Posted by Andy Cullwick, head of marketing at Legal Futures Associate First4Lawyers
Good branding is at the heart of any successful business. It’s not enough to simply have a great product or service if no one knows about it and, in today’s online marketplace where consumers are exposed to dozens of brands every day, it’s more important than ever to make yours stand out.
That can be difficult to do – and to maintain – with already squeezed marketing budgets and a growing number of platforms to keep up-to-date.
It can also leave businesses involved in mergers and acquisitions (M&As) with difficult choices to make about whether to keep multiple brands or combine them into one.
Legal and insurance
M&A activity has been an increasingly prominent feature of recent years in both the insurance and legal sectors.
According to Clyde & Co’s insurance growth report, mergers and acquisitions hit a 10-year high last year, while research by Acquira Professional Services found that around half of law firms were considering them and almost a quarter were already in talks.
In most circumstances, mergers will see two entities trade under a new name whereas acquired firms will typically operate under that of the parent company.
There are, however, exceptions to both and for marketers, tasked with how best to manage such developments without losing their existing client base, there are some important factors to consider.
Is it better to bring everything under one, newly named umbrella or keep the existing brands? This will depend on how strong those brands are and the levels of brand awareness.
Global shipping and marine insurer, North P&I, merged with fellow mutual Standard Club earlier this year under the new name, North Standard. When UK-based BLM merged with Clyde & Co, however it took on the name of the much bigger, global firm.,
If you’re in the south and have just acquired a business in the north where your name probably is not as well known, then it makes sense to keep both brands, in the short term at least. If you are merging with another business on the same high street, however, then it probably won’t benefit you to have two brands side-by-side.
Do you have the budget to market more than one brand? If you can, look at the return on investment for each going back over a set period, say six months, to determine whether it’s worth the money. If you’re merging two firms under a new name, it’s also crucial you have the budget in place to effectively communicate that transition.
It’s important to note here that, even where budget allows, there are certain rules governing advertising brands owned by the same company. For example, Google frowns upon accounts owned by the same company bidding for the same paid search keywords more than once and will penalise those that do.
Who is the core audience and does your brand name have relevance and meaning to them?
There are many law firms named after partners, but does that convey to your target market what you do? There’s genuinely a firm of estate agents called Doolittle & Dalley that may well be excellent at what they do but it’s not a brand name that you associate with speed of service!
Consider creating a name that makes it immediately obvious to potential clients what type of work the brand handles.
It could be that brands are targeting different groups and so it could be beneficial to keep them separate.
Businesses should also consider the internal audience of firms and whether the culture and values of each are such that it would be appropriate to combine them or better to keep them separate.
Multiple brands take up more advertising space so there’s less left for competitors. Furthermore, in the unfortunate and hopefully unlikely event of reputational damage to one brand, the other/s may escape unaffected.
Nestlé, for example, which has been the focus of numerous allegations, including that it misled consumers over the nutritional content of its baby milk formula, has somewhere in the region of another 2,000 brands to fall back on.
Ultimately, it depends on the above in relation to each individual business as to whether it should keep or change its name. It is not, however, a decision to be taken lightly. Fail to properly execute a rebrand and you will lose customers who, once gone, will be extremely hard to win back.
A version of this article first appeared in Insurance Claims.