Ward Alles

Why you need to talk “brand” before any M&A activity

By Ward Alles on September 10, 2014

Followers of Core should know by now: our say it. live it.™ branding philosophy is about alignment, i.e. aligning what you say to the outside world in your branding activities with how you behave and perform in your culture.

So, this little topic of mergers and acquisitions comes along and presents two possible scenarios to potentially upset the ol’ apple cart when it comes to brand alignment.

Scenario 1: An acquisition
Where one larger company, in effect, absorbs the other and makes it comply with its way of doing things. And …

Scenario 2: A merger
Where two companies come together and, in theory, keep the best of both brands/cultures and get rid of the rest.

How can going through the say it. live it.™ branding process help sort things out in either of these scenarios?

Simple.

We lock all of the key stakeholders in a room; take them through our focus group process and hash out new or revised definitions of your brand. People need definition. They long to understand the rules of the game. Whether going through a merger or an acquisition.

True, if you are the acquiree, you will have to manage through more change than the acquirer. But as long as you’re communicated with (respected, asked), you’ll likely play along. After all, you want to succeed in your new environment.

[pullquote align=”right”] People will support what they help build. [/pullquote]

What may be harder is when two brands (and their accompanying cultures) are asked to merge. Again, the goal is to create something new. Something better. And again, the process is the same: lock the stakeholders in a room and feed them warm beer and cold pizza until they have some common vision and language.

Why is it harder to brand in a merge scenario? Well, if you think about it, both companies are being asked to give up their old brand promise and way of doing things in order to create something new and better for their customers. This is a lot of change all at once – affecting everyone – inside and outside of the organization.

How do you make things easier for all parties? Again, simple.

Include them. In fact, exclude them to your own detriment. If you want to empower employees to live the brand, engage them as it’s being defined. People will support what they help build.

Want to discuss your brand in light of current or future M&A activity? We’d be happy to consult. Just respond below … or give us a call.


Ward began his advertising career as a copywriter, working for two of Wisconsin’s leading business-to-business agencies. In 1994, Ward helped form Core Creative with his two partners. At Core, he originally served as an account executive and copywriter. As Core grew, Ward moved on to his current administrative role as president. While he still provides brand consultation and strategy to a handful of accounts directly, his primary goal now is to help guide the agency’s direction and business development efforts. Connect with Ward on LinkedIn or drop him an email at ward@corecreative.com.