One of the least appreciated yet most complicated and essential aspects of mergers and acquisitions is the post-acquisition positioning of the acquired company.
There are many people, product and process challenges associated with takeovers in general. And not the least of these is the challenging decision of whether or not to continue to leverage the brand equity of the acquired company.
Branding is a highly complex area with its own metrics, guidelines, rules and conflicting approaches. If the path chosen is to leverage the brand equity of the acquired company rather than fold it into the new parent’s, sustaining and expanding brand awareness becomes a significant public relations priority.
It is easy to look at successful instances where brands with substantial equity stand out either post-acquisition or when a holding company is created. The best example, albeit non-M&A, is the decision to market Google instead of parent Alphabet. However, when M&A is involved, particularly when the acquired company is a hot startup where the objective is further burnishing its leading-edge reputation, the steps required to do so are that much more complex.
Bospar has been involved in several such situations. We’d like to share a few tips from a recent success on how to further the thought and market leadership status of an acquired entity that brings a lot of buzz to the table.
Our client was an emerging dominant player in big data. The company has a unique platform that produces unprecedented insights into what consumers purchase online. The company’s solution tracks and processes the actions of millions of online shoppers in the U.S. who allow the company to follow their online behavior for market research purposes.
The goal of the engagement was simple. The client sought to sustain its top-of-mind status long term in the hotly competitive, consumer-centric big data field. Key to doing so was highlighting the company’s internationally recognized technology and expertise in consumer data gathering and analysis, particularly in e-commerce.
Strategy, Tactics And Execution
To accomplish the mission of keeping the client a go-to source for the trade and business media covering big data, we were presented with a trove of client-collected data and tasked with auditing key trends and influencers and targeted media to build on established relationships and visibility. Using the data and executive expertise, external communications strategies were created to:
- Support an acquisition
- Support corporate and marketing objectives
- Secure media coverage and analyst interviews with top-tier outlets and key influencers, including The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Gartner, Forrester and IDC.
Particular attention was given to the unique platform and the insights gained from it as critical for expansion of the momentum behind the brand identity.
Tactics were employed to ensure that the client was a focal point in big data industry buzz about the value of large amounts of consumer behavior information derived from internal data and to tie its value to hot topics, such as Amazon’s private label success, online restaurant delivery and meal-kit delivery services. Client stories and executive commentary were made available as proof points for validating trends in e-commerce. In addition, we worked with the client to draft and publish reports based on the client’s own blog about their findings.
Once the pieces were in place, the agency pitched them to key reporters with the understanding that these reporters could publish the findings in advance of the company publishing them on its corporate blog. PR also provided outreach to vertical media and top-tier business, technology and consumer outlets, using charts and graphics to illustrate the data.
Evaluation And Success
At the conclusion of almost every one of its 97 episodes, the team leader of The A-Team, the popular 1980s TV show, would puff on a cigar and say, “I love it when a good plan comes together.” Fortunately, a good plan in PR can and should be measured. Our work with this client is a prime example:
- Comparing 2015 and 2016, PR increased placements about the client by 325% year over year (YOY).
- In 2016, PR generated more than 390 pieces of coverage. The team secured coverage in major business, tech, consumer, big data and lifestyle media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Business Insider, Mashable, CNN Money, Fox News, Forbes, Fortune, NBC Newsand CBS News.
- In 2016, landing page views increased 200% YOY, and organic social engagement experienced a 300% increase.
As noted, the decision about retaining the brand of an acquired company and continuing to leverage its equity is a consequential one, driven by a multitude of corporate considerations. There is no single right solution, as each situation is unique.
However, when an acquired company’s brand gets the green light to be front and center going forward, having a carefully executed plan, along with the metrics for measuring, is a requirement for success. In a world of constant change, even long-established brands must be extremely mindful of the positioning of their acquisitions.
There are many instances where brand equity exists in the acquired entity, and leveraging it makes the most sense for optimized monetization. The good news is that when done correctly, keeping the acquired company’s brand at the center of industry conversations can be a critical element to the vitality of the parent brand as well.
This article first appeared in Forbes.