In our latest interview with Patricia Killoran from The Mission Control Communications, we hear her thoughts on a subject that is rarely out off the media at the moment – mergers and acquisitions.
“Regionally, we’re more used to associating news of mergers and acquisitions with job losses and the hyperbole of hysteria press and politicians subsequently generate around it.
However – step outside of Northern Ireland and there’s a different story to be had. Globally M&A’s are one of the most effective ways for businesses to grow. Overnight a company can find itself with an established foothold and heritage in an overseas market – something that otherwise can take years to achieve.
M&A’s are also a catalyst for innovation with R&D being shared between companies that may formally have been bitter rivals but whose collective knowledge and insights can and often does result in amazing breakthroughs and leaps of logic that are simply inspired.
The M&A culture is also a catalyst for many companies, especially those small companies specializing in a particular niche. Venture capitalists will often invest heavily in these businesses, as whilst they recognize that the product or service alone stands little chance of success, they are betting that another company will spot a use for it within their own model and therefore acquire it.
Understanding the mechanics of M&A’s has allowed us to earn a reputation within what is often called the billion dollar ideas club as a trusted and discreet partner capable of assisting companies navigate the communications, marketing and strategic considerations necessary during this volatile and sensitive process.
In the context of M&A’s, our role differs significantly to that of a typical rebrand project, which relies on building on the existing creditability and goodwill associated with the brand.
No two M&A projects are ever the same. But one of the most common mistakes made during the process is to overlook the importance of engaging the workforce. These people are essentially the backbone of the business that has been absorbed and as mentioned at the top of this article, they will normally default to a position of fear and uncertainty when an merger or acquisition is announced. Without proper engagement, you can quickly find that the intelligence and reputation you thought you were buying in the employees of the business is snapped up by a competitor who will play on the uncertainty they feel. So engage with employees early and put their minds at ease. Remember – whist for you this is just business, for employees it’s the difference between being able to pay their mortgage and not.
Another reason to engage with employees is actually rooted in our subconscious need to belong to something. Just as our ancestors banded together first in tribes and then as nations, the same is true with people and brands. So when you step into remove the brand and values that employees have belonged to for years, you need to be in a position to replace it with something better that they will be proud to be part of. Again – the key is early employee engagement and clear messaging that will galvanize people behind a common purpose.
Historically, brands have saw this as a secondary necessity after informing customers, but as experience has taught us, if your employees are not initiated into the new brand and its mission, vision and values, the experience customers have will not be consistent with the image you’re paying to create.
As mentioned, when you are creating a new brand, it has to offer employees something more than the brand you are telling them to leave behind. However – it’s also worth noting in the midst of a merger or acquisition, many companies lose sight of the importance of marketing, which is why it’s important to have a strategic partner in place that can support you during the process and cover the bases in the event that you get distracted with the wealth of other subjects that need dealt with.
You might wonder why I keep using the term strategic partner as opposed to ‘agency’. Simple. An agency infers something that is simply commissioned to do a defined job. However, positioning the agency as a partner in your mind leads to multiple benefits. Firstly, it leads to more open and honest discussions and will actually alleviate you from a lot of work.
As a strategic partner, it’s our responsibility to create a brand that is more than just a name and logo, but something that encapsulates where your company is going. This can and does lead to some very open and honest discussions, but there is no use in creating a brand that does not give you room to grow or, simply follows current trends. Do that and you end up with a brand that fits in somewhere between your competitors, whereas experience proves that the most successful brands are those that redefine a sector and leave competitors in the dust.
If you are comfortable with the new brand, the chances are it’s because it’s familiar and your brain is unconsciously associating it with existing brands. Therefore – you’ve failed to create your own identity. Our job is to create what can often make you feel initially uncomfortable, but time will validate its effectiveness.
It is also important during any merger or acquisition that your strategic partner works with you to realize an authentic brand story that effectively integrates the two or more company cultures. Remember – it’s not just a case of rehashing your old brand story. The purpose of a merger or acquisition is to make you better and by default your brand story needs to reflect that and unite everyone behind a common purpose.”
With 2016 shaping up to be a year in which we see unprecedented mergers and acquisition coming to the table and many established brands acting like venture capitalists, it’s going to be an interesting ride.