In 1998, when British Petroleum bought Amoco, it emerged as the largest oil and gas producer in the US. When FedEx bought Kinko’s in 2003, it increased its footprint exponentially. While building new storefronts in new markets is one way for merchants to grow, many companies pursue growth through the acquisition of existing brands—and their retail footprint—and bringing them into the fold via branding and signage.
This approach to growth comes with its challenges as the customer base and offered services become more complex. You must create synergy between the old brand and the new brand and hit customers as well as employees at their touchpoints. This is where communication is key. Here are crucial areas to consider in communicating to stakeholders when acquiring a brand.
Product and Services Portfolio Rationalization: Why Are We Doing This?
While the C suite has evaluated the pros and cons of the merger for a considerable time before the deal is done, it’s important to communicate this to all stakeholders affected by this decision.
Once they’ve found a brand they can trust, customers can be quite resistant to change. However, it’s not just the customers who find comfort in and loyalty to a trusted brand, but also its employees, who have invested themselves in supporting the existing product and service portfolio. Employees will also bear the brunt of championing this change to existing customers. Because of this, employees are the key when seeking buy-in and presenting new offerings.
The key question to answer: Why are we doing this? Create assets to tell the M&A story and illustrate a product and services roadmap that shows the synergy between the entities. How do they align with and enhance each other? Why does this merger make sense?
Especially keep in mind stakeholders who might be resistant to change. How can you highlight parts of the story that will reassure them and encourage their support?
Brand Strategy Refinement: Who Are We?
After FedEx acquired Kinko’s, they spent several years going through rebranding before landing on its current iteration as they refined their identity and brand. During a phase such as this, it’s important to communicate with both employees and customers about such a transition, whether from the target brand to the acquirer’s brand, the other way around, or creating a new one entirely. The key word here is transition—and this is an area where pacing is key.
Signage can help create associations between the two brands. Create assets that highlight the strengths of each and illustrate their synergy. Linking the two in both customer and employee minds can help smooth the transition and reduce confusion.
Customer Service Model: How Can We Help You?
When retailers merge, they bring along their best practices in customer service. It’s a good chance to enhance each entity’s customer service model and take the best from each one. Their models should be examined for gaps and repetitions, and of course, strengths and weaknesses. Companies also need to cast a critical eye on their customer service model and determine how it can be scaled to match that growth.
The result of this analysis will surely cause changes to how employees service your customers. All these changes from both an employee and customer standpoint can be unsettling; the challenge here is to simplify and streamline these changes. A customer service roadmap can help alleviate this stress by highlighting improvements as well as synergies, to increase confidence in both employees and customers.
Customer Experience: Will They Come Back?
Research has shown that the slightest change in the customer experience can affect touchpoint quality—and the slightest perceived dip in the quality of any touchpoint can affect customer loyalty. In other words, customers are resistant to change.
Companies would do well to take the opportunity to identify what is really important to existing customers so they can clarify to them how their experience will either be enhanced or be unchanged. The primary touchpoint here for the customer is the employee. Provide customer-facing employees with materials to explain the benefits of the merger and what customers can expect. If employees are knowledgeable and confident in the changes—if they can be advocates for the new environment—this will increase customer buy-in.
Welcoming a new brand into the fold can be a dynamic method to quickly gain market share and expand the retail footprint. Branding and signage are key to making a smooth transition from one brand to another. As in all transitions, taking the time to create assets that communicate clearly what both customers and employees can expect can enhance the experience for everyone.