As the CMO of a growing organization, what is your role in managing a successful merger and/or acquisition of another brand and its resources?
At this month’s San Diego Dinner and Roundtable Discussion, several of my peers had this very question on their minds. As we shared our challenges and opportunities on the topic, I put together some takeaways from the conversation:
Start Here: Do Nothing (At First)
During an acquisition, everything is in transition. My peers stressed how easy it can be to get caught up in the action and find yourself too deep in the process. This is when great leaders step back for that critical big-picture view of what is going on. Before implementing new branding, combining customer lists and adopting one tech system, take stock of the situation.
Each acquisition and merger is very different and requires its own evaluation. As one CMO pointed out, some companies come with strong brand equity and are valuable as their own sub-brand or service line of a larger parent company, while others can be folded into an existing product or service line.
As CMO, take a seat at the table and be a part of this conversation as early as possible. Establish what a successful outcome would look like to both your brand and the one you’ve acquired. Then begin to craft an actionable plan that can be articulated with sensitivity across teams and departments. What does this mean for each brand? Will teams need to transition into a new configuration? What (new) roles will sales and marketing have? How will this affect P&L?
Now, Build Processes
One CMO said her most valuable asset during an acquisition was having a blueprint of how the process would unfold – specifically in the marketing function.
To begin, it is important to remember that communication and culture are vital, as many people may feel uncertain about their roles, responsibilities and jobs during a transition. When acquiring or restructuring another marketing team, think about if there is a way to move the new company’s resources to your corporate team or find another place in the organization where these core team members would be of value.
Don’t lose sight of your brand leaders and the existing culture that comes with each new department. One peer acknowledged that it is a delicate dance, albeit an important one, to manage existing culture while unveiling new branding and new initiatives in a lasting way. Whether this is a complete name and culture change or a transition from product to solution-based selling, remember that these are the people that made the brand successful to begin with. Without the rapport and trust of your team leads and employee advocates, you could lose effectiveness and potentially impact revenue in a negative way.
Rein in Fragmentation
One of the most commonly cited obstacles when merging brands was fragmentation. But, whether it is organizational structure, marketing efforts, tech systems, or management of assets, this isn’t the time to hand someone the duct tape. Instead, this is an opportunity to invest the extra time to fix what isn’t working, centralize assets, and adopt a process for executing different business objectives.
For example, one CMO found that all of his individual sub-brands and marketing teams across the globe were investing resources to create their own content, but that it was all very similar. He took the time to create and implement a plan that required thinking globally at the creation stage – creating once at a corporate level – and acting locally at the distribution stage, giving each team the power to leverage the content in a way that works best for their specific market.
While a smooth transition that results in complete consistency remains the ideal, it’s up to CMOs to spot potential problems before they arise and be the bridge between the parent company and the acquired brand. This requires striking a balance between short-term acquisition and merging goals and long-term planning that sets up the entire organization for longevity and fortified brand equity in the future.