Three questions your leadership will ask about your M&A rebrand implementation plan (and how to answer them)

Three questions your leadership will ask about your M&A rebrand implementation plan (and how to answer them)

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Monday, November 12, 2018 | Vladimir Kacar

One way to bring down the stress level of rebranding due to M&A activity is to prompt your leadership to ask you the hard questions about rebranding implementation as early in the process as possible—questions like these:

  • How will you manage our rebranding implementation?
  • How much will rebranding cost?
  • How will you identify and mitigate risks?

But big-company M&A is a high-stakes, fast-paced game and executives may not start to ask questions about rebranding implementation until the companies involved in the transaction are in the final stretch—perhaps not even until they’ve crossed the deal finish line. Yet, that makes it harder for Marketing to deliver a timely, cost-effective transition of all branded assets—one that reflects the proper visual identity and messaging and delivers the expected ROI.

Clearly, it’s not always easy to serve up the right answers about rebranding implementation at the ideal time.

Consider a supply company merger from a couple of years ago. The executives operated in secrecy with the deal team and introduced the proposed new name in a slide presentation to investors. That led stakeholders to expect rebranding to be completed soon after the close of the deal. But given the way the name change was revealed, marketing leadership had little chance to plan smartly for this important change–one that would impact customers, employees, and other stakeholders; drive future growth; and cost millions of dollars to implement.

A recent healthcare merger had a better outcome. A complex deal, it involved both a change of ownership and a plan to rename the combined organization. The merger integration office empowered the marketing team to start scoping and planning for the change a year ahead of the launch. That provided ample time to consult with Legal on the ramifications of the name change. The team developed conversion strategies for each type of branded asset, from signage to IT systems to fleet, and implemented a cohesive approach designed for efficiency and quality.

No matter where your company stands now, you’ll be in a stronger position to drive effective brand change when you can provide smart answers, early.

Top Executive Queries of Marketers for Rebranding Plans

Question 1: Can rebranding implementation be rolled into our usual marketing planning process?

It’s best managed as a stand-alone effort for four reasons.

First, while executives realize there’s work—and money—involved in making this kind of brand change, many need to be educated about the extent of the effort.

Second, it involves coordinating the efforts of hundreds of individuals in other departments, from Legal and Facilities to HR and IT, all of which need to implement brand change in their areas.

Third, rebrand planning and implementation requires a different set of skills and resources than business-as-usual marketing planning. Marketing departments are not equipped to do large-scale analysis and cost estimates of all branded assets at the same time. They don’t have the specific expertise to manage the massive planning, organization, procurement, and production design effort.

Fourth, the organization needs to address the need for more manpower. They often need to hire contractors to complete the hands-on transition work.

Question 2: What resources will be required for rebranding implementation?

Often the intent behind the resources question is to gain an understanding of total out-of-pocket costs. Getting to this specific number for your organization will always require expert analysis and scoping of branded assets across all locations and departments and it almost always takes more money than you think.

And that doesn’t account for the internal staff time mentioned earlier. Hundreds of staff members, most of them outside of the marketing department, are involved in rebranding implementation. Without proper project structure and support, employees from multiple departments and locations repeatedly duplicate each other’s efforts as they learn legal requirements, develop templates for new branded assets, run procurement processes, and more.

Centralizing project organization through rebrand implementation experts will streamline implementation of brand change. That addresses one of the risks of rebranding implementation: The intense effort can derail or delay other business priorities in the marketing department and beyond. Think about it. When you task staff to manage thousands of meetings and hundreds of procurements processes, other strategic priorities, such as digital transformation or internal reorganizations, may push out by months or years. Using expert rebranding support can help you maintain the momentum.

Question 3: What are other risks of rebranding implementation and how are you planning to mitigate them?

The biggest risk is not attaining the benefits that can result from brand change. Two factors can stand between you, the marketing leader, and your goal of timely and effective brand change:

Taking too long to implement and losing stakeholder goodwill: The brand can’t be physically changed overnight. Smart brand change requires planning. Plan to spend a minimum of two months in the planning phase. The right implementation plan will tie directly to the business plan. It will pull on levers of timing, quality, and available budget to deliver full brand change in as little as six months to as many as five years. Keep in mind that “too long” is a relative term. As long as the plan includes communicating to investors, employees, and customers what you are planning to do and when, the rebranding is timely.

Not having enough budget to change branded assets: The budget for rebranding implementation can be a centralized allocation (and when the allocation is rolled into the M&A transaction, that may result in favorable accounting treatment of the expense). Projects with centralized allocation fare best. Without a dedicated pot of money for rebranding assets, marketing leaders need to persuade peers from other areas to spend money each budget cycle until the work is done. When companies select the decentralized allocation model, the result often isn’t pretty. “Half-branded” companies may still be working through the process almost a decade later. This underscores the need for marketing leadership to bring this issue to the forefront and why the executive team needs to support adequate budget for rebranding.

The right way to prepare to answer executive questions about rebranding implementation is straightforward: Do a thorough analysis, put a detailed project plan in place that includes the right resources, and diligently work the plan. And while rebranding implementation is inevitably complex and expensive, when everyone involved is accountable to a comprehensive plan, you will be able to control costs and ensure your company realizes the strategic benefits afforded by the brand change.

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