Oaklins: positioning and name for worldwide M&A specialists brand

The client

M&A-International is an international network organization consisting of a large group of independent companies specialized in mergers and acquisition founded in 1990.

The network includes 47 consultancies having their own names, working from 64 offices (Europe 35, USA 12, Canada 3, Mexico, South America, 6, Asia 6 and South Africa), employing over 600 specialists who advise public companies, family-owned businesses and private equity firms on acquisitions, divestitures and fundraising on a local and global level.

The strategy behind the name change

The network realises that there is room for growth in mid-market, international and cross-border deals. This is thanks to intensive cooperation by the network and a shared focus on specific industry sectors where highly knowledgeable experts enable international execution and cross-border transactions.

Nevertheless, it is held back by the perception among (potential) clients that a network organization is not able to provide the required level of service for their projects. They prefer a reputable global mergers and acquisitions organization with ‘real offices around the globe’.

Five network members conclude that a brand merger is the only way to increase the network’s playground. Direct competitors in the mid-cap market have already successfully implemented hard franchises, presenting themselves as global companies with local frinchesees.

Globrands helps out with procedural and linguistic expertise

This project has two characteristics that make it particularly suitable for Globrands. The first is the procedural challenge: how do you make 64 independent offices around the world agree on a common brand name? The second one is to make them agree on the right name, that is a name that conveys the right message through countless international linguistic and legal restrictions.

How to make 64 independent offices around the world agree on a common name

In order to agree on a common name, an organisation needs a common identity; a common idea of its purpose for its customers and the promise to work according to certain values in a certain way. We call that a brand’s positioning.

A series of interviews with stakeholders reveals that commonly shared values are integrity, trustworthiness, and a global perspective. These translate into brand characteristics like ambition, entrepeneurship, result orientedness, personal service and creative thinking.

The central promise is trust. Customers can rely on the network members when it comes to dealing on a personal level with projects on a worldwide scale.

How to make the name convey the brand’s positioning internationally, and stay clear of linguistic and legal pitfalls

When a name needs to express trustworthiness, the reflex tends to be to literally put the word ‘trust’ in it, or something with a similar meaning. This is rarely effective though; trustworthy parties are not expected to feel any need to litterally mention that in their names.

In fact, the most trustworthy brands are the ones that feel like they have been there forever and do not deviate too much from market expectations. In the financial world, names of reputable financial companies tend to communicate their origin. They carry the founder’s name, which in itself usually evokes geographical associations.

That’s why Globrands chooses this route, well aware that practically every family name has been registered as a brand in some country. Moreover, invented names that sound like family names tend to still sound similar enough to existing brand registrations to carry the risk of brand infringement.

The name Oaklins sounds like it has been there forever

In order to find new linguistic space for a family name, Globrands starts looking for name characteristics that are not too common, but still indicate a family name.

One such indication is that it contains some visual reference point in a village, like ‘bridge’, ‘hill’, ‘way’, etc. Looking for new such points, ’oak’ proved to be a very useful one as it also stands for strength and durability. Next to it, ’lin’ sounds somewhat like ‘lane’, which adds flow and together with ‘oak’ evokes a rather British picture of wealth and peace. The added ’s’ strengthened the feel of ownership and originality.

As a whole, the name’s main strength is that it is short and different, while it sounds like it has been there forever.