m and a 2021

By James Withey, Executive Director EMEA at Siegel+Gale

Our world is in flux. And although collectively, we are facing many challenges right now, there are myriad opportunities growing in tandem. As many organisations restructure in an effort to weather the current climate, we will inevitably see Europe follow in the steps of the United States and witness an increase in mergers, acquisitions and divestitures.  

With only 674 deals in 2020 – the lowest since the financial crisis of 2008 – lower interest rates, available funding, and a host of organisations looking either for domination or survival, 2021 is likely to be one of the busiest M&A years for some time. To help prepare marketers for the upcoming wave, here are five tips to help drive success for any M&A. 

Reverse engineer 

It’s important to look to the future and understand what will yield the most return. Look ahead and ask yourself, will there be a need to quickly restructure a combined brand portfolio, and what are the options for achieving that? Getting the possible brand options down on paper and evaluating the potential trade-offs quickly holds immense value.  

Early dialogue with peers and leaders can lead to fruitful insights. Consider what an optimised brand portfolio can do for the organisation. This approach will reduce time wasting on less relevant strategies and help teams align at speed and focus on what is possible. 

  

Evaluate your brand assets 

Looking to the future is only the first step. It’s important to evaluate what from the past can be let go. Build an inventory of all brand-related assets. This will give brand leaders the opportunity to focus their attention on the assets that can serve multiple purposes, stretch the furthest, and contribute the most to brand success. Every asset must be assessed for the strategic value it brings.

This inventory will allow brand leaders to streamline the most valuable assets and focus attention on what will bring the most return. By implementing through stages, leading with priority assets will allow you to introduce secondary assets over time. 

  

Lead with Purpose 

If Covid-19 has taught brand leaders anything it’s the importance of purpose. Purpose is your north star and can provide a filter for all decision-making within your business. Uncovering and activating your purpose can help guide large-scale as well as smaller decisions. 

M&As are complex and uncertain, but they also provide a moment of clarity to ask important questions on why your company exists, who it serves, and what impact it can have on the world.   

Clear messaging on company aspirations and principles will offer stakeholders a point of alignment. Injecting your purpose into every unit or division will provide a red thread that runs throughout the business, informing all initiatives from customer and employee value propositions, to experience design and marketing. It will also act as a roadmap for integrating new acquisitions. 

  

Adopt full transparency 

Transparency leads to trust, and one way to ensure transparency is by developing your brand as a collaborative and creative engagement. Open the process. Integrate employees and customers into the programme and embrace their desire to be part of this change.  

Transparency generates additional benefits too. Brand teams get a fact base that will offer valuable insights they may otherwise not have noticed. Rapid and open-loop feedback will also provide confidence in decision-making. 

Involving stakeholders in the process of brand development will ensure they feel listened to, give them confidence that the new company is built around their needs. 

Create brand co-authors, not bystanders. 

  

Maintain agility 

The importance of brand in the M&A process is now being recognised by CEOs and as a result, marketers now more often have a seat at the decision-making table. Maintaining this position will mean demonstrating the capability to work at deal speed. 

Where teams once ran activities in logical sequence, they now need to be run in parallel, and in days not months.

Experience and expertise matter when all eyes are on brand. Ensure your team is comfortable with agile processes and can successfully operate at high speed. Support teams in their drive for agility and allow quick decision-making. 

Moving forward 

The wave of corporate transactions heading for Europe in 2021 will present an opportunity to create lasting value. It’s not just an opportunity for the business, but also for brand leaders to define a new future for their discipline.  

Launching a new brand is no mean feat, and to do so successfully deserves plaudits. But it is just the beginning of the brand building journey that can help to future-proof your business.