What’s in a (brand) name?


History. Habit. Equity. Company and product names are loaded with significance and are an enormously valuable facet of any company’s brand. So what happens to that brand when one enterprise acquires—or merges with—another? We’ve seen the blending of corporate brands handled both well and poorly. Here’s what makes the difference:

Strategy. Successful rebranding in the wake of a merger or acquisition is the result of careful planning that begins long before the public transaction takes place. Key questions to consider:

What will the name of the blended enterprise be, and why?

How will we combine the brand architecture of the two enterprises into a single coherent brand architecture that helps customers navigate offerings?

Which product brand names will change, and why?

Here are some guiding principles for (re)naming strategy. Adopt and retain brand names that:

  • Maximize and leverage existing brand equity;
  • Aid and incent desired buyer behavior;
  • Send intended signals to the market.

Consistency. Consistency is a hallmark of every successful rebranding strategy. Sound strategy is essential, but without consistent execution, it’s moot. Key questions to consider:

Who in the organization will be responsible for managing the transition?

How will employees be notified of changes now, and updates in the future?

What resources will be available to guide employees, vendors and the media in their use of new company and/or product names?

Here are some guiding principles to ensure consistency during the rollout of new brand names:

  • Centralize authority for establishing and enforcing rules of usage (hierarchy, spelling, trademarks, etc.);
  • Establish a simple process for real-time communication about naming updates;
  • Develop a reference guide to your company’s brand names and trademarks, and make it easy for employees, vendors and the media to find and use.

Speed. This is all well and good, you say, but this stuff takes time—and the bigger the organization, the longer the transition period, right? Not necessarily. We’ve worked with F500 companies to effect sweeping changes that take six months, and we’ve worked with companies that, as a result of careful forethought and planning, have executed a complete switch-over in six weeks. Key questions to consider:

Does the overall M&A transition plan include a plan to reconcile company and product names across the newly formed organization?

Is your anticipated timeline informed primarily by business objectives, or is it influenced by emotion?

Which is better for your customers—a quick switch or a slow migration? Which is better for shareholders? Employees?

Here are some guiding principles to speed the rebranding process:

  • Make a rebranding plan part of the overall merger or acquisition plan—before the deal is done—in order to minimize post-deal analysis paralysis.
  • Establish deadlines and tie critical milestones to incentives that encourage efficient execution of the plan.
  • Remember the value of opportunity cost: the less time you spend on this transition, the more time (and resources) you have to devote to your core business activities.

Whether you’re a CMO or the founder of a startup, careful strategic planning, strict consistency and a commitment to move quickly will serve you well as you navigate a merger or acquisition. If we can help with your transition, please let us know. And tell us: What’s your experience with renaming or rebranding in the wake of M&A activity?



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