Brand Equity Research for Two Merging Giants
What do two corporate giants call themselves when they merge?
How do they combine their strengths? How do they merge their cultures? Should one company absorb the other? These were just a few of the issues that faced this international mutual fund giant buying out a large, local mutual fund organization.
Research can help us greatly here. It can reveal the core brand equity of the individual company's brands and their relative strengths. Moreover, it can do this across all the stakeholders groups – employees, the industry itself, and clients and prospects – revealing nuances and differences but, most importantly, uncovering the common perceptions that might constitute the basis of the newly integrated company's positioning.
Beginning with in-depth, one-on-one interviews with key management personnel, the research team sought to reveal what each company felt about the other. Further qualitative research probed client and industry perceptions. The key job, however, was going to be up to the quantitative stage. Did brand equity as such drive loyalty and commitment to the brand? If so, to what degree? To put this differently, was loyalty more dependent on the company's tangible assets, those areas that could be easily replaced or duplicated – such as products, offices, its sales force or its IT systems? Or were the intangible assets also key – that is, the brand name and its image itself. This would be the big question: Retain the brand or strip it of its assets? Was the brand name itself worth keeping?
What We Discovered
The research results were very surprising. First, we found that the local company, despite its serious financial woes, possessed an extraordinarily powerful brand identity. The name itself evoked trust and respect, despite its recent financial troubles. It was the trusted uncle, while the other brand was the new whiz kid on the block, the one with the superior technical skills and the brash personality – but which might be a little risky! Together they covered the whole mutual fund spectrum. In fact they complemented one another very well. The decision by the client based on the research: Keep both brand names.
Today, this important global player still bears the double-barrelled name that includes that of the international player with that of the trusted local company, a name it once nearly buried.