If you're not asking these questions now, don’t get too comfortable. A number of marketplace realities are conspiring to make brand transition and consolidation inevitable for increasing numbers of B2B companies. These factors include:
- The well-publicized glut of investment capital sitting on the sidelines...for now
- Increasing acceptance of the notion that the fewer brands, the better
- Investors’ unwillingness to wait patiently for organic growth to deliver the top-line growth and earnings they demand—and the resulting push to grow through acquisition
- And so on
1) Audit your touch points - Launching a marcom campaign to introduce the change and communicate its value is a no-brainer. But it’s just as important for companies to audit every recurring touch point with its key audiences—customers, prospects, investors, employees, recruits, suppliers, etc.—to consider whether that touch can also be a vehicle for communicating the change. E-mail sign-offs, invoices, quotes, paycheck envelopes, call centers, mailing envelopes and the like all present opportunities to reinforce the new brand.
2) Don’t rush the transition - It will take long enough for people to get that the company and brand they’re used to will now be known as something else. It may take even longer to convince people there’s a good reason to stick around—especially as your comeptitors use the change to create doubt in the minds of your customers. Plan on spending at least a year reinforcing not only the name and brand narrative of the new entity, but the fact that the new entity includes the best parts of the old.
3) Bridge the gap - As is so often the case, B2B practitioners can learn much by observing their counterparts on the consumer side. AT&T’s marcom plan for its forthcoming absorption of Cingular may provide a wealth of lessons over time. For now, it’s helpful to see how AT&T is deploying communications that bridge the gap between audiences’ understanding of the two brands today, and how AT&T wants them to think about the new brand tomorrow.
4) Don’t skimp on the employee communications – Painful ubiquity of the term “brand ambassadors” notwithstanding, it’s essential that employees understand and support the transition to a new name and brand. If they don’t understand the reasons for and benefits of the change, or are in a foul mood about it, they’ll probably share as much with your customers and prospects. Use every means at your disposal to reinforce for employees why the new brand is good for them and customers (assuming it is). And make sure your audit (see #1, above) includes employee touches, so you can use those to reinforce the strategy and benefits of the consolidation/transition.
5) Listen, measure, adapt - Create a transition plan, but be willing to adapt the timeline based on results. Use employee and marketplace surveys to assess whether audiences are getting both messages about the change: 1) that it’s happening; and 2) what they stand to gain. Be willing to move implementation timelines up or back depending on what you’re seeing.