In our last article on the strategies for M&A success, we addressed the need for a holistic approach to mergers for financial institutions, specifically the impact of decisions around brand architecture and the branch network, as well as the sizeable influence of organizational culture in creating cohesion for the newly united organizations. While these are foundational processes and principles for any organization considering merging, what truly will make the union successful – in both the short and long-term – is leveraging the power of the brand to support and reaffirm the newly merged entity.
Here are some of our best practices regarding the role of brand to support M&A in financial services.
Developing a brand plan for the merger is non-negotiable. This plan should address all contingencies, but also be flexible enough to change when conditions change and sit in the center of the merger. According to Adrenaline’s Frank Beardsworth in Bank Director, “The C-Suite may believe that merging or acquiring another company is a quick and easy way to thrive in the face of an increasingly competitive, saturated and low-profit margin environment. But when done well, a merger or acquisition is often neither quick nor easy.”
Identifying key audiences and developing targeted brand communications is a non-negotiable part of the M&A process. Involving internal audiences early and often builds advocacy from within. Clear brand communication includes addressing any concerns of each audience with an empathy-led approach, demonstrating that you are considering the merger from the vantage of each audience. Look at and solve for specific pain points from the lens of the customer, employee, or community member.
With strategic planning and brand communications in place, the two brands can now focus on the launch. With internal audiences in mind as the first place to build equity and advocacy, a holistic launch strategy focuses on relying on the internal strength of employees first. According to Brand Integration After M&A, “Laddering and layering efforts following the internal launch, additional efforts bring all those audiences along and bring values to life, while building excitement for the brand – from the inside out.”
Before two brands merge, it’s critical to conduct a top-to-bottom audit to reveal what each brand will bring to the union. When it’s a true merger of equals, organizations can find it difficult to substantially shift two legacy brands with two histories. In this scenario, merging entities can choose to take the best of both brands and fuse them together or adopt a new brand identity, like Truist. While this approach is not without its detractors, it does allow a new united brand to emerge, along with collective vision and values.
Crafting meaningful communications both internally and externally relies on understanding your audiences. From launch to how it’s lived in the world, brands should be calibrated accordingly per audience as outlined again in Brand Integration After M&A:
Employee – Build a clear understanding of, sense of ownership for, and internal advocacy for the brand. Employee communications should be supported and sustained with training and learning around brand standards and actions.
Member/Customer – Audience efforts should seek first to answer pressing questions and present the brand in terms of what the change means to the customer or member. This could include a well-crafted FAQ, a special landing page, and a clear communications plan that ideally underscores the benefits of the merged through from their point-of-view is vital.
Market-Facing – External efforts should aim to build awareness for the new or repositioned identity to build excitement around the expanded offerings and promise of an institution. From the launch forward, communications should highlight the brand’s combined strength to serve people – more and better.
To begin developing M&A strategies in the face of COVID that will radiate outward from the brand through to the branch, contact Adrenaline’s experts at email@example.com or (678) 412-6903. For support in providing staff members with holistic and ongoing training in the post-COVID bank branch, see our Frontline Staff Training modules. If you’d like to speak with one of brand communications, branch optimization, and M&A experts, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adrenaline is an experience design agency that creates and implements end-to-end branded experiences through creative and environmental design. We enhance our clients’ customer experiences across digital and physical channels, from their branding and advertising to design and technology in their spaces. After transforming an organization’s brand, Adrenaline extends it across all touchpoints — from employees to the market to in-store environments. And, we focus on serving industries that sell human experiences including financial, healthcare, sports, and entertainment.