Develop your new identity and brand
The new brand(s) of your merged organisations is a very important signifier of the intent and long term ambitions of the merger. It is also important to note that a brand is more than your organisation’s logo, and that brand associations encompass the many – and often highly emotional relationships and connections that your staff, service-users, funders and members of the public have with your historical identity. As a result, discussions around brand can often act as a flashpoint for broader issues of organisational identity during the merger process.
Organisations that have merged typically pursue one of three main branding strategies:
- Retain: Each organisations retain their existing brands (with the potential for some co-branding where appropriate).
- Co-brand: One organisation is represented as part of another organisation. This option is sometimes used as a transition brand.
- New brand: An entirely new brand identity is created.
Examples of NFP organisations that have pursued these options are provided below.
There are several things to consider when having conversations and making decisions about branding before a merger is formally announced. These considerations include:
- Understand your new identity first – A brand is something that should clearly represent the identity of the new merged entity. It is therefore important to have a clear idea of things like vision, mission and purpose before deciding on a new brand. Ideally the new brand will provide a clear and immediate representation of who you now are.
- Research is invaluable – If you can afford it, there is potentially great value in commissioning research into how key stakeholder groups perceive the brands of each organisation. The insights from this research will then enable you to make more informed decisions about branding.
- Perceived service continuity is important – Your service-users may be concerned about how changes to the organisation will affect them, particularly changes in quality, and perhaps cost. Brand is an indicator of who is managing the services they use and continuity in brand will be perceived as continuity in services. If branding has not changed but services have, or vice-versa, ensure this is communicated clearly to service-users.
- Communicate any changes early and clearly – If you are concerned that your new brand will confuse government, donors or funders, be sure to explicitly address these concerns in your communications following the merger.
- Carefully manage the emotional aspects of identity – Members of both organisations are likely to be highly invested in their current identity, as brand can come to symbolise the mission staff strive for. Staff must support the organisation’s communication of its identity as they are ambassadors for the organisation, and responsible for its communication and marketing. The sense of pride staff may feel in their brand is also important to acknowledge, particularly as staff may interpret the prominence of their current brand in the merged organisation as an indicator of their importance.
Please feel free to leave questions or comments on this part of the merger toolkit.