The Rebranding Process: How to Transition an Acquired Brand

July 14, 2016

If you are with a company that is in the process of acquiring another company and you are responsible for guiding or helping with the brand transition, then this blog is for you.

It is the responsibility of the parent company to take the lead and establish and embrace a protocol for the branding of an acquired company. However, the parent company is often unprepared to do so. With all of the focus on the valuation of the acquired company; the offer and negotiation; and the ultimate purchase, not a lot of time seems to be spent on planning for the merging of the two brand identities prior to the actual acquisition.

Determining the plan for transition will only help to provide clarity when the time comes for communication to both the internal and external audiences.

1) Determine the Brand Architecture for the Parent Company.

Pre-acquisition, your company should establish the brand architecture for its future “family of brands.” Whether this is the first acquisition or the 15th, there needs to be uniformity for the treatment of each brand. The brand architecture provides the structure of how brand identities relate within an organizational entity. It conveys how the brands under one umbrella are all related to one another, how they differ from one another and yet at the same time, support each other. Essentially, the architecture provides structure for brand identity usage.

2) Select a branding option before creating the brand’s new identity.

Also prior to acquisition, a branding option should be selected for the purchased company. How will the new brand be treated? There are many different branding options that can be found within the brand’s architecture. An acquired brand can assume the mater brand’s identity or can assume any one of many treatments selected by the parent company to employ. Sub-brands, co-brands, endorsed brands are all branding options that could be applied to the acquired brand. Each have their unique usage and strength and weakness.

3) Create the Brand Identity (logo) for the newly acquired company and prepare for use.

Develop a logo treatment based on the selected branding option, prepare a brand style guide to mitigate usage, and a logo kit to provide the logo in all formats for marketing use. The logo will be an immediate need by the parent company as well as the acquired company.

4) Update the Brand Style Guide.

Once the new logo is developed it is time to update the Corporate Brand Style Guide. Whether updating the parent corporate brand style guide or creating a new brand style guide, it is a necessary next step. At the simplest level, a Brand Style Guide contains the guidelines on logo usage, corporate colors, corporate fonts and maybe layouts for paper system and e-signatures. More in-depth standards guides include guidelines for signage, vehicle graphics and any range of collateral materials.

5) Develop a Corporate Branding Toolkit.  

Once your new identity is created and your Brand Style Guide is updated, it is imperative to provide a logo kit and the style guide to the Acquired Company with some direction on how and when you expect them to use these items to get them started. This instruction will be distributed to the Acquired Company as part of an overall Brand Transition Plan.

6) Rebranding Checklist.

There are literally potentially more than a hundred items that can be affected by a rebrand. Everything from changing domain names, to insurance policy ownership, to new email addresses. Issues that affect IT, HR, Accounting, Operations and Sales and Marketing  — the list is long. A recommended first step is to have each affected department within the organization go through the supplied Rebranding Checklist to determine what items need attention in the wake of a rebrand through acquisition. DOWNLOAD A REBRANDING CHECKLIST FOR ACQUISITION HERE.

7) Instigate a Brand Launch Plan.  

It is the responsibility of the parent company to provide direction to the Acquired Company to provide instructions on how the rebranding process should roll out. The roll out should happen in phases beginning with a Rebranding Launch Plan.

The Rebranding Launch Plan is the initial essential element of a total transition plan. Good for any type of rebranding option, a launch plan should include a plan of action, complete with checklist, resource and owner allocation and timing to announce, and quickly launch, a new acquisition immediately after purchase.

The elements of a Rebranding Launch Plan include, but are not limited to:

  • Concise rebrand message developed to use as basis for all communications
  • Communication to internal audience — letter or email correspondence
  • Communication to external audience (clients, vendors & stakeholders) — letter or email correspondence
  • Media list developed
  • Press release
  • Secure domain if necessary
  • Website Landing Page content
  • Update Directory listings
  • SEO adjustments
  • Provide new brand identity to Acquired Company with the Corporate Branding Toolkit

8) Flesh out a more comprehensive Brand Transition Plan.

In order to ensure that all rebranding needs are addressed, a comprehensive transition plan needs to be developed. Based on the findings from the Rebranding Checklist, once identified, tactical items should be segmented into Phases. Rebranding can take anywhere from six months to a year to complete and in some cases may take even longer.

Once tactics are identified, it will also make budgeting much easier, as a budgeted line item can be assigned to each initiative and a total presented to upper management.

Having a transition plan written on paper will provide a guideline for all parties to follow and allow for the Brand Manager to track the progress of rebranding initiatives, ensuring a less chaotic experience.

9) Implementation.

After all of the previous work has been completed, implementation will be a breeze. Tactics, roles and responsibilities will be easier to delineate and the rebranding of the Acquired Company will follow a systematic process that all parties can follow.

Benefits of Brand Transition Planning. There are many benefits to brand transition planning. If you have to convince your team of the importance of establishing and rolling out a solid brand transition plan, here is a helpful list of why this function is so vitally important:

  •  Establishes a protocol that provides structure and order to rebranding process.
  •  Helps address unanswered questions that currently come as a result of acquisitions.
  • Provides clarity to all parties.
  • Sets realistic expectations with the acquired company pre- and post-acquisition.
  • Ensures consistency of brand and message in the marketplace.
  • Expedites the rebranding process.
  • Strengthens the corporate brand.
  • Streamlines design and dissemination of marketing and communication materials.
  • Ultimately will enable new business acquisitions to be incorporated into the family quickly and more efficiently.

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