Fresh eyes

We are acquiring a business; do we need to rebrand?

David Adams, Head of Brand at Freshfield, discussing acquiring a business and the need to rebrand.

Published by David Adams,
Chief Operating Officer
and Head of Brand at Freshfield

The acquisition of another company is a major strategic decision. It’s not just about buying a business – it’s about incorporating and integrating that business and its people into your own, and making it work in concert with yours.

One hugely important aspect of acquiring a business is reviewing the existing brand, which may lead to you questioning whether there’s a need to undertake a rebrand.

Freshfield’s branding team has decades of experience in helping organisations and marketing teams manage and deliver rebrands, including as part of the acquisition process. Here’s what you need to take into consideration when making the decision.

Communication is key

Acquisitions are undoubtedly a great way to grow your business. But they can also be a time of uncertainty and change, which can make communication more complicated than ever.

Before decisions are made regarding branding, one of the first steps you’ll need to take is to make sure the employees of both companies are engaged and on board. You need to get them excited and reassured about their new cultural home and help them understand in impact, if any, on their roles.

You also need to make sure that your customers are engaged, informed and on board – and maybe even more important than that, you need to ensure they don’t have any concerns about what this acquisition means for their relationship with your company and brand.

So how do you do all of this? Well, it starts with developing a communication strategy for the acquisition. You need to think about who needs to be informed at each step along the way: when will they hear about it? What kind of message do you want them hearing? And how will they hear it? Controlling the message is absolutely essential.

You can help your employees understand what’s happening by developing an employee communication programme that takes into account their needs and the goals of the company.

Here are some simple headline tips for doing just that: 

  1. Be open and transparent about everything from the beginning 
  2. Keep everyone in the loop as much as possible 
  3. Give them plenty of opportunities to ask questions and voice concerns 

To rebrand or not to rebrand? 

Then comes the rebranding question: should we rebrand? Should we use our name or theirs? Do we retain our brand identity or theirs? Or perhaps something completely new and different? These are all questions that should be answered long before any changes are made public. 

As part of any evaluation, there is no room for sentimentality or personal preference when it comes to deciding upon which direction to take. The focus very much needs to be on how both existing and future customers are going to likely view the company following acquisition and what marketing strategy is most likely to work going forward. You can find out more about our brand strategy for mergers and acquisitions expertise here.

Let your circumstances and objectives guide any decision 

When acquisitions involve a new, smaller or relatively unknown brand being bought and absorbed into the operations of a larger and more established one, it’s quite normal for the smaller brand to disappear literally overnight in favour of the larger, more dominant brand.  

However, when it comes to acquiring a business of a similar size, or one where the brand’s strengths complement and address the acquiring brand’s weaknesses, it’s perhaps not as straight forward. This is particularly the case when the company being acquired: 

  • Is already a market leader in its niche
  • Enjoys greater market share and brand recognition in the space you want to move into
  • Benefits from a stronger brand reputation than your own with resulting customer goodwill attached  
  • Has a long-established history in the market with strong brand equity 

Here, the options can include renaming and rebranding to reflect the combined strengths of both companies and the resulting update of positioning, values and proposition, or the acquiring brand to actually take on the trading name of the company being bought in order to benefit from the power of that brand. 

There are however some circumstances when retaining your existing name and brand would be necessary or desirable, for instance when you are a market leader, or you enjoy strong brand recognition, loyalty and equity in your chosen markets. 

Alternatively, in the case of acquisitions where the businesses being bought is to be run as a standalone brand, reasons to consider a rebrand would potentially include: 

  • The acquired brand is failing 
  • It is struggling to shake off some major, legacy reputational issues 
  • You plan to make sweeping changes in terms of its product or service offering

Whichever the scenario and route you ultimately decide upon will very much depend on your specific circumstances and strategic objectives as an organisation. Regardless, any decision should be given careful consideration with advice sought from a professional branding and marketing specialist.

Please contact our Head of Brand David Adams if you would like to discuss your own situation.   

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