In our recent blog post, we discussed the power of strategic branding in the world of private equity. As we mentioned, the first step in developing a new brand for an M&A should be to gain understanding and consensus on how you want to be (and can/should be) positioned within the market via your company messaging and positioning. Once you have the words right, it’s time to get the looks down. Your company CVI (corporate visual identity) includes the logo, the color palette, typography, graphics and iconography, unique branded elements like an image masking or pattern overlay, and so much more. As we stated before, you only get to go to market with your new brand once – make sure it counts by following our steps to a successful M&A brand launch below.
3. Define the New Company Structure
When merging multiple companies, it’s important to think through the new structure, from multiple points of view – the employees’ roles, the products/services/capabilities, the customers and partner channels, the company values and culture, just to name a few. Understanding and clearly communicating how everything will fit together will help employees adapt to the change and ultimately help the brand strength. Ideally, you should already be thinking about this during the messaging and positioning phase and should have an idea of what’s overlapping, what’re the new capabilities that need to be accounted for, and write new content for? How do they fit into the company story and how do you market them? How does this affect the website’s sitemap, content, and user journey? How does this affect current and new contracts?
Understanding the company’s new structure and thinking about new processes early on makes it easier to design around the new information architecture, flag problem areas that employees or customers might be confused about, and address them before it becomes a challenge. It’s also beneficial to look ahead – many times during an M&A, companies might be in the process of acquiring another new company/companies towards the end of when they’re launching the new brand. Accounting for that potential while thinking about the new company structure and information architecture encourages a scalable structure knowing that the company’s solutions and capabilities will likely continue to expand throughout the process of building the new brand.
4. Plan Your Internal & External Go-To-Market Campaign
Now that you have strategic messaging and positioning, a new corporate visual identity, and a good understanding of new company architecture, it’s time to start planning the launches – both internal and external go-to-market campaigns.
Employees are brand ambassadors, so set them up for success with a smooth internal launch by setting expectations and communicating in a clear way how this change will affect their roles/responsibilities, the culture/values, etc. Employees are looking to understand what this change means for them. How is their job changing, what’s the new org chart, who do they report to, how do they refer to the brand, etc? A personal touch like a letter or video from the CEO can go a long way in delivering a level of unity and excitement about the upcoming changes. Prep them with swag bags of new branded merchandise, prepare a digital brand assets package with all new branded collateral templates like pitch decks/presentations, datasheets, white papers, business cards/stationery, email signatures, brand guidelines on how to use and apply the new branding, etc. A well synced internal launch promotes confidence about the new company and its opportunities, and the employees are an extension of the brand, so preparing them and motivating them for the changes to come are necessary for the brand to hold strong internally before launching externally. The better you communicate to and prepare employees, the stronger the brand will be represented through them.
A compelling Go-To-Market campaign is essential for an external brand launch. This includes everything from PR and media outreach, to ensuring the website is ready to launch, to a strategic paid social campaign with PPC, hyper-targeted ads, geofencing, marketing automation with email campaigns, optimized SEO, and maybe even a brand launch or brand essence video to really stand out and help tell your story.
The GTM campaign is where everything comes together – the messaging and positioning weaved in the campaign theme, the compelling visuals representing the new corporate visual identity, and the excitement around the new company’s capabilities and what this means for customers. Executing on a strong go-to-market campaign is not only critical in getting brand awareness, but also in driving home the value of being stronger together – both internally and externally. It’s not about the change; it’s about what’s next, together.
Case Study: SpaceIQ
Enter three leading brands of the workplace management industry: SiQ, Archibus, and Serraview. Each with a rich product portfolio with distinct features, designed for the needs of different sized companies. United, they offer integrated workplace solutions that optimize the workspace and enhance employee experience for companies of any size. Project Union became the name of this powerful merger of three companies into SpaceIQ, a comprehensive solution on a mission to make the workplace good for business and great for people.
To solidify the merger, SpaceIQ needed a new website that spoke to its breadth of offerings and united company mission. The company turned to Bluetext to turn their new branding into a fully responsive and intuitive website to communicate all of their product lines. The new site was designed with the end customer needs top of mind. Using dynamic components to showcase success stories, custom glossary pages, and a robust resource center for all post types, SpaceIQ customers can easily find all the educational resources they need. The three legacy brands’ relevant products are clearly identifiable through the sitemap and component features, but balanced by cohesive branding and streamlined user journey.
5. Keep It All Going
Finally, keep the momentum going, and even ramp it up! The early stages of launching a new brand from multiple companies require a lot of time, energy, and effort to maintain the excitement and continue to push brand awareness. Also from a technical perspective, there are things to consider like not immediately redirecting all legacy websites to the new site since a lot of content, like contract vehicles, for example, needs to still be accessed. However, it should still be obvious that it’s now a new company – so adding homepage banners on legacy sites with the brand launch announcement, or updating logos on the legacy LinkedIn pages (but not removing them), can help make the transition easier for customers until the brand has had time to fully establish itself in the market and stand on its own. SEO is another area that requires some time and love to see improvement since it’s likely a new name and some new search term combinations that google is processing.
A company is only as strong as its talent, so maintaining and recruiting top talent should be a priority. Consider starting a series of video vignettes with current employees speaking about their time at the legacy companies and how it’s been at the new company. Why do they love it, what makes this company different from competitors, how are there more opportunities now, etc.
Along with recruiting campaigns, continuing to execute strategic brand-awareness campaigns via paid and organic social, continuous content writing for SEO and thought leadership, etc. is a long-term game that’s critical in moving from brand awareness into more specialized branded experiences that will resonate even more with the market.
The stronger the M&A brand launch is, the easier it is for PE firms to sell
The most important thing to address in an M&A brand creation is the why (aka, the value prop) behind the new brand and set clear expectations of what this means for employees and ultimately the market. What new, innovative outcomes can we enable? Prove the value proposition of being better together. If you can get the employees and your target audience on board with the new mission, it becomes less about corporate changes and transactions and more about the new opportunities that arise from being part of this new market-dominating company. And when the portfolio companies succeed, the PE firms succeed. For PE firms, having a strong brand itself, as well as a portfolio of strong brands, is crucial for deal sourcing, fundraising, and ultimately achieving higher investment returns.
A brand is often considered a company’s most valuable asset – make sure it’s in the right hands.
If you’re looking for expert strategy and implementation for your next M&A brand launch, you’re at the right place with Bluetext. We know a thing or two about M&As. 40 of our clients have been acquired within 24 months of an engagement with Bluetext. See some examples of our work with these M&As here, and contact us to get started.