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Brands are a lot like children. They start out small and require lots of nurturing. They grow and change and eventually take on lives of their own. But the most successful ones maintain strong ties to their parents. Figuring out how to leverage the assets and relationships across a large parent company to build a successful brand can be tricky. It’s not just about org charts, KPIs, P&L statements or any of the things normally associated with integration. It’s about coming together around what’s best for customers. It’s about looking at each new partner in a corporate family as a resource—someone who can make you stronger and smarter, simply because you are together. It’s the power of “&.”

Evolving a brand is a big deal. I can tell you this first hand. A year ago, my team and I took on the strategic initiative of re-branding Ariba, a 20-year old company that was well-recognized as a leader in its space. In its early days, Ariba focused on automating the B2B procurement function through online catalogs and auctions. Over time, it expanded its capabilities and today, is the largest, most global business network, touching every aspect of commerce. But the brand hadn’t evolved to reflect this.

In 2012, Ariba was acquired by SAP. And we knew we needed to change to better reflect the value we deliver to both buyers and suppliers. So we set out on a path to align with the SAP brand and better reflect our value proposition. The path wasn’t always smooth. But we forged ahead. And we learned a few things along the way that have enabled us to create a powerful combination – one that values each other, and the power of &.

Mindset matters most.

When it comes to building a brand within a brand, it’s all about attitude. Attitude is the fuel that drives the integration and collaboration engine. And to be successful requires both, along with flexibility and a willingness to change. Be eager to work with all your new acquired brand teammates, because there’s much to be gained from one another. Embrace it. Encourage it. And be honest about what it will take.

Collaboration is key.

You can’t force change. But you can encourage it by making people part of it. Bring your team in on the journey, don’t try to tell them “this is where we’re going.” By engaging them in the process, you’ll increase the speed and efficiency of the rollout.

Diversity drives unification.

Naturally, you only want to top talent. As openings become available on your team, look for people from different groups to fill them. People who are champions of integration. Born collaborators and effective communicators. And put them in charge of creating partnerships across both organizations. Doing so will allow you to drive a more cohesive, unified message and brand.

Bigger is better.

You have goals for your team and your business. And these goals are most easily achieved through integration – particularly with a larger brand. The Ariba brand had equity and strength in its category. But SAP clearly had the stronger global presence. And the numbers proved it: 84% of our target audience was familiar with SAP, as opposed to 41% who were familiar with Ariba. So we brought SAP into our name and into our logo, the first change in two decades. And doing so has more than paid off. Purchase consideration has increased considerably since the new brand launched a year ago.

Persistence pays off

Don’t wait for an invitation to the party (or the conference room, or the big meeting). Take initiative and get yourself invited. Become part of the larger marketing organization and get to know key influencers. You’ll likely find partners who are enthusiastic and excited by the opportunities to tell a united story. And in forging relationships with them, you can generate quick wins and build momentum.

Failure leads to success.

When it comes to brand integration of any scale, there will be bumps and bruises. Don’t be afraid to be wrong. Be open to partnerships and the ideas that stem from them. Have the courage to fail and move on. Because at the end of the day, you learn from every mistake you make. And your brand will be better for it.


Alicia Tillman is Chief Marketing Officer of SAP Ariba