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When cultures collide: Brand engagement during M&As

According to FierceBiotech, the pharmaceutical industry has witnessed 1,345 mergers and acquisitions over the past decade, with disclosed prices totaling more than US $649 billion. That’s 1,345 times that distinct corporate cultures have been brought together and asked to succeed in a competitive industry.

This shocking statistic alone suggests that internal brand engagement, the internalization of a new brand, is worth examining, particularly by those leading our sector.

And the dynamism – even volatility – of the pharmaceutical sector is not limited to merger mania. Today’s pharmaceutical marketplace is experiencing regulatory transition, pipeline shrinkage and expiring patents, as well as the general economic uncertainty shared across the broader economy. As such, it is imperative for pharmaceutical executives to begin a more aggressive approach to implementing internal brand engagement activities.

Traditionally, internal brand engagement has not been widely utilized when two pharmaceutical companies merge. While a great deal of attention is almost always given to defining the new corporate brand, little to no attention is given to getting employees from both sides of the merger to truly understand and live that new corporate brand. In an industry that is changing at an unprecedented rate, internal brand engagement is absolutely crucial – particularly when aligning an organization post-merger.

During any given merger, there is often a sharp disconnect between management’s optimism as it approaches the direction of the newly formed organization and how employees tend to feel about these changes. Employees face uncertainty as they are asked to take on a new brand and a new culture all at once. Many employees are left wondering, “Which culture will prevail? Where do I belong? How will all of this change impact me and the job I do?”

These are the questions that internal brand engagement can answer. A thoughtful internal brand engagement initiative can help:

• Develop and define a new corporation

• Make the brand tangible to each and every employee across the newly formed network

• Rally employees around the new company’s mission, not just around a particular product – especially crucial in a sector that is witnessing shrinking pipelines

• Create a framework for managing employees’ expectations during the transition- simultaneously helping the newly formed management team build trust and credibility

Creating a new culture for the newly merged company requires action rather than homilies: Behaviors create culture. Internal brand engagement redefines behaviors through the lens of the new brand and, in the process, creates a new and cohesive culture. This is especially critical when companies rich in history founded on a shared mission – like those found within the pharmaceutical sector – merge. Involving employees in the creation and delivery of the brand encourages them to feel like agents of change promoting organizational transformation and improving business performance.

Beyond mergers and acquisitions internal brand engagement plays a vital role in the short and long term health and growth of a company. Internal brand engagement involves getting employees to understand the brand, internalize it and bring it to life in all that they do – whether it be answering a customer email or speaking to a customer on the telephone. It’s about creating a vibrant external identity by looking within.

Contributors

Executive Director, Creative