Smooth Sailing: Is it possible to rebrand and rename painlessly?

smooth sailing acquisition and mergersMany companies underestimate the time required to integrate brands from a merger. The United and Continental airlines deal is a good example. Close to three years after the merger that was announced in May 2010, WSJ, United has only recently finished rebranding its former “Continental” airplanes as “United”, and is still working to completely combine separate airline miles rewards programs. Is there a way to handle corporate reorganization, rebranding, and renaming in a more streamlined way?

Pharmacy-benefit manager Catamaran Corp. is case in point. The acquisition by SXC Health Solutions of rival Catalyst Health Solutions last July (2012) had the potential for brand confusion and internal in-fighting. However, revenues have continued to surge. So what’s the secret of the fastest-growing company as ranked by Fortune in 2011?

CEO Mark Thierer, who actually chose the name “Catamaran,” admits that “keeping staffers clear about strategy amid acquisitions and change is a persistent worry,” February 2012, WSJ. He also comments that Catamaran Corp. has acquired six companies since 2008, and that the hardest part of managing rapid growth is making sure that each employee has an exact idea of how their role fits into growing the business. This includes making sure they understand the brand strategy and name identity.

Thierer, who liked the name “Catamaran” because it conjures the idea of a “swift, light craft,” also commented that when he was working at SXC, it was a small software company with huge potential. By cultivating organic growth and emphasizing a new brand, the company was able to take a customized and tailorable product to market in a sea of very static offerings.

“Catamaran” clearly personified several of the value propositions Thierer anecdotally described – speed to market, steering it to where you want to go, being effective, and allowing customers to be in control. This is the hallmark of a great brand name: the ability to leverage the strengths of a product or service and help communicate them to clients in a resounding, memorable, and unique way.

So, when approaching rough or turbulent waters in the face of M&A activities, corporate restructuring or a significant change in brand strategy, identify the pillars in the core competencies of your product or service, and make sure your name and messaging reflect them. A strong brand name with a clearly articulated message will guide you to smoother seas.

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