Mergers and Acquisitions – myths and reality

Posted on in BrandBlab

The global financial fall out has seen accelerated market consolidation as companies in survival mode play predator and prey depending on their circumstances.The classic so-called orderly ‘migration’ strategies of companies seeking to ‘merge’ their brand equities are suddenly irrelevant when speed and opportunism are priorities. The niceties of gradual absorption or a sensitive fusion of identities and cultures are history when a fast morphing is required to maintain market share or advantages in a more brutal economic climate.

It exposes the potential hypocracy of corporate speak euphemisms blurring the fact that a more aggressive successful company has taken over a less agile, less powerful, or sometimes just unlucky competitor. The dominant party dictates the new board and subsequent staff redundancies and organisation.That’s capitalism in the raw and tough times may at least remove the corporate deceit of proposed ‘mergers’ and their ‘spin’ in waffling about mutual gains and ‘synergies’.Taking out a competitor and grabbing their market share makes commercial logic but we do not want to be reminded of the often inevitable clash of shareholder interests over lesser ‘stakeholders’ – staff, the community, suppliers, etc.

It certainly exposes any bullshit when it comes to brand equity.Those who still believe branding is about the name over the door must be in a dilemma if the services, process, people and offer are basically the same.Does it matter the ‘name’ has been around for years?Heritage is presumably about earned reputation not longevity.On this basis any ‘new’ brand has got a problem. Woolworth’s was part of our past but not relevant for our present – that’s the reality.Santander’s planned removal of the English icons Abbey, Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley from the UK high street is surely a totally expected logical move not a surprise.Sure we hate cloned high streets and predictable tenant mixes in shopping centres but ultimately the harsh economic times are shaking out business that should not have been in business.We cannot have it both ways.Mourning shops we did not frequent is pure hypocracy.In the end we get what we support if I understand how supply and demand works.

Obviously it is not that simple.Shopping is satisfying lifestyle and emotions providing appropriate, interesting enriching experiences. However, do we feel anything for banks, particularly now given their all-time low point in terms of public esteem?Do I want an ‘experience’ or just a highly efficient process increasingly by computer with the occasional real person phone call.Am I really going to feel worried about a Spanish name over the front door if they do what they say they will do?

We are supposed to be in an age of new honesty, transparency and straight talking as our M.P.s have now acknowledged.The test is whether we can handle the truth unwrapped or whether we still need nice ‘packages’ and aspirational promises to make us feel better.Lets see if honesty, trust and transparency can really drive a company’s values and behaviours. Generic values of all companies should include these basic attributes plus perhaps Stability and certainly Relevance.Without the latter any business is doomed.A DIY brand, Ronseal’s back-to-basics ‘does what is says on the tin’ slogan is particularly apt for such times.Direct, honest without hyperbole – a lesson for all of us I guess.

Cutting jobs and culling companies is never going to be good news for those concerned.The realities of share price and political interests make straight talking difficult but everyone understands ‘survival’ as a strategy.

Perhaps we are now all more grown up and need less stories and myths to feel good about who we shop and bank with and whose products and services we use. But, I doubt it – as humans we want to believe what we want to hear so if the brand promise is to make me richer, younger, cleverer, more attractive and happier it maybe worth a try … and do I really care who took over who to make that happen?