? What does it look like to be an ambassador of this new brand?
- How will this change affect your stakeholders? Will they receive the same services, benefits, and perks they’ve enjoyed in the past?
The success of your rebrand depends heavily on your ability to gain buy-in from your employees and stakeholders. Help these key players understand the reasons for your organization’s M&A-inspired rebrand as early as possible. Manage their expectations regarding how long the transition will take. And think through exactly how you will keep them informed and engaged along the way.
2. Begin tallying branded assets and developing financial projections for your rebrand
Integrating two brand identities requires cooperation, collaboration, and keen attention to detail. The good news is you don’t need to know what your new brand will be to get a head start on how you plan to proceed. And with some thoughtful planning, you can build accurate financial projections that take advantage of operational cycles to reduce spending.
True, you won’t be able to develop your new visual identity, logo, and brand messaging before the deal is announced. You’ll need access to the other organization’s data and proprietary information in order to determine your overarching strategic direction. But you can lay the groundwork for the implementation process by tallying all the touchpoints you’ll need to convert.
Take a complete inventory of branded assets, vendors, partners, and locations
If you aren’t privy to the details of who your organization is entering a deal with, focus on getting your side of the house in order. Gather information from stakeholders across your organization to compile a comprehensive inventory that lists your:
- Tangible branded assets. This may include signs and wayfinding, fleet vehicles, ID badges, branded apparel, sales sheets, marketing materials, business cards, stationery, packaging, and unique, high-profile assets.
- Branded digital spaces. Your brand doesn’t just live on your website and social media pages. Don’t forget elements such as email signatures, screensavers, digital files, and electronic onboarding and training materials, which are often overlooked.
- Vendors and partners. Knowing exactly which vendors and partners you’ll turn to when it’s time to convert your touchpoints and implement your rebrand in third-party channels is crucial to completing your rebrand in a timely manner.
- Financial services organizations, healthcare brands, retail businesses, and other complex corporations often have dozens or even hundreds of locations. Be sure to think through how your new brand will appear in each of these locations. This is especially critical if you have a decentralized marketing model.
If you can, have the marketing team from your soon-to-be acquired organization complete the same process on their side. Then when the deal is announced, both sides will be prepared to hit the ground running.
Identify areas to streamline expenses and reduce costs
Too often, marketing isn’t brought into the M&A process until after the deal is finalized. This becomes a missed opportunity to cost-effectively plan and implement the rebrand.
By developing your branded asset conversion plan early, you can reduce your budgetary impact by making wise use of your organization’s CapEx and OpEx policies. This is also the time to identify which branded assets must be transitioned quickly and which can be transitioned over time, as part of normal operating cycles. Keep an eye out for branded elements that can be retired or eliminated altogether to streamline expenses.
3. Evaluate and evolve your processes as the two teams merge their brand and marketing operations
As you merge with or acquire another organization, take a hard look at what you do every day and how well you do it. Rebranding is an excellent time to shore up your brand and marketing operations to ensure your team is equipped to meet your evolving needs.
This is also a good opportunity to create goodwill between your two marketing teams. Look for ways to foster collaboration and mutual respect as you merge two distinct cultures into one. Compare how each side tackles the same tasks and decide which approach will best serve your newly merged organization going forward.
Ask questions like:
- Which processes are most repeatable and efficient? Have we documented them appropriately? Are there any operational gaps we need to fill as part of this M&A?
- Do we have the right people in the right roles to support our strategic goals? Do we need to round out our marketing team with new skills and talent?
- Have we invested in the right tools, technology, and systems to equip our evolving brand for the digital-first era?
- What’s the best way to optimize our brand and marketing operations to support our new brand strategy?
- Should we create a centralized marketing team? Or would it be better to operate in a decentralized way?
- How will we govern our new brand to ensure brand consistency and protect its value?
Strengthening your brand and marketing operations now will ensure you’re well prepared to roll out your rebrand implementation the moment your M&A deal is finalized.
Proactive planning is the key to making your M&A-driven rebrand a success
Given the tremendous amount of M&A activity in the market, chances are high that your organization will pursue a fortuitous deal to drive your business forward. If you want to fully capitalize on that deal’s potential, now’s the time to develop a solid rebranding game plan.
Put together a thoughtful employee and stakeholder communication plan. Work with stakeholders across your organization to compile a comprehensive inventory of all your branded assets. Think through the financial implications of your rebranding timeline and transition strategy. And shore up your brand and marketing operations so you’re ready to get the ball rolling as soon as it’s time.