Given the increasingly competitive and ever-changing global marketplace, it is reasonable to expect that most branding, marketing and corporate communications professionals will be charged with implementing a rebranding project resulting from a merger or acquisition during their career. Having led the creation and evolution of the discipline of brand implementation management over the majority of the past two decades, BrandActive has a wealth of detailed content to provide on this topic and this post is meant to cover the basics. We are always available to have this conversation, and when you’re given a mandate to oversee a cost-effective transition of two companies’ brands, this 10-step action plan provides a macro snapshot of what you should expect and plan for.
Step 1: Regulatory Hearings
Timelines vary widely here. During regulatory hearings, exploration to ascertain the branding implications of the deal should be undertaken, as should a discussion about how to properly manage the finances of brand transition to minimize operational impact and maximize shareholder value. Will the acquiring company’s brand become the merged companies’ brand, vice versa, or will a new brand identity be developed for the newly merged company? If it is anticipated that some sort of brand change will occur and that the timeline to launch will be short, it is usually prudent to begin gathering information. This helps to avoid last-minute scrambling in the event that the deal is approved versus waiting until approval to begin taking action. In certain competitive situations, this may involve putting questions through the “white room” in order to gather information. In confidentially sensitive situations, you will need to consider how to safeguard confidentiality. There are ways to deal with these challenges to ensure that you will be well positioned to move quickly if the deal gets the green light. How much will it cost to achieve the end state immediately vs over 6 months vs over 2 years? Can the cost of the rebrand be rolled into the acquisition account? Should the whole project or parts of it be treated as a capital expense? These and other financial implications should be determined early.
Internal rumblings are possible at this stage, making it important that the company’s top leader send a carefully crafted message to directors (or operational leaders) as soon as it’s legally possible. Director level staff should be aware of the M&A long before rebranding activity begins.
Step 2: The Announcement
Your company’s board or executive team announces a new partnership or affiliation that will require a corporate rebranding. What to do first? Begin by identifying timing triggers that will impact your brand launch and roll-out dates. These can be related to regulatory or deal requirements, or be driven by commercial realities such as seasonal influences on the business cycle. Having a sense of key milestones that must be achieved allows you to identify interdependencies to consider and what critical resources must be involved by when.
Step 3: Establish Rebranding Teams
Creating a bridge between the integration management office, marketing, and operations is often a challenging undertaking. It’s possible that you will collaborate with your peers at the company with which you are merging. Together, identify the branding agency and the brand implementation firm you’ll hire to support creation of the new brand strategy/logo development, etc. (as required), and management of the brand transition. These are different resources focused on different aspects of the rebranding project; the former creates the new identity, and the latter helps you specify and roll out all newly branded assets. Our company, BrandActive, focuses exclusively on brand implementation and is often brought in at this phase to help marketing executives understand the various ways they can roll out their brand and how much each roll-out scenario will cost.
Step 4: Executive Communications
At this stage the leadership team should communicate with the organization regarding the rebranding initiative, outlining the key players in the brand transition and ask for full commitment to the process – which includes communicating what they should and should not do in the interim to minimize transition costs when the time comes. This communication should cascade down into the organization to the management level to ensure the cooperation of all required participants in the rebranding process and to ensure that the project activities are prioritized as required.
Step 5: Data Collection
BrandActive supports your team in conducting internal interviews with both companies’ department heads, to gather and quantify information regarding scope of branded assets, associated costs and branding processes. Branded assets include anything that currently is branded so it is important to have a process in place that can achieve 100% capture. When two companies are merging into one, it’s critical to create a combined asset list and determine which assets should be 1) eliminated, 2) rebranded, or 3) neutralized (logos or identity removed). This phase can seem like a monumental task however it is critical to be judicious as this information provides the foundation for project success, particularly as it relates to comprehensive cost estimation and elimination of legacy logos. Our recent asset inventory article dives more deeply into this topic. Going off track even 5% can incur a significant loss in budget or time.
Step 6: Scenario Planning
Using the data collected, financial and business analysts should examine all cost, scope, and timing variables that affect the rebranding. Quality is viewed as an overriding variable during scenario planning. Typically in our client engagements, BrandActive delivers up to three potential scenarios, each which include an associated cost estimate. We also identify the various sources of funds available to pay for rebranding costs; for example, some clients prefer to classify rebranding costs as an extraordinary, one-time expense versus an operational expense that impacts the operational P&L.
Step 7:Select a Preferred Scenario
After discussing the pros and cons of each scenario, choose one (or a hybrid) of the three scenarios presented to develop for presentation to the leadership team. Ensure the scenario presentation provides a clear picture of what launch and completion look like in terms that key stakeholders will understand. This is a critical step in establishing the expectation for the project against which success will be measured.
Step 8: Executive Leadership / Board Approval
Your brand implementation partner will play a key role in helping you secure approval for your plan by ensuring you are fully prepared for your presentation to leadership and/or the board of directors. These materials should include a well thought out preliminary cost estimate broken down by asset category, fiscal year split, CapEx and OpEx and where needed, legal entity allocation.
Step 9: Develop Project Plans and Associated Communications Plans
Plan the project based on the approved scenario. You need the support of your own leadership team along with the specialists who will prepare detailed project plans for each and every asset category with an eye on the associated risks, budget control and quick wins that will align all workgroups.
Step 10: Execute and Monitor the Plan
Be sure your team has the bandwidth and capabilities to execute the project plans. The complexities and costs of implementation projects are significant. Your dedicated team should have the time and ability to track thousands of tasks, manage vendors, monitor progress and spend, escalate issues, mitigate risks, propose solutions to issues as they arise, and communicate effectively to all stakeholder groups in order to align expectations and activities accordingly. Conclusion:
How you implement your brand is as important as what you implement. Brand implementation projects can be huge and complex initiatives requiring specific expertise and adequate manpower to implement efficiently and effectively. Bookmark or print this page for future reference, and to build a portfolio of “how-to” documents, bookmark the BrandActive blog and follow our LinkedIn Company page for more insights on effective brand implementation.