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Karinne Brannigan

In the future, managing a brand during a merger and acquisition (M&A) is a reality that marketers
will become increasingly familiar with. M&A activity in the Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) region has already seen a sharp increase and this poses a major challenge. As a marketer in the technology industry, M&As have played a significant role in my career.

My first experience was when Symantec and Veritas merged back in 2004 – it was the largest software industry merger at that time (it pales in significance as when Dell and EMC merged, combining seven businesses to form the world’s largest privately owned technology company). Both of these invaluable experiences taught me that no two M&As are the same, but there are some key principles to adopt.

Create a great story

My first piece of advice is to make sure you communicate the value of the brand story from the inside out. In building our story, our goal was to highlight that the merger effectively creates the best of both worlds for our key stakeholders. It might be easy to overlook the importance of this in favour of the integration project in hand, but telling a great story to all stakeholders – both internally and externally – has an important and positive impact on the success of a M&A.

Focus on the customer

Despite the operational challenges faced during a M&A, a marketer needs to maintain a laser focus on  the customer. This has to be across the whole process: before, during and after the merger. Ensuring the right balance across campaigns will also help sell the here and now, while exciting the market about the future is critical pre-merger.

Postmerger, reaching customers from both parts of the business at multiple touch-points with a unified message is a priority. Sales needs to be supported with education and enablement, and the stronger propositions needs to be communicated to customers. This will help tell the story post-merger in different forms, enhancing customer affinity.

Inspire and unite the company

In my experience, it’s easy for team members to get bogged down by the functional aspects of integration – structure, processes and systems. Due to the challenging aspects of mergers and the timelines, it’s also very easy for people to get worn out. Keeping the team motivated requires a strong focus on bringing people together, fostering trust among teams and inspiring agility. This is even more challenging in a market as diverse as APJ, where efficiencies of scale are challenged with different languages and cultures. As a leader during a M&A, your focus has to be aligned with a clear vision of what the business needs to achieve.

We need to be ready for a future with more M&As. The process of maintaining a brand during a merger is intense, but the impact of how the brand is managed is far-reaching. And the learning opportunity for you personally is immense.

While managing a brand in that context will always present its unique challenges, setting a strong story that brings the business together around one central purpose, inspiring teams and keeping a laser focus on customers will help you get it right.

The writer is Karinne Brannigan, senior vice president, APJ marketing, Dell EMC. The article first appeared in A+M’s The Futurist print edition.