Naming during a Merger or Acquisition

Satisfying all the management, customer and legal issues


When two (or more) companies merge, or one takes over another, there are many naming issues to consider. Unfortunately, there are many, many other issues flying around and naming often gets bumped down the management priority list.

Another reason for this is the fact that experienced branding consultants (in-house or otherwise) are seldom part of these big financial dealings. This is not to say that top managers do not have personal branding or marketing experience. Many do. But they are so often more distracted by their own present and future roles in the merger that they don’t have the time or the will to properly address these issues.

The best we can hope for at this stage is that they recognize they have major naming issues to discuss, and only put short term solutions into place while at the negotiating table.

Once the merger or acquisition is complete, then it is time to immediately address the proper names to be used for the new entity as they go forward. In the case of one company acquiring another, so often the one doing the acquiring gets to keep its name. They are the king, the conqueror after all. And a lot of big egos are also (unfortunately) often on the line here. But shouldn’t it be about customers and marketplace and whose name has the best and strongest brand recognition?

In one major case that was handled properly, Nationwide Bank acquired Bank of America in a mega-merger. There were many reasons for this take over, given how big and old and successful Bank of America had become. And one of the reasons was to establish even a bigger international network of banking partners. When some basic research showed that many foreign countries thought Nationwide Bank sounded like their own “federal” or government backed bank, the name of the new entity was changed to Bank of America! So while there is still a big Bank of America skyscraper in San Francisco, their head office, their head office is now in North Carolina.

When the dust settles there are only a few choices for naming the new entity after a merger:

  • Keep name of major partner
  • Keep name of partner with best customer recognition and brand power
  • Make up a new combo name so as to keep all execs happy (and confuse customers with new name, especially if it is soon abbreviated to a new set of initials)
  • Pick an entirely new name, and transition the brand equity of all parties involved into this new big brand

In an ideal world, all of these options are properly examined and viewed against each other with a strong sense of what will create the largest marketing impact long term going forward, before any new direction is locked in place.


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