Brand Messaging For Mergers and Acquisitions
Many of us have been there, either as part of the merger or the merge-ee company. This is a journey for both corporate staff and consumers/customers. It is critical that these key parties be given the right level of information at the right times in order for them to feel confident in the change and in the brand. People are looking for cues that they will benefit from, or at the very least not lose something based on, the new construct.
Brand messaging often falls by the wayside in an M&A, or is thought of too late, because all the focus is on the financials. To be successful, it’s key to develop a communication plan for both internal and external audiences. This plan should detail specifics around who should be told what when. Be sure to keep asking yourself WHY they need to know this information, ensuring you’re not oversharing just for the sake of sharing. It’s wise to then identify which verbal and visual assets to incorporate at each phase.
The specifics vary by situation, company and category. But there are important principles to keep in mind:
- Get ahead of corporate chatter. Team members may be getting wind of change before the leadership group has broadly shared information. Leadership may have to embrace vulnerability and provide perspective before all the facts are known. Done well, panic can be assuaged
- Don’t favor one group over another. Organizations can get tripped up by inadvertently appearing to keep some departments more informed than others. Be sure to keep the whole workforce in mind when issuing communication
- Avoid sugarcoating things. This may be the hardest challenge. Transparency is tough. No one wants to share or hear bad news. But the imagination can often create more bad news than what’s happening in reality. Respect your team’s ability to process potential negatives
- Leadership needs to share information amongst the leadership team. A question, concern or opportunity brought up in one department may be of interest or relevant to those in other departments as well.
- The timeline may be longer than expected. People may feel a continued need for insight even after the M&A is “officially” complete. Uncertainties and questions may still linger, so plan for monthly share-outs for a while after the dust settles
- Me, me, me. External audiences are listening and watching for things that might benefit them out of this M&A, and things that might be taken away from them. Imagine if you heard that your favorite consumer brand, say, a certain nut butter brand, was being purchased by a large processed food manufacturer. Many questions could come to mind:
- Will the brand still be around in six months?
- Will the quality improve, stay the same, or maybe go down?
- What about pricing—higher, lower, same?
- Will the brand still be available for purchase in my typical stores?
- Will the name remain and package look the same or might I have trouble finding it?
Reassure with what you know. Showcase the confidence of the brand and how the consumer/customer base will find this to be a “win.” Now, maybe it won’t be a win for all. If that’s the case, depending on your category, you may need to set up a new communication channel, either via social media, a call-in number, or an email address. All in all, your objective should be to keep your buyers feeling stable and smart.
Note that nowhere in here did we state that this is easy. It’s not. So that’s why we are here to be of assistance. We’ve helped many teams through this, and we can help yours.