Earlier this month, shareholders approved the $69 billion CVS-Aetna acquisition, marking one step closer to what would be the largest health insurance deal in history—far exceeding Express Scripts’ 2012 acquisition of Medco Health and the CVS-Caremark Rx deal of 2006.
The CVS-Aetna announcement could dramatically reshape the healthcare industry.
From a brand strategy perspective, this acquisition is interesting because it involves two distinguished brands in the healthcare space—CVS is the country’s largest pharmacy while Aetna is the nation’s third largest healthcare provider.
Two powerful brands coming together
There are many layers to mergers and acquisitions (M&A), but developing a sound brand strategy is one of the most critical components of any agreement—especially when it involves two mega brands like CVS and Aetna.
Aligning on a brand strategy is as important as sorting out financials, operations, logistics, and everything else that comes with the complexities of this kind of deal.
The tricky part is there’s no prescribed framework for the “perfect” M&A brand strategy. How CVS and Aetna plan to proceed is still unclear—whether they remain separate, combine names, or land somewhere in the middle.
But there are several best practices to consider when developing an M&A brand strategy.
Brand strategy must match the business strategy
Why are you merging/acquiring? Is it to expand a geographical footprint? To fill a product or service gap? Whatever the reason, the “why” (e.g., the business strategy) MUST inform your brand strategy.
Dig into each brand to identify what the intrinsic qualities are and let those distinct value propositions guide your strategy.
Account for your audience(s)
Internal and external brand communications must align and support the overall brand strategy and should be tailored to each brand’s audience(s).
In the CVS and Aetna case, both brands touch many constituents—patients, employers, physicians, etc. The brand strategy must account for all these touchpoints and create messaging and experiences that meet each group’s specific expectations and needs.
Bring everyone to the table
M&A is a unique opportunity for brands to refresh their image. However, developing a lasting strategy should include employee input and buy-in from the top down.
Be transparent about the chosen brand path—ideally employees should be privy to changes ahead of time so they can begin to internalize the new brand promise.
Especially in the CVS-Aetna case, employees on the frontline who interact with patients and customers every day need to understand the chosen brand path to ensure a smooth and successful branding transition.
The branding gist
Whether it’s a $69 billion acquisition or the merging of two “mom and pop” shops, building a brand strategy is an integral piece of the M&A puzzle.
There’s no “right” way to approach this, but keeping in mind the business strategy, impacted audiences, and employee input will help make the development and implementation of an effective M&A brand strategy much smoother.