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Brad VanAuken Re-Branding

Branding, Acquisition & Transition

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It is critical for companies that grow through acquisition to provide the acquired companies with the following tools for brand transition.

If re-branding is a forgone conclusion:

•Acquiring brand positioning (essence, promise, personality, etc.) reviewed with acquired company management and marketing department
     oAcquired company management and marketing department must understand the brand strategy of the acquiring company
•A fairly exhaustive inventory of possible identity applications to be addressed (such as catalogs, brochures, white papers, vehicles, signage, stationery, websites, presentation (PowerPoint) formats, telephone scripts, product, packaging, shipping boxes, trade show booths, etc.)
     oWeb considerations are critical — URL conventions, combined or separate websites, redirects, applying new identity skin to existing sites, etc.
•Detailed guidelines for new brand identity, preferably including templates for most common applications
•Brand transition plan outline including customer, sales force, distributor and other business partner communication, transition steps and expected timeline
     oFewer steps are usually better. One step, if possible, is the most advantageous
     oAlso outlining anticipated incremental changeover expenses and long-term cost savings, if any
     oRevised selling scripts and sales training are essential
     oTimelines for individual steps will be based upon cost, complexity and importance of change
•Extra seed funds to facilitate a successful re-branding campaign

If re-branding is not a forgone conclusion:

•Brand architecture decision tree/criteria
     oIncluding options for acquired brands (independent stand alone brand, sub-brand, endorsed brand, product name, absorption into another brand)
•Brand identity guidelines/standards
•Recommended research to inform branding decisions (awareness, positive associations and other equity elements for the acquired brand and the acquiring brand within the relevant product/service categories)
•Brand transition plan outline including customer, sales force, distributor and other business partner communication, transition steps and expected timeline
     oFewer steps are usually better, one step if possible
     oAlso outlining anticipated incremental changeover expenses and long-term cost savings, if any
     oRevised selling scripts and sales training are essential
•Extra seed funds to facilitate a successful re-branding campaign

In either situation (re-branding as a forgone conclusion or not), the marketing department of the acquiring company must meet with the marketing department of the acquired company to make sure that there is a good understanding of the strategy, to identify possible issues and to develop a practical, cost-effective transition plan.

As with any communication, people need to hear a message many times in many ways for it to sink in. While there will be additional costs with launching a revised identity, this communication, if well crafted, can also serve to build brand awareness and favorability, encourage trial, and give a sales force an excuse for additional sales calls through which they could generate additional orders/sales. Brand consolidation/rationalization can reduce costs in the long run. By reducing the number of brands, the existing brands can get stronger (through more focused resources) and marketing and brand-specific costs (duplicate sku's under different brand names, etc.) can be reduced.

It is very important to build a convincing story about how the marriage of these companies and brands create additional advantages for the customer. For single step complete transitions (in which the acquired brand goes away and is replaced by the acquiring brand), it is critical to communicate that the old brand is being transformed into something newer and better. The communication should explain the benefits of the new brand to the customer.

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