Opinion: Bringing B2B to life during an M&A
In October 2015, the Hewlett-Packard Company announced its intention to split into two separate entities, signaling the largest corporate demerger in history. Siegel+Gale defined a new brand experience for the spinoff entity – Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). This notable transformation provides insight into how brands are approaching the future. In an increasingly connected world, with seemingly limitless customer touchpoints, a brand can no longer exist as a static entity. It must be built to evolve and live in simultaneous environments.
When building a 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.
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 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.
When branding during a merger, acquisition or spinoff, It’s imperative to first understand what is 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. There is typically a hyper focus on the financial, operational and logistical components of a business deal, but 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 can provide an opportunity for brands to reflect, not only on their identity but also their employees, communications, brand story and customer engagement.
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 alike than you would think. It’s taken for granted that branding is a key driver in B2C business. But for today’s B2B brands, emotional connection also drives the bottom line. Brands have to think hard about how to reach their audience. The fact that HPE is partnering with Hollywood as part of its ‘Accelerating Beyond’ campaign is a testament to its 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