More and more Private Equity houses are recognising the importance of brand as an integral part of M&A, not only from a transactional perspective but also as a strategic platform for value creation.
Whilst time is of the essence for many acquisitions and management buy out events, it is imperative that sufficient time is allocated towards both operational and brand considerations at the earliest possible stage, to ensure that each portfolio company’s potential is maximised.
We have all seen what happens when brand discussions are relegated to an afterthought, are rushed through or are simply considered too late in the day to be effective. Clashing corporate cultures, misaligned values, a lack of a shared vision and failures in communication are frequently cited as the biggest obstacles to effective portfolio company integration and can destroy value rapidly.
Whatever the decisions Private Equity houses and their portfolio companies make about brand, they need to be in a position to send very clear signals to three distinctive stakeholder groups: employees, clients and other interested parties. To maximise brand equity, each of these stakeholders must be appraised of a certain and compelling strategic vision for the business, its values, key messages and future direction.
PE houses and portfolio companies are increasingly viewing brand as a key asset that needs to be invested in and nurtured.
Ignition – Brand Workshop
The process should start with a Brand Workshop that is designed specifically to help PE Houses and their portfolio businesses create brands that form a shared and differentiated vision, in an actionable framework. All future communications cascade from this important session, creating a compelling, coherent and consistent approach to market. Only once a brand workshop has been conducted should consideration be given to a new name, identity and image, website and marketing collateral.
During an interactive Brand Workshop, key decisions will be made in respect of the unified Brand Essence and Vision, Value Propositions, Brand Vocabulary, Tone of Voice and this concludes with a carefully articulated Elevator Pitch and Marketing Action Plan (MAP), outlining the broad practical next steps required to implement a go-to-market strategy. All of these steps are challenged, assessed and validated by attributes at the heart of balanced brands, using the 4 Rs model: Relevant, Remarkable, Reputational and Real.
Involvement – Brand Embedding and Engagement
The second stage brings the entire team together to discover, analyse and achieve consensus on the Core Values of the business or group. This gives everyone a voice in creating the values they truly care about, informing, engaging and aligning everyone in the organisation so that they can play a full part in bringing the brand to life.
Identity – Brand Content and Communication
In today’s crowded landscape, a strong brand will enable your portfolio companies to shine out. Once there is real clarity in the future direction of the business and the team is rallying right behind a consistent and compelling brand banner, consideration can be given to brand naming, corporate identity, collateral and website design, content and communications programmes.
With brand a key driver of mid-market acquisition premiums at exit, Private Equity is now looking to embrace brand equity as never before. Whenever you consider your next investment in an acquisition, MBO or MBI, make brand your strategic springboard to creating, building and sustaining value.
Contact Mike Symes for more information.