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  • feedwordpress 01:32:50 on 2015/11/20 Permalink
    Tags: acquisition, acquisitions, brand, brand consoldation, , brand itntegration, brand metrics, brand portfolio, brand reputation, , , , merger, , post-merger, pre-merger, Whole Foods, Whole Foods Market   

    M&A Brand Integration: How To Do It Right 

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    M&A Brand Integration

    During my days leading marketing and brand strategy at Whole Foods Market, we subsumed ten acquired individual operating companies and their brand names under the Whole Foods master brand. The six month M&A brand integration process was defined and implemented years after the initial mergers, thereby involving entrenched (and oft times, confusing and dissimilar) customer and employee perceptions and requiring extensive perception change management. Since then, I’ve advised several clients through sell-side M&A deals managing brand and executive transitions.

    Unfortunately, brand integration is often an afterthought in M&A deals. Companies get caught up in the deal bidding and negotiating process rather than assessing and planning for potential conflicting brand issues and creating a blueprint for future brand valuation/growth. Insufficient (or non-existent) M&A brand integration planning can have disastrous consequences including poor M&A financial performance and dramatically diminished future brand valuation.

    For M&A to work — if you want to leverage a CAPABILITIES PREMIUM in M&A — the deal needs to: (1) enhance your company’s distinctive capabilities, (2) leverage your existing competitive advantages, (3) complement your internal innovation processes, and (4) take your brand assets, brand strategy, and customer/investor/employee brand perceptions into account.

    Want to ensure BRAND is part of M&A pre-merger deal making and post-merger integration?

    Here are four tips:

    1. Evaluate Potential Brand Reputation Impact, Pre-Merger
    2. A successful M&A deal starts with an audit of current and potentially acquired brands pre-merger to determine how one brand might negatively or positively affect another in the brand portfolio or the company reputation. Are new brands congruent with the acquiring company’s overall brand promise? What legacy internal systems and equity assets do the brands associated with the deal bring to the table? These decisions require thoughtful analysis.

      Use common sense. An acquired brand doesn’t always have to take on the brand name of the acquiring company.

      At Whole Foods Market, we rebranded all acquired companies with one exception: a legacy brand (Mrs. Gooch’s) in Southern California. Local customers and employees were so invested in the Mrs. Gooch’s name that we permanently branded the La Jolla location in-store cafe as Mrs. Gooch’s to preserve the vested brand equity and recognize the brand’s heritage. It was a brand reputation win-win.

      Conduct thorough brand due diligence pre-merger and you will prevent unexpected, insurmountable post-merger brand integration challenges.

    3. Dedicate Resources to Manage Brand Integration Planning
    4. Consider appointing a full-time internal or external brand integration planning manager or partner during the M&A deal bidding and negotiating process, before the transaction finalizes.

      Having key full time integration resources in place early in the process can mean the difference between success or failure of any M&A deal. Without strategic leadership accountability, post-merger brand integration is doomed to fail.

      Give your integration team the responsibility of identifying the issues to be addressed and developing your internal brand integration plan – including spelling out “non-negotiables”. Integration project managers can ensure that executives and employees of both the acquirer and acquired entities understand and are committed to the same goals and communicate the same message.

      In the case of Whole Foods Market, our brand integration team included corporate HR employees, store team leaders, regional Presidents, regional marketing coordinators, regional art directors, store design engineers, and IT team members as well as a brand manager, investor relations manager, customer service manager and public relations (PR) manager. The diverse, cross-functional team helped us circumvent potential gaffes in store operational changes and multiple points of communication with quality assurance checkpoints.

    5. Pre-Empt Potential Brand Conflict Issues
    6. Customers, employees, and even investors can be fierce and territorial during post-merger brand consolidation. Executives need to clearly communicate the broad strategic purpose of the M&A deal to employees and investors, setting vision for the integrated brand portfolio (and unique individual brand assets). When it comes to customers, it is important to understand highly-charged emotional brand heritage and broaden customer perceptions of their invested brand while preserving aspects of the brand equity of the former entities. All three constituencies — customers, employees, and investors — need to feel involved.

      At Whole Foods Market, we were lucky to have well known, publicly stated visions and values to guide our post-merger brand integration process. In a company where vision and values aren’t well communicated to employees, you will inevitably encounter pre- and post-merger brand integration challenges.

      Employees help to define a brand. Engaged employees build strong brands. Thus, cultural integration goes hand in hand with brand integration. HR, PR, and Brand Integration project managers will need to work in tandem, addressing structural, political, and social variables. Awareness sessions and transparent internal/external communications can reassure employees and customers that pre- and post-merger brand integration won’t impact day-to-day business or their lives.

    7. Create a 90-Day Post-Merger Brand Transition Plan With Measurable Metrics
    8. A well-managed brand transition plan can provide a blueprint for growth. Integration is the key to future valuation creation. During the first 90 days post-merger, you need to verify due diligence data, gather additional intelligence information, create internal integration implementation teams, and identify/leverage internal integration resources.

      Your post-deal plan should be carefully coordinated in order to ensure successful implementation. An effective plan will:

      • align brand strategies,
      • identify and thwart cultural integration challenges,
      • establish operational transition parameters,
      • encourage and incentivize rapid decoupling of legacy internal systems,
      • dedicate resources and assign accountability,
      • identify “go-forward” initiatives and action plans,
      • define desired end states,
      • provide post-merger acquisition metrics such as EPS (earnings per share) accretive transactions value and EPS dilutive transactions value,
      • create mechanisms to monitor, measure, and manage customer, employee, and investor perceptions.

    Research suggests that companies that fail to bring brand into M&A discussions almost always underperform deals that are forged with deliberate, pre-planned fusion branding strategies. Proactive pre- and post-merger brand integration planning coupled with a sound implementation process can mitigate uncertainty, clarify the intent of the merger to customers, employees and investors, and ultimately determine a merger’s success or failure.

  • feedwordpress 20:48:04 on 2014/02/26 Permalink
    Tags: actionable benchmarking, actionable results, audits, , brands, , , Coke, , General Mills, , , , Whole Foods   

    The #1 Secret of Successful Benchmarking 

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    The #1 Secret of Successful Benchmarking

    Benchmarking can be a company eye-opener. Internal, competitive, and outside industry benchmarking all have merits. Internal benchmarking can foster best practices. Assessing performance versus competitors can reveal your shortcomings and tell you where to focus. Looking at other industries can generate creative ideas for growth.

    During my days leading marketing and innovation initiatives at Coke, General Mills, and Whole Foods, I participated in numerous company benchmarking exercises. We benchmarked quality measures, workload, product development, pricing, channel management, market information management, packaging design, and marketing implementation. Each company had its own unique approach to benchmarking — from searching publicly available data to primary research using IT-supported software tools.

    Here’s what I learned: the secret of successful benchmarking isn’t about HOW or WHERE YOU DIG. In other words, it isn’t about how you conduct your audit (there are no “right” or “wrong” rules). Or whether you benchmark performance inside the four walls of your company, against competitors within your industry, or outside your industry…

    The #1 Secret of Successful Benchmarking

    The #1 secret of successful benchmarking is knowing what to do with the information you discover — taking the results and making them actionable.

    Knowing where you stand provides a point of reference for what could be and reveals uncommon, oft surprising insights — but it’s only half of the equation. Discovery is not enough. Benchmarking data needs to support action to have any significant meaning or effect. And this holds true for companies of all sizes — from startups to global Fortune 100 corporations.

    How to Make Benchmarking Data Actionable

    Actionable data is always better than big data. The most important part of any benchmarking process is creating a plan of action that will improve organization performance. You need to leverage your new knowledge and implement changes.

    Some tips to get you started:

    1. Start with a Goal
      Before you launch any benchmarking initiative, define what you want to accomplish. Clear objectives. How will you use the data to create value? At Coke, our benchmarking exercise goal was to justify shifting from glass to plastic packaging in the Non-Carbonated Beverages Division.
    2. Schedule Collaborative Sessions To Review Benchmark Findings
      Facilitate internal discussion and interaction to identify ways that you can use results to improve business performance. After conducting retail industry benchmarking activities at Whole Foods, we held numerous cross-functional team member workshops to assess and plan store design and product merchandising changes.
    3. Improve Your Enterprise Asset Management Systems
      Despite IT asset management systems being at the bottom of the trough of disillusionment in Gartner’s 2012 Hype Cycle, a good asset management system can make actionable benchmarking less formidable. Sharing knowledge assets across your company can improve data utilization and performance. With nearly 40,000 employees worldwide, General Mills used benchmarking results to build a massive standardized system for managing enterprise learning. The result? Stronger total employee engagement across the organization. Early stage companies can do this too, simply by storing and sharing data between founders and future team members.
    4. Integrate Benchmarks Into Sales and Operations Planning Cycles and Day-to-Day Planning
      Help the front line. Ensure that benchmarking data is available to employees every time they make a decision about the future. This single act can boost innovation in your company from the bottom up.
    5. Reallocate Resources
      Consider realigning resources — tear down silo walls — to activate your company’s plan of action after benchmarking. Concentrate resources on realistic targets.

    Hungry for more benchmarking best practices? Check out this oldie but goodie from Harvard’s Working Knowledge titled, “Best Practices for Benchmarking,” originally published in 2003. Ahh, memories! That was the year I officially incorporated RE:INVENTION, inc..

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