SMPL Q&A: 3 questions on bringing a B2B company to life during a merger, acquisition or spinoff

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SMPL Q&A is a blog feature in which we interview experts on all things relevant to branding, design and simplicity. In this Q&A we speak with Anne Swan, executive creative director, about the iterative nature of B2B branding today.

What’s important to keep in mind when building a brand identity? 

Brand identity design should be guided by both the business imperative and the context in which the brand lives.

A brand’s visual identity should first and foremost align with its core strategy. And if it’s not moving that strategy forward, it’s not doing its job.

Today we live in a world of constant change, where static brand identities no longer make sense. In an effort to distance themselves from a monolithic past, today’s brands need agile design systems that can be activated across a wide variety of touchpoints and evolve with changing platforms. Because brands live in this landscape of change, the branding process is now more iterative, resulting in flexible visual identities that push conceptual boundaries. For example, HPE’s identity recently launched its ‘Accelerating Beyond’ campaign in which its identity and HPE innovations were featured in the latest Star Trek movie, Star Trek Beyond. That wouldn’t have happened 10 years ago.

For Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Siegel+Gale created “The Element,” an icon built around the brand’s promise, “Together we propel your business further.” It’s a symbol of many things: a frame to create a point of focus, a window on partnership and a symbol of HPE’s imperative to remain agile, decisive and fast in an ever-changing world. 

What is the most critical consideration when branding during a merger, acquisition or spinoff? 

It’s imperative to first understand what’s meant to be achieved. In the case of HPE, the spinoff emphasized the new entity’s focus on enterprise IT by delivering advanced technology solutions that transform businesses. The new identity would have to reflect this purpose today and in the future.

Brand is often an overlooked asset during an M&A. While there’s typically a hyper focus on the financial, operational and logistical components of a business deal, establishing a strong brand at this time has significant advantages. Launching a new identity in isolation can be jarring, potentially evoking suspicion and confusion among customers and even employees. Major company events often provide an opportunity for brands to reflect, not only on their identity but also their employees, communications, brand story and customer engagement.

How did the fact that HPE is B2B play into your visual identity strategy? 

Visual identity is inextricably tied to a company’s business strategy. It was no exception for HPE. And the fact that HPE is a B2B brand played a major part in how we approached our collaboration.

It’s important to note that today, B2B and B2C branding are more akin than you would think. It’s taken for granted that branding is a key driver in B2C business. But for today’s B2B brand, emotional connection also drives the bottom line. Brands have to think hard about how to reach their audience. The very fact that HPE is partnering with Hollywood as part of their Accelerating Beyond campaign is a testament to their provocative and forward-thinking approach. Decision makers that purchase enterprise services, solutions or hardware are no longer influenced solely by price or the quality of an offering, but also by a strong brand experience. The visual identity must reflect not only what the brand stands for, but also how people feel about it.

Anne Swan is executive creative director at Siegel+Gale. Follow her on Twitter:@cityswan

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