When it comes to mergers and acquisitions, it is essential to plan for the brand.

In mergers and acquisitions (M&A), business leaders are often confronted with countless decisions and strategic challenges. Too often, way down on the list of considerations is how to manage the evolving brand strategy of the renewed business.

It’s one of the main reasons that up to 83% of mergers and acquisitions fail. But it doesn’t need to be this difficult. By placing brand strategy at the centre of the strategic decision-making process, organisations will have greater success in bringing their different businesses together.

The brand strategy guide to mergers and acquisitions explores the different considerations for leaders as they embark on this complex journey. This guide will provide answers to one the most overlooked components of successful M&A initiatives, the importance of getting brand strategy right. Download our free guide and get the critical support you need.

Key take-outs from the guide:

  • The criticality of strategic M&A initiatives as a tool for business and brand growth.
  • How to build a well-evidenced business case for brand research through the different phases of the M&A process.
  • The role and importance of a strong brand architecture strategy in helping customers navigate the renewed structure of the brand.
  • Techniques to assist in reflecting and communicating the refreshed strategic intent and culture of the business.
  • How to keep your internal and external stakeholders aligned and engaged, to reduce turnover and uncertainty.

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One of the core principles underlying an effective brand strategy is to understand and align the company’s offering with customers’ needs and preferences. Understanding the discrepancies between what the brand claims it stands for and what customers believe, will help to construct a brand that is more accurately in tune with the audience. Brand research will help you gain deeper insight into your customers which can form the basis of your brand strategy.  

Research can also assist in consolidating views from internal stakeholders pre or post a merger or acquisition. The insights can deliver a richer understanding of the strategy behind creating a new brand name. The goal of research is to gain clarity on how brand performance and brand distinction is perceived by external and internal audiences. Ultimately, we want to uncover the meaning of the brand to those who interact with it in a 360-degree approach. 

Reducing the risks associated with rebranding after a merger or acquisition.

Insights from brand research can help organisations mitigate risk when it comes to rebranding. A rebrand represents considerable investment from a financial and time perspective, not to mention the risk of losing customers who were loyal to your existing brand.  This factor is particularly pertinent when going from a well-known established brand to an unknown new brand. This was the case for one of our past clients - mycar.

The strategic acquisition that made way for a strong new brand in a competitive market.

Continental Automotive Group is a world leader in tyre production. Founded in 1871, Continental is a multinational manufacturer of performance-oriented tyres. The organisation was focused on growth, and as part of that growth strategy, had identified Australia as a growth market. This resulted in the acquisition of Kmart Tyre & Auto Services – one of the largest tyre and auto service chains in Australia, which at the time had 258 branches and more than 1,200 employees.

With the existing brand name linked back to the original owners (Kmart, a brand owned by parent company Wesfarmers), the new owner needed to rebrand. They needed to make a strategic decision on what brand was required to bring this new, heavily service-oriented arm of their business to market.

Making a strategic decision such as this, in a market relatively unfamiliar to the new parent company, needed to be underpinned by research. For Continental Automotive Group, the research was the key to reducing risk by investigating how to retain existing customers and attract new customers in the Australian market.

BrandMatters were engaged to conduct brand research in order to test the market response to the new brand, mycar. The objective was to find a brand the internal team would feel confident with, a name that would drive their business forward and demonstrate that the brand’s strategic direction was aligned to the wants and needs of their customers.

Utilising both qualitative and quantitative research methods, BrandMatters were able to build a deep understanding of what the market valued about the current brand as well as test the identity of the new brand with existing customers.

Brand research enabled the Continental Automotive Group to understand: 

  • Their existing audience – what they valued about the current service/brand/offering.
  • The market – what were the needs of the market.
  • The internal culture – with such a significant workforce within the branch network, it was important to understand what was valued by the employees and stakeholders of the acquired business, and how they should best retain a positive culture through the acquisition and rebrand process.

BrandMatters were able to utilise the information that already existed inside the business. Kmart Tyre and Auto were already invested in the value of brand research and had engaged in brand tracking. Interrogating this information along with discussions with the internal team paved the road to formalising the right positioning for the new brand name - mycar.

Three key forms of brand research were used in this project:

  • Desk research

In this case, quality brand tracking research and competitor analysis was available and proved useful in unpacking insights into existing customer sentiment for the market segment. BrandMatters were able to clearly articulate the new brand positioning through interrogating this existing research.

  • Qualitative research

Internal discussions with key stakeholders were designed to facilitate an understanding of brand perceptions and strategic direction. A number of directions for the new brand were explored and one particular identity resonated strongly with the group.

  • Quantitative research

The quantitative research mined the sentiment of the general population interested in purchasing tyres and car servicing, utilising the existing positioning to help understand the potential of the new brand name. Given the strong network and customer base already established for the Kmart Tyre and Auto brand, it was vital that the new brand did not jeopardise this equity. In this case the quantitative research overwhelmingly supported the new brand direction.

Along the way, the research uncovered some key opportunities for the new brand including a greater focus on digital to make the customer experience more personalised and service seamless.

The new brand has been out in the marketplace for just over 2 years now, and mycar as a brand has been accepted and embraced by the team and consumers. To read more about the mycar brand project – see our case study or read a recent article by CMO magazine.

As mycar continues to grow across Australia, they’ve retained their focus on staying true to their brand positioning, delivering on customer needs above all else and importantly building brand trust along the way.

At BrandMatters, we believe a great brand is based on the right balance of strategic insight and intrinsic design. We love creating new brands for our clients, especially when they are born from insight and are embraced whole-heartedly by the entire team.

If your organisation has recently acquired a new brand, we highly recommend brand research as a tool to mitigate the risk of transitioning brands through the acquisition process. Contact us to discuss your unique situation. 

Digital innovation has provided B2B organisations with new ways to bring their brands to life, taking their customer experience to a different level with higher engagement, interaction and user experience. Customers no longer absorb brands as they once did (by watching, reading, listening), they now have unlimited access to interact with branded content on so many different levels.

The amount of technology we have access to allows business leaders to build a more personalised, digital strategy around the wants, needs and attitudes of their customers. This level of connectedness is exciting but often distracting.

From a brand perspective, there are literally millions of ways brands can engage with their audience, but the aim of the modern marketer is to be strategic and targeted so that every interaction counts.

The struggle between personal and digital in a B2B context

With the frantic rush to adopt the latest and greatest technology, there is often another tension that arises: to what extent are face-to-face business relationships critical in driving the strategy of the brand forward? We experienced this conundrum during periods of lockdown at the height of the pandemic, and now, we are seeing business activity shifting to more of a hybrid customer facing and digitally enhanced strategy from B2B businesses.

But the underlying concern surrounding this tension remains – we see stakeholders rushing to digitise systems, processes and channels, with a continual focus surrounding measurement and metrics, and other stakeholders resisting change in the desire to retain a more personal service model.

Success lies somewhere in between these two extremes. There are some areas where the accessibility, speed and agility of digital delivers a better outcome for the customer and the business, and some areas where human customer contact cannot easily be replaced. The key lies in ensuring that each of these approaches is consistent, and that neither is placed before the unifying promise of the broader brand.

The contrasting approach to digital strategy in B2B organisations

In our most recent report, we explored the impact and importance of digital strategy in the banking and payments landscape and explained the two contrasting approaches prevalent amongst financial services organisations when managing their digital and brand strategies – brand informs digital, or digital leads the way. These two approaches are also frequently found in B2B organisations.

Digital leads the way

When B2B businesses lead their digital strategy around their tools and channels, the digital strategy tends to operate independently from the brand strategy. It is an approach that often results in digital being locked in at the tactical level. Without the underpinning of brand, digital communications can lack substance and become distracted by the latest tweet, the latest offer and the latest metric.

The main sacrifice is the consistency of customer experience, especially as there is no centralised guidance to fall back on. In the B2B context, if organisations are not careful, their brands can become driven and overwhelmed with consumer whim, and are soon found to be lacking direction, dimension and substance over the long term.

Brand strategy informs digital strategy

Alternatively, when B2B organisations integrate their brand strategy and use it to inform their digital strategy, they have a clear, amplified, guiding roadmap that helps navigate the organisation in a context of consumer flux.

Today, regardless of business or pleasure, lives and markets remain volatile. Brand provides B2B customers with reassurance, familiarity and easy, safe decisions in the digital world. In this sense, the brand strategy filters through to strengthen the digital strategy, where each digital touchpoint delivers an experience that is consistent with the brand's promise. Digital platforms are treated as an opportunity to communicate the brand’s point of difference and are seen as a valuable channel.

If your brand positioning is not clear, this is the first place to start, defining your brand positioning is extremely important and we recommend you touch base with a brand agency such as BrandMatters to get your all-important brand positioning and narrative clear. We know from experience that having a clear positioning, makes every subsequent decision and strategy so much easier including the way your brand is communicating online across your digital channels. 

Digital strategy – a vital tactic, but still a tactic

In the B2B context, it’s not about doing ‘digital marketing', it’s about marketing effectively in a digital world. Digital strategy should not replace, or operate separately from, the broader brand strategy. It should be treated as an important tool amongst the broader suite of communication tools.

While digital campaigns, social media initiatives and compelling content are instrumental in driving the growth of a business, these tactics have limitations in setting a long-term platform for the brand. However, when integrated into the business, brand and communications planning process, they become critical tools in communicating a brand’s positioning effectively.

This is the challenge for marketers. Brand doesn’t have an easy ROI measuring metric. When teams can follow and measure their customer’s online journeys through an immeasurable number of metrics – bounce rate, keyword volume, click through rate, conversion rate, followers, reach, shares, comments, likes or ROI – the numbers become somewhat of an obsession for businesses of all sizes and they deliver less value in the long term.

The diversity of marketing options that can be deployed – SEO, link building, content marketing, social media, email automation, lead magnets, opt-in pages, sales funnels, display advertising – can overwhelm even the most sophisticated business.

Marketers have access to more measurement tools than they would ever have time to analyse, utilise or act upon. But measurement for the sake of measurement is time spent wasted, and the analytics are only advantageous if the business takes the time to dissect and distil the important insights and translate these insights into actionable strategy.

Human connections at the center of digital transformation and metrics

Brands have the power to create meaningful connections between organisations and their customers. Strong brands have the capacity to inject humanity into large organisations by defining a purpose and instilling a positive culture.

The oversaturation of metrics-obsessed business leaves a massive void and opportunity for brand reputation and customer-obsessed B2B organisations, all of which are one and the same. When brand and digital are used in tandem, your business will feel as familiar as possible to your audiences.

Digital market strategies and measurement metrics are important for businesses of all sizes, but measuring a brand that has an evidenced, proven foundation will deliver far more favourable metrics than one that doesn’t.

Use your brand strategy as your guiding light

Your brand strategy has the power to steer you and your business safely though this unparalleled period of change. Putting your brand strategy first will streamline your digital strategy and prevent your team from getting distracted from the endless stream of latest and greatest. It is important to use digital channels to create strong human connections with your audiences, whilst also ensuring your messaging is consistent, tailored and engaging.

Contact the team at BrandMatters to assess how your brand is performing and resonating across your digital channels.