Mergers and acquisitions often create brand problems, beginning with what to call the company after the transaction and going down into detail about what to do about overlapping and competing product brands. Decisions about what brand equity to write off are not inconsequential. And, given the ability for the right brand choices to drive preference and earn a price premium, the future success of a merger or acquisition depends on making wise brand choices. Brand decision-makers essentially can choose from four different approaches to dealing with naming issues, each with specific pros and cons:
- Keep one name and discontinue the other. The strongest legacy brand with the best prospects for the future lives on. In the merger of United Airlines and Continental Airlines, the United brand will continue forward, while Continental is retired.
- Keep one name and demote the other. The strongest name becomes the company name and the weaker one is demoted to a divisional brand or product brand. An example is Caterpillar Inc. keeping the Bucyrus International name.
- Keep both names and use them together. Some companies try to please everyone and keep the value of both brands by using them together. This can create a unwieldy name, as in the case of PricewaterhouseCoopers, which has since changed its brand name to "PwC".
- Discard both legacy names and adopt a totally new one. The classic example is the merger of Bell Atlantic with GTE, which became Verizon Communications. Not every merger with a new name is successful. By consolidating into YRC Worldwide, the company lost the considerable value of both Yellow Freight and Roadway Corp.
The factors influencing brand decisions in a merger or acquisition transaction can range from political to tactical. Ego can drive choice just as well as rational factors such as brand value and costs involved with changing brands.
Beyond the bigger issue of what to call the company after the transaction comes the ongoing detailed choices about what divisional, product and service brands to keep. The detailed decisions about the brand portfolio are covered under the topic brand architecture.