Mergers and acquisitions can ruin a B2B brand. Even the best-intentioned M&A can take a toll on a brand when rushed decisions lead to a lack of coordination in the culture and a timid approach to the market. I had a conversation with Jaimi Koechel who’s a veteran of both a firm rebrand and a B2B brand merger about how to execute a merger well, from a branding perspective.
B2B Brand Mergers: 2 Views
Firms take different views on M&As. Some see it as just an opportunity to expand, adding a book of business and making the firm’s strengths available to a wider audience and geographical area. But while the firm’s management may be thinking about expansion, and making higher-level decisions about naming, the accounting firm marketer’s job is to think about how the brand gets lived out over the course of the merger.
Anyone who’s been through a merger knows that, although the technical aspects of a merger take only months and end when the announcement is made, everyone gets new office signage, new email signature lines, and t-shirts with the new logo, the effects of the B2B brand merger last until everyone understands the new brand.
It can take months and years to get everyone to embrace the new brand, especially when two companies form a merged brand, and two cultures come together.
The Marketing Goal of a B2B Brand Merger
As a marketer, your job is twofold:
- End up with a strong brand whose values are understood and mean something, along with the requisite visual and verbal assets and guidance.
- Shorten the time between the merger and a strong culture that will consistently and convincingly live out the firm’s values.
We can’t control how quickly people grasp the culture at the individual level, but we can think ahead and make the path clear.
The Remarkabrand podcast was joined again by award-winning accounting marketer and former client Jaimi Koechel to help us understand what’s coming down the pike when two firms form a single, merged brand.
3 Decisive Moves Toward Brand B2B Brand Merger Success
I asked Jaimi about some of the challenges accounting marketers face during a merger. How do you maintain the strength of a brand when a merger presents every opportunity to dilute the brand? How do you help everyone make sense of the rebrand and keep them focused on what’s important?
Brand managers face a unique challenge when their firm merges with another firm since planning isn’t always straightforward. How do you make a merged brand that makes sense?
Let’s continue on and talk about things you can do to solidify the brand during a merger or acquisition.
Predict Brand Disagreements
Nobody’s more likely to see potential brand disagreements than you are. As the caretaker of a brand you may have had a hand in developing, you’re likely more aware of the conflicts you see coming. And if you can express your concerns well—and think of ways everyone involved can work together to solve them—you could turn a problem into a big win for everyone—especially you and the firm.
After all, it’s not the order-takers who help the leadership make sense of things. Rather, it’s those people who can solve problems, make decisions and get people working together.
A Few Examples
- Whose logo and brand name will we use? Although this decision is usually implied by the structure of the merger/acquisition, it opens up a broader question about the rollout: how will we make this make sense to our clients?
- How aligned are the two brands to begin with? Do the voice, tone, mood, and values complement each other, or do they conflict?
- Are the two cultures able to work together? Is one more focused on individual relationships while the other sees clear processes as better for everyone?
- Clients are accustomed to a particular treatment, and your staff is used to having the flexibility or formality to carry out the same level of service. How will that change?
Defining Steps for a B2B Brand Merger
If you can make sense of these questions by defining the goal and then fostering the process, a stronger merged brand will result.
- Clearly articulate your goals for the brand. Everything else is negotiable, but if you can confidently and concisely set the agenda for everyone else, you’ll gain consensus very quickly with your partners/leadership and everyone else. In other words, convince yourself so you can convince others.
- Remind everyone why brand matters. This comes from your values and extends from why you exist. For example, suppose one firm in the merger serves people through consistent, unchanging processes, and the other serves people by making case-by-case decisions. In that case, you have two points of view with accusations of “bureaucratic” on one side and “unprofessional” on the other. You have to present a brand vision that’s above those distinctions, focusing on how your newly merged brand can serve people best.
- Reward participation. Involve others in solving the problems with you, keeping your brand goals in mind during the process. This usually involves opening a meeting by reminding people what’s important to the brand and then, with that in mind, addressing issues. In other words, the brand defines the ground rules, and the solutions play within that “solution space.” Then, as ideas come up, you’re able to guide them in the right direction, giving credit to those who are buying in.
Reinforce Brand Locality
Once the day the merger officially arrives, you’ll want a plan to let people know you’re “from around here.” You don’t want people thinking a big, outside accounting firm, with no connection to the community is descending on your town from above, seeing it as its next conquest. Whatever the new name is, let the town know you’re there and you’re invested.
- Local ads that connect with the community.
- Have partners speak and involve themselves in local clubs and organizations.
Get Support. Join AAM.
Get support from marketers who’ve been there—join AAM (the Association of Accounting Marketers). Although less directly related to branding, this step supports your career and your role in the firm, as it puts you in direct relationship with other marketers who’ve been through M&As and can help you see around corners.
Membership in the Association of Accounting Marketers gives you everything you’d expect from an association. But according to Jaimi, and from my experience, you develop a camaraderie that transcends professional relationships. AAM members are more than people you see once a year at the annual conference; they become friends who you consult with in the day-to-day.
- Do you need to complain? They get it.
- Having trouble getting your firm to understand your idea? They can help improve your communication skills.
- Having trouble seeing around corners in an impending merger? Someone’s been there already, and they can share their experience with you.
Eyes on the Prize
Maintaining a strong brand during a B2B brand merger takes vision, clarity, and skill. But if you can think ahead, form your thoughts, and communicate clearly, you’re steps ahead of many problems that could cause you to compromise your brand during a merger. And AAM membership—and the relationships that come from that—only help you as you think through your actions, develop your leadership and orchestrate a successful merger.
And If You Find This Helpful…
The Resound team specializes in helping professional firms unlock their authentic identity and express it with a winsome, engaging brand identity.
If rebranding, or simply making the case for branding to your firm’s leadership calls for backup, we’re always eager to consult. Whether that’s leading your team through a workshop or working closely to help set you up for a successful branding journey, we thrive on helping organizations like yours tell their story.
Check out our resources, or give us a shout.
And don’t forget that you are remarkable.