I’ve seen the same story play out time and again. Ahead of a company merger, marketing and communications teams work around the clock to merge two brands and prepare them for launch on day one. Then, two years later, the combined brand underwent a rebrand.
The answer is simple. No one knows what life is like on the other side of the door until they walk through it. And yet, time and time again, teams come up with brand strategy before the businesses have had any experience working together — they don’t honestly know who brings what and where the advantages lie yet. You can anticipate your synergies and how merging as one entity builds success in existing markets or might open the door to new markets. Still, it would help if you worked together before you could understand it well enough to brand it. There’s much work to do first.
Editor’s note: This is part two of a two part series from David Martin. Read part one here.
Step 1: Manage audience expectations
When companies merge, employees and customers wonder, “How will this impact me? Will I lose my job? Will the products I know and love be taken away?”
There’s almost always significant trepidation, so your first job must be to offer your stakeholders peace of mind. And the only way to do this is by following the first rule: Always do not harm. We must understand what they want and what’s important to them and then use this understanding to guide our collective behavior once the companies come together.
No one knows what life is like on the other side of the door until they walk through it.
Initially, this requires making sure that decisions that might contribute to insecurities and fears aren’t made and executed. Remember, your goal is to reassure your target audiences that they won’t lose anything important to them and that you’re not making any changes until they’ve had a chance to provide input and insights on where opportunities might lie. You can further communicate this commitment by giving them an active voice via customer, investor, and employee advisory boards.
This process can last throughout most of that initial year, as it’s only once your target audiences feel reassured that you can start to have forward-looking conversations. Often, customers are clients of both firms, which means they’re perfectly poised to tell you where synergies lie, as well as where they would use one company and where they would use the other. Think of it as a Venn diagram, which helps you understand where the points of intersection and divergence exist.