Now What Do We Do with Intangible Assets?
Once a business is acquired and the buyer is looking through the grab bag of intangible assets (patents, trademarks, trade secrets, etc.) the question of what to do with them is in need of answering. Even if you’ve made the best laid plans in advance of the acquisition, there’s a need to revisit the brand assets to determine their value and how much they’ll need to change.
A fresh look at a brand asset often sparks a change to the brand mark in order to signal a change to the offering it represents. In a way this is the “under new ownership” reason for changing a mark. It makes sense to do so, but it is also the place where the most care should be given, because the underlying meaning behind acquisitions or mergers can cause issues.
Even marginally successful brands have a fan club, whether they nurture them or not, there are people who like the brand the way they’ve come to know it. These are the people who have stuck with the brand after others left it, when times were tough and when mistakes were made. When a change of ownership happens the cultural expectation is that it will negatively impact the brand for which these fans have expressed their loyalty.
This certainly doesn’t mean you should leave the brand unchanged, in fact, this is a time when positive change can make the largest impact. It is a statement of authority; if managed right, designed properly and messaged precisely that can provide the spark for a new growth phase in the brand’s history.
At Capsule, we’ve seen so many examples of this that it was a challenge to pick just one. The story that had the most consolidation of brands after acquisition and most dramatic outcomes has to be Moss.
After an acquisition spree of six brands, parent brand Moss was challenged by the board to show results with the portfolio. After conducting research and exploration of each brand it was determined they had little value as intangible assets, and the decision was made to rebrand the parent company in order to consolidate each of these acquisitions under it.
The result was a focused effort to build one brand across multiple categories. This led to more efficient use of marketing dollars and a singular more valuable brand for the investment portfolio.
Seeing this in final form makes it look easy, tied up in a nice bow with a dusting of confetti. In fact, when consolidating brands the internals teams of these newly acquired brands can be most challenged by this change. They’ve dedicated their career to a brand that is now acquired, merged and going away into another, larger entity. It is critical they see the larger brand as better, not just bigger in order for their loyalty to transfer, which is the same for that fan club every brand has.
Change is inevitable, but properly messaged change is rare. Messaging it right, as was done with the Moss team, internally and externally, and a brand mark can signal a bright future. Get it wrong and the loyalists (customers and employees) leave swearing your name on the way out the door.
Merger or acquisition on the near horizon, reach out if you’d like to discuss it.