Acquisitions Change Your Company - November's Marketing Blog

Earlier this month it was announced that Staffing Industry Analysts was acquired by Crain Communications.  So what happens to the Staffing Industry Analysts brand or any 'former' company's brand after the acquisitions?  The answer can be a little tricky, it depends.  Some brands stay alive, some brands become product lines, and some brands just completely disappear.  So what does one do, how does one disengage from one's brand and how does one launch a new to them brand?

I can't pretend to have all of the answers, but given the current economic climate, many of you might be acquired, or might make acquisitions.  So I thought I would talk about some of the issues and as always, I would love to hear from you about things that are important to you and some of the things you feel you need to protect regarding your brands and acquisitions.

It has been said that acquisitions succeed or fail based on two reasons:  culture and synergy.  If there is a mismatch in culture or lack of synergy, it is likely that the acquisition will fail.  And like many a marriage, most acquisitions do fail.  Often culture is tied to one's brand; after all, one's identity is often tied to one's brand.

Maintaining the Brand

With Crain and Staffing Industry Analysts, Staffing Industry Analysts will keep and maintain its brand.  You will notice little if no change to any of our branding.  Crain maintains autonomy with its business units.  Crain is a 90+ year old company that has such diverse brands as AdAge, AutoWeek and Business and Insurance, to name a few.  If they were all called Crain, these brands would not serve their individual markets well.

In 1999 when Nestle acquired PowerBar, there were no changes to the PowerBar brand.  Sports enthusiasts who consumed PowerBar products, continued to consume PowerBar products.  Nestle didn't try to re-brand the product - Nestle saw the value in the brand, the brand had a strong following and the consumer continued to feel good about the product that they knew.

The Brand becomes a Product Line

This often happens when a larger dominant brand purchases what they perceive as a smaller brand.  Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn't.  A couple of examples I can think about are technology related.  Cisco recently purchased WebEx.  Cisco decided that WebEx wasn't a strong enough brand, and has relegated WebEx to a product line.  It makes sense to Cisco, who has one of the top 20 brands worldwide, but to the folks who identify with WebEx; this can be a little confusing.  I was on a car rental bus recently, and a man was on his cell phone talking to someone about his upcoming WebEx conference call - he didn't identify with Cisco, in as much as Cisco might want him to, he identified with WebEx. 

For those of you who know something about automotive parts, you might be familiar with a manual called Hollander.  Hollander was THE manual for automotive salvage parts.  ADP bought Hollander a number of year ago (ADP has since sold this business).  ADP is known for payroll, not salvage parts and when it tried to re-brand the Hollander parts manual as ADP, it wasn't successful.  Those in the industry identified with Hollander not ADP and refused the association with ADP.

Consumption of the Brand

When HP bought Compaq Computer, HP consumed the Compaq brand and there is nothing such as a Compaq Computer.  HP thought its brand was a more dominant brand than Compaq. 

Adecco was created by the merger of Adia and Ecco staffing companies - they created an entirely new brand from the two companies.  Adecco has subsequently purchased a number of temporary staffing companies including Delphi and Olsten and just rolled them into the Adecco brand.

Brands and Culture

Most of us work because we need the money, but also because of affiliation.  Brands have a direct impact on culture.  When we think Gap, we think youth, moderate priced trendy clothes.  When we think Ritz-Carlton, we think luxury and pampering.  Your employees identify with those brands and when an acquisition shows up, your employees don't necessarily identify with the new company brand.  After all they have been working for YOU and YOUR Company, not the new one.  It takes internal marketing to communicate to employees about the benefits of the new brand.  Let's face it; they are worried about other things as well, like losing their jobs, not just their affiliation.

Your customers are worried about the service they are going to receive and how the product/service that they have been used to purchasing is going to be affected.  You need to think about how you are going to communicate the new brand to your customers.  What the new brand means to them and how things are going to affect them, hopefully positively.

In addition to employees and customers, there are a whole host of others who need to understand how the new brand affects them.  This includes your suppliers, your business partners, your community, the press and your financial relationships.  All of these people have been used to doing business with you and your company and they want to know that they are going to be treated just as well.

Creating a Checklist

In order to be successful communicating about a new brand, you need to create a communications matrix.  The matrix should be segmented by who needs to be communicated to, what the message is, by whom it will be communicated and when the communication begins.  Something as basic as the diagram below will help you communicate with your audience.

Messaging Matrix

Audience Message By Whom When
Employees      
Customers      
Suppliers      
Press      
Business Partners      

Make sure you complete the matrix and think about the consistency of the message before you publish a press release, communicate to staff or anyone else for that matter.  Even if you are not going to send out a press release, using a press release to help you communicate your thoughts is a good idea.  Remember a good press release will always answer the following questions:  Who, What, Where, When, Why and How?  By answering those very basic questions, you will be in the best position to answering all of the questions from your constituents.

Anticipating Questions

Another best practice is to write out questions and answers to those anticipated questions.  Frequently asked questions should be thoughtful and address what it means to the audience member - you really need to anticipate 'what does this mean to me? And why do I care about this change?

Ensuring Success

Great acquisitions start with great communication.  So think about what you want to do with your brand, decide to have it stand, get consumed or create a product line under the acquirer's brand.  Understand the cultural ramifications of your brand change, think about your audience, anticipate concerns and communicate and keep on communicating.

We hope that Crain Communications' acquisition will be very successful because we have communicated with everyone and we have reinforced that communication with our actions.

As always, we would love to know what you think, so send us a message.  Our best to you and your families for a warm, safe and bountiful Thanksgiving.

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