Most newly merged companies go about creating their brand backwards. That causes frustration for employees and unnecessary expenses for management.

Published discussion around merger, acquisition and brand focuses on naming conventions (whether to use one of the company’s names or create a new one) and merging the two company’s logos and color palettes. The conversation then advances to presenting the new name and getting buy-in from employees and customers.

Getting employees on board is essential and we believe there’s a very effective way to do that. But there’s very little discussion about the importance of employees, which we aim to change.

Our experience is that the smartest way to merge two companies is to mirror how two partners join in life to share homes and possessions. People don’t ask outsiders to tell them who they should be as a couple. Partners come to the relationship with their own set of beliefs, personalities and collections. They are two unique individuals who know who they are, take stock of each other, and decide to create a new entity – a unique partnership – by bringing the best of each person.

Companies should do the same, with the help of those who know the brand best – their employees who live and deliver the brand every day.

It’s a simple, yet effective approach to ensuring that the merged company brand reflects the best of both companies, and the employees are on board with the new brand. Ask every employee from each company about the brand. You’ll uncover strengths and gaps in both.

Focus first on the similar strengths of each individual company. This is the new organization’s foundational brand – one that everyone in the new company can embrace because it’s already part of their individual company brand!

If there are additional strengths from one company that align with the expectations and vision of the newly merged company, strategize how to best incorporate those across the new organization.

Then, look at the gaps to see if there are strengths from one company that can help fill the gaps of the other – take best practices from each company to support the merged entity. And if there are consistent gaps across the two companies, you have your work plan set out in front of you.

Once the strengths are solidified, and the gaps are closed, the new merged organization can begin refining the brand message for customers and potential new business. But not until then!

The critical aspect of this approach is talking with each individual company’s employees and incorporating their perspective into the newly merged organization. The best way to build the new brand is by building on the foundations of the brands from the inside perspective of the individual companies. It’s smart, inclusive and cost-effective.