Posted in: Opinion Work

Brand of brothers

We discuss the complexities of acquisitions and the effect such mergers can have on brand and identity, particularly within the communications landscape.

15th March 2019

John Taylor

John Taylor

John Taylor

Written by John Taylor,
Creative Director

With a unique mix of commercial and creative talents, coupled with a wealth of experience, John leads the brand strategy and creative direction for Better’s portfolio of national and international brands.

According to Results International, in the past year, mergers and acquisitions in the marketing and communications industry have increased by 4%.

And with further consolidation predicted, it looks like more shake ups are on the cards in 2019. This begs the question: when you have two well-established businesses with different, but well communicated propositions, how do you approach effectively bringing them both together under one brand?

The issue of brand and identity can easily be dismissed as a fluffy one, but it’s fundamental to get right when two organisations come together – especially for decision making and planning.

Who are we now? What do we stand for? Who do we sell to?

These issues can be fraught with difficulties, and clarity around brand and purpose is often the best touchstone to answer such questions. This is often why you see so many Surname/Surname brands in communications rather than conceptual ones – the brand is often set by the personalities of the leaders behind the business, rather than trying to shape something new.

Every new business brand demands a unique approach based on their identities and direction. We recently set to establish a new identity following the acquisition of Limelight, a PR firm with a 16-year heritage in B2B comms, by Acceleris; a firm boasting their own, well established history and identity. The businesses also benefited from complementary, broad and non-conflicting client bases from a range of different industries. Usually following a merger or acquisition there may be a naturally dominant or better positioned brand – in this case, each were strong in their own right, and a third way was needed.

Definition identity, before and after by Better

Our creative director, John Taylor, said: “Mergers can be a tinderbox for office politics. Brand can play a crucial role here in preventing a sense of ‘us and them’ when two organisations come together.”

Instead of retaining ‘one way, one name, one ethos’ and a ‘my way or the highway’ approach;

Brand consultation offers a way to blend the strengths of both organisations and unite staff from both sides.

Engaging staff in this process can help immeasurably, often smoothing the transition by fostering a sense of ownership and collaboration, rather than fear of invasion and occupation.

The best place to start with any organisation is its people – they’re at the core of the service, values and culture while also being key to client relationships. It’s critical the new brand is authentic and both reflects and represents them. Staff also have the clearest sense of the kind of business they want to be working for, as well as being an essential part of communicating and driving forward the business in the future.

In a series of workshops and sessions, Definition’s people not only contributed to name ideas based on some core brand personas, but also helped define and refine their brand values – namely to advise wisely; deliver consistently; support positively and think differently.

Definition – Brand concept colour paths

Definition Communications – BetterBrandBuilder™ – Brand Concept Colour Paths

It’s also important not to forget that when two established brands come together, there is already a lot of pride, emotion and equity wedded to existing identities – this is why an impartial third party can be essential in giving a trusted adviser perspective. But that level of trust also has to be established with the branding partner, as such an extensive process can be expensive to roll out, and damaging to businesses if they get it wrong.

For a communications agency, especially one that promised to be ‘Defining Reputations’, to misstep would be a tremendous error, which is why so many creative businesses play it safe.

It’s fair to say that the resulting brand, Definition, has been a resounding success so far and represents the wise, calm and brave character of the new business. The new identity, inspired by the new name and the new collective values, has delivered a powerful single banner beneath which all teams can unite and march as one.

Definition Communications – BetterBrandBuilder™ – Brand Concept Colour Paths

Definition – Brand concept colour paths

Creative Director, John added: “Definition represents a coming of age for both organisations. It was only right that their visual language reflected this by feeling mature, sophisticated and understated.

"The entire brand revolved around this concept, being the light that defines others. The word mark itself has no edges, it is only defined by the light falling on it.

“One of the core concepts with the Definition brand was that they are there to define the reputations of others, it is their clients that are the stars. So creating an elegant, recessive and minimal look and feel allowed them to take centre stage while Definition controlled the spotlight.”

It marks a logical departure from both existing brands, but one which embraces and reflects its aim to define reputations by protecting, promoting and projecting the profile of its clients. It’s a clean and fresh approach which clients have loved and sets the tone for the direction the business wants to head. And it has united three offices in three very different locations. Whether all of the rebrands still to come this year will prove as unifying, only time will tell.

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