Turning mergers into moonshots: The power of crafting a shared Ambition
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy Jr. was unequivocal: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” This time-bound statement of intent was measurable, served as a clear destination, and inspired a complex set of actions that set a large number of people in motion. Without the clarity of this Ambition, the goal would not be reached.
Mergers between large, complex organizations are no different. We often think first about the brand strategy for the merger – should we use one of the two brands? Create one name out of both brands? Or create something entirely new? These are valid questions that must be answered, but for any of it to work, regardless of the optimal naming and identity decisions, the new organization needs to know what direction it is going to motivate action. After all, this is the merging not just of two business operations, but of two cultures which have their own histories and idiosyncrasies.
How to unlock the future Ambition of your brand
Have you ever worked at a company where everyone was working incredibly hard, but it felt like a bunch of chickens running around with their heads cut off? That organization was missing a clear and aligned Ambition. Think about the JFK example – knowing we had to get to the moon by the end of the decade was so clear as a goal it was unmissable. Now think about an organization you have been a part of that had a clear, overarching goal – what did that feel like to be a part of?
A brand Ambition is a clear and compelling statement of an organization’s desired future state. It is a 3 to 5-year goal that serves as a guiding principle for brand and business decisions and actions. A brand Ambition defines the destination – where you are taking the brand. It works in concert with a purpose, which is why you exist beyond making a profit. The distinct role of an Ambition is to help you focus your efforts, align your teams, and drive behavior among employees.
Practical tips for senior brand and business leaders when crafting an Ambition
An Ambition finds the sweet spot between business and brand, which means direct senior leadership involvement. It should not take months or even weeks. Instead, it requires excellent preparation and expert facilitation. The group you assemble needs to answer three simple but nontrivial questions: Where do we want to be? By when? How will we know we’ve reached the destination? Our work with a range of organizations has resulted in three principles to follow:
1. Make it tangible.
To create momentum, it must be a clear, tangible, and credible objective for a specific moment in time. While a Purpose must inspire and orientate, an Ambition must create focus and drive action.
2. Make it timebound.
A rule of thumb may be 3 to 5 years into the future – sufficiently distant to allow for brand building, but close enough to be motivating and realistic. Your date will be influenced by category and business specific factors.
3. Make it measurable.
It must be unambiguous and underpinned by one or more decisive measures of success (the fewer, the better). These measures of success may be monetary, perceptual, and/or behavioral.
If any of this sounds familiar, you have probably been through or even led a merger in the past. It’s a unique and sensitive situation which can benefit from driving alignment around the destination for the newly merged entity. The advantage of developing a timebound, measurable goal is that you can chart where the two brands are today, where they should be next, and spend the bulk of your valuable time focusing on how to get there. After all, the heart of a good strategy isn’t just setting goals but determining how to achieve them.
Interbrand’s Work with Delinea
In 2021, we worked with the leadership teams from Thycotic and Centrify, as well as TPG Capital, to create a privilege access management leader in the cybersecurity space. Doing that required bringing two organizations together who are capable of more as a combined entity. Our work led to the creation of Delinea, a new brand with a new Purpose and Ambition. The purpose is rooted in why the new brand exists, “to secure the freedom of movement everyone deserves” which is a broad, evergreen concept that is hard to measure but serves as a north star to guide the organization. The Ambition was an expression of the business, “to make privilege the future of cybersecurity.” A 2021 global study of 8,000 workers revealed that only 14% believe “role-based access controls” are a priority network security measure. Delinea’s brand ambition, a 5-year goal, is timebound and measurable, just like JFK’s moonshot.