Building Brand Synergy In An M&A World

Posted in Insights

In the lifespan of a company, there are many crossroads with strategic "buy or build" choices. Whether it’s to expand services and geography, add customers and capabilities, or improve operational efficiency, there are myriad drivers for mergers and acquisitions.

But how do you ensure that a few M&As down the road the result feels cohesive? Though often driven by financial levers, there’s almost always an underlying brand vision, or at least an unspoken assumption, about how it will all orbit around customers to create more value than ever. Best case, that vision would help guide acquisition. In most cases, it’ll need to catch up later.

At some point, if brand vision isn’t fully articulated, companies start to look, sound, and feel fragmented. What unlocks the latent value of it all is when the aggregation of parts comes together as a perceived whole that resonates with employees and customers alike. In the world of Brand-Led Business Building®, we call it brand synergy.

4 Questions: Align Your Brand Vision

History is littered with M&As–from giant media deals to niche wine labels and more–that made sense in the boardroom but fell flat in the market. Following a phase of growth and/or mergers, the best way to setup for external impact and internal alignment is to answer four simple questions a customer or employee might ask:

  1. Why’d You Do All That? Beyond financial drivers, there's a "why" driving capital investments that’s rooted in “So that…”—the impact a business seeks to make on its market and the world. Articulating the Brand Vision is a value amplifier that can guide, inspire, differentiate, and unite. The merged purpose, position, promise, values, and distinctions of the brand helps align all that follows.

  2. What Does It All Do For Me? Customers gravitate towards well-organized services that feel connected experientially. As you build features to address gaps, the flow often disappears into long lists of products, services, or locations. Mapping Customer-Centric Services re-aligns your offerings into a continuum, or even a chronology, orbiting customer wants and needs.

  3. How Do The Pieces Fit Together? The company’s name, identity and branding is often outpaced by its growth and stays linked to its legacy definition and services. It requires not just an updated name and look, but an understanding of how all the existing and new pieces fit together, often including legacy names, sub-brands, products, and services. Harmonizing Brand Architecture (with a healthy dose of decluttering) helps it all fit neatly in people’s brains.

  4. Where Can I See All This Clearly Communicated? No public-facing tactic provides a better opportunity (and mandate) to comprehensively clarify brand strategy as a core digital destination. Websites, and their interconnected elements, are an indispensable tool for internal and external alignment by encapsulating how to navigate services, what messages to elevate, what brands link in/out, even how you deliver services–Displaying Digital Clarity means using today’s most popular channel to convey your full vision and intention.

Unfinished Brand-Led Business

These questions are relevant before M&A (or other inorganic expansion) efforts begin, but some of the most transformative branding happens after the fact. Many great companies (both B2B and B2C) spend years building a reality that outpaces their perception, and were able to successfully execute post facto brand alignment (with a little help from FINE):

  • TrialCard began with one product to support life sciences companies and evolved with an end-to-end vision to help navigate the industry’s complexity, rebranded as Mercalis.
  • Nelson Global began with a focus on exhaust products and steadily added markets and capabilities until its worldwide impact moved far ahead of its old perception.
  • SIAA grew to be the nation’s largest alliance of insurance agents to serve carriers, then evolved into a larger vision to power the small business dreams of thousands of independent agents.
  • Lumencor's obsessive focus on making the best light sources expanded to a continuum of design, engineering and certification that unleashes the power of light for the world's most impactful research and development.
  • In hospitality, the "acquisitions" may be as simple as amassing new properties with varied styles and locations that need a better cohering platform. Hospitality pioneers Kimpton acquired boutique hotels around the world, then needed a story to connect all their unique experiences and loyal fans. Canyon Ranch invented a multi-billion dollar category by establishing a single wellness resort, then evolved into wellness guides that can be with you, in many ways across many locations, for life.

Whatever assembly your company has evolved into, one of the most transformative things you can do is to unify and clarify what connects it all. A Brand-Led Business Building® approach can flex to wherever your company is in its trajectory to realign how Vision, Experience, Expression, and Traction are all adding up to the synergy you had in mind all along.

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