M&A: A Call for Research During the Integration Process

Mergers and acquisitions offer a great potential for synergy, which may include increased customer base, enhanced product and service capabilities, expanded geographic coverage, increased intellectual property, additional facilities, etc. On the flip side, M&A activities can create a sense of fear, confusion and frustration. Research can be utilized in a range of areas to clarify optimum direction and minimize negative aspects.

Examples of research studies that can be valuable in M&A activities include:

Internal Audiences

– Performing a facilitated SWOT discussion and analysis with key members of the leadership team can isolate current strengths and weaknesses and contribute to generating a new story or a new mission/value platform.

– A listening circle representing disciplines from product management, marketing, HR, customer service, etc. can help understand staff concerns and identify culture differences. The simple process of a third party listening without judgment eases frustration and demonstrates that the company values their input. More on the benefits of listening to help people change can be found in the May 17 article published in Harvard Business Review “The Power of Listening in Helping People Change.”

– A brand audit reviews all outward-facing materials such as web, collateral, presentations, trade show graphics, etc. to evaluate brand inconsistencies. More on this will follow later.

– Reviewing existing marketing research, perception studies, marketing plans along with a competitive evaluation can inform marketing leadership on how to approach branding of the new organization.

External Audiences

– Research with existing and prospective buyers will help to understand their evaluation and purchase criteria, perceptions of the brands involved in the merger or acquisition, and how they believe they will be affected by the change. What are the positive perceptions that can be leveraged? How can branding, messaging and marketing address the negative issues?

– Gauge brand equity and loyalty.

– Learn what messages will best resonate with the target audience to motivate them to not only understand the merger but also to support it.

A merger or acquisition also presents an opportunity to rebrand. Companies might retain their original brand name, take on the acquired company’s brand name, or create a new dual brand. Market research can be used at many points in the rebrand process to gain understanding of the new market landscape, refine expansion strategy, and define messages that will resonate with others. Explore both your reputation and your visibility to help you better understand the marketplace and your company’s role in it. Market research can help identify differentiators or what sets your brand apart.

If you are faced with an M&A-driven reorganization, look to utilize research as a way to gain critical insight. You’ll make more informed decisions, keep employees more engaged, and capture more value.