I saw the The same story plays out over and over again. Ahead of a company merger, the marketing and communications teams work around the clock to integrate the two brands and prepare them for launch on day one. Then, two years later, the combined brand underwent a rebrand.
The answer is simple. No one knows what life is like on the other side of the door until they walk through it. And yet, too often, teams create brand strategy before businesses have any experience working together – they don’t honestly know who brings what and where the advantages are. . You can anticipate your synergies and how to integrate as an entity that builds success in existing markets or can open the door to new markets. However, it helps if you work together before you understand it well enough to grade it. There is much work to be done.
Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part series from David Martin. Read the first part here.
Step 1: Manage audience expectations
When companies merge, employees and customers wonder, “How will this affect me? Will I lose my job? Will the products I know and love be taken away?”
There is almost always significant fear, so your first job should be to provide peace of mind to your stakeholders. And the only way to do this is to follow the first rule: Always do no harm. We need to understand what they want and what is important to them and then use this understanding to guide our collective behavior when companies come together.
No one knows what life is like on the other side of the door until they walk through it.
Initially, this requires ensuring that decisions that may contribute to uncertainty and fear are not made and implemented. Remember, your goal is to reassure your target audience that they haven’t lost anything important to them and that you haven’t made any changes. TO they have the opportunity to provide input and insights on where the opportunities are. You can further communicate this commitment by giving them an active voice through customer, investor, and employee advisory boards.
This process can take most of the first year, because once your target audience feels reassured you can start having conversations going forward. Often, customers are clients of both companies, which means they are perfectly willing to tell you where the synergies lie, as well as where they would use one company and where they would use the other. Think of it as a Venn diagram, which will help you understand where the points of intersection and divergence are.