To Brand Merge or not to Brand Merge

MP Mueller recently wrote a piece  in the New York Times (http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/when-two-brands-are-better-than-one/?ref=smallbusiness#preview) considering brand mergers for the sake of strengthening one’s image and extending one’s customer base as well as partnering in business logistics and projects. Using the example of a Vineyard and a tie company who partnered to sell a limited edition bottle of Chardonnay—“a Whale of a Wine”—that featured the pink whale branding of the tie company and outfitted the staff in the tasting rooms with their ties. All in all the collaboration appears to have been a success, and it is not all too difficult to imagine why; ties and wine convey similar attitudes of elegance and sophistication, and in this case the two businesses seem to be interested in reaching the demographic of the “young professional” which appreciates clean design takes itself serious enough without appearing pretentious—a tie and a glass of wine. Of course a purchase of this “merger product” included a fifteen dollar donation to a “clean water advocacy group”—the “Waterkeeper Alliance”—a feature which has by now become a cliché (is it necessary for people to buy products in order to donate to worthy causes? If so, it seems to me there is no hope left for society.).

While ventures such as the one described above lend themselves to businesses seeking recognition or a broader audience, it should only be recommended to those who have a strong brand identity and a dedicated vision. If Vineyard Vines (the tie company) had joined with Jones soda on a project, the outcome would most likely have proved itself as a schizophrenic endeavor eliciting mostly confusion from consumers (“I guess drinking Root Beer in a tie could be sexy…”). Think of Daimler Chrysler’s disastrous merger with Mercedes Benz that took place in 1998—pairing the world’s most recognized luxury vehicle with a car manufacturer that once chose to describe their vehicles as being “Great cars. Great trucks”—a good joke, but not good business. It seems that culinary art offers a great model for how to brand—one should only pair complimentary flavors that enhance each other. Sara Tang the Director of Strategy at The Brand Union offers this advice when branding your company: “Plan early, and evaluate often.  Incorporating brand early into merger discussions helps to tie the brand strategy closely to the business strategy. Taking a longer term view to branding the M&A is crucial, but so is evaluating the brand strategy at regular phases of the merger as market sentiment and organizational goals change. “

There’s the scoop.

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