How associations can make mergers work

As the housing industry continues to re-invent itself, in an increasingly fragmented landscape, organisations are seeing new opportunities in merging, creating partnerships, developing innovative services and branching out into new areas.

optivo offices

Whilst there is an urgent need to build these new style, sustainable and effective organisations, they will only ever have impact if they maximise and demonstrate their joint strengths.

Building larger entities without losing the value of each partner is a juggling act those in the housing sector are increasing learning to manage if they are to survive and remain relevant.

Yet mergers can – and should – equate to great opportunities, growth and evolution. However they can also prove extremely challenging, not just from the perspective of managing the cultural shifts but in safeguarding the core values each partner brings with them.

One of the key ingredients to a successful merger is for each housing association to define what they have got that really appeals, both on an emotional and a rational level to their audiences. In other words they need to ask ‘how can we make what we do as relevant and supportive to all our audiences’?

Which is exactly what AmicusHorizon and Viridian did in the lead up to their recent amalgamation. Putting the residents at the heart of their merger was a fundamental part of their vision.

This was particularly evident during the six month consulting and re-branding exercises that aimed to define how the meshing of these two organisations should look, feel and sound.

Maybe uniquely in a sector that has seen many recent mergers happening, both Viridian and AmicusHorizon started from a position where their core values were already closely aligned.

They both shared a common commitment to working as one team alongside stakeholders to tackle the housing crisis head on and deliver great customer service.

They were adamant that the deep dive into their diverse audiences’ aspirations and key requirements should encompass everyone from local authorities and MPs to the staff and, most importantly, residents.

When they asked the question ‘how can we make what we do as relevant and supportive as possible’ it was 120 staff and residents whose voices, and emotional investment, led the process

A further 1250 staff and residents were involved in the brand positioning and name research.

One of the biggest challenges a merger can throw up is accurately representing collective ambitions. Sometimes as portfolios merge they can either become barren or a tangled mess.

In this instance each partner organisation had its own rich history of success, as well as its own unique look and message. Which is why the brand needed to take each partner’s distinctive skills, regional and national reputations and combine these to break new ground in ‘building homes, making places, enhancing lives’.

And there is no one size fits all formula. A blanket style identity would have resulted in a bland, un-engaging brand that would neither appeal nor differentiate.

Conversely, the numerous separate services both organisations brought to the merger risked creating silos if they were not properly meshed into the overarching brand.

This would have hidden the collective breadth and depth of what the associations do and squandered a valuable commercial asset that could help establish the credibility of the brand.

Optivo aims to emulate the key insights that came out of the research and weave this into the very essence of what they do best: investing in their residents, their staff and their stakeholders. Investing in the difference housing can make to people’s lives.

Investing in housing that helps people and communities build a brighter future.

This was not merely a re-branding exercise, this was a transformational merger that has resulted in a new generation housing association reflected by a coherent and flexible brand that showcases the association’s numerous facets and highlights both AmicusHorizon and Viridian’s joint strengths.

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