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This is a classic story of how NOT to communicate with your customers during acquisition.  In fact, confusing your customers and mis-communicating your strategy and actions during acquisition….

The background

I wanted an eye test and some new glasses, so I called Dolland and Aitchison, (D&A) the opticians. My wife used them a lot. They have a good reputation and I have been there before.

I was a very confused customer

Anyway, I rang D&A and the lady answered. How did she introduce herself?

  1. Dolland and Aitchison? I would not have been surprised. That is who I rang. No I was wrong.
  2. Dolland Aitchison- Boots? Again no surprises there?  No, I was wrong again.
  3. Boots, formerly D&A? Again I would not have been surprised, but again I was wrong.

She answered the phone: “Hello, this is the contact lens and opticians centre. How can I help?”

Now you can probably guess what I said next, in a puzzled voice: “Is that D&A?”

Of course, the answer was yes.

Now it seems that D&A have been taken over by Boots opticians. The D&A website, oddly does not mention it on their front page or anywhere obvious. Still using the D&A brand strongly. Tucked away near the bottom of the “About us” page of their website is the small line, “Dollond & Aitchison continues as a trading name of the Boots Opticians group of companies. It is envisaged that the Dollond & Aitchison branches will, in due course, adopt the Boots Opticians brand”

What a mess.

We did this so as not to confuse customers

Now to cut a long story short, they have been told to answer the phone in this ridiculous manner.  Yes told to answer like that, and I quote, “so as not to confuse customers”.

Darn. If there was a way to confuse customers, change the name from a well established brand to an anonymous description, when all the customers think they are calling D&A.  They are denying their own established brand(s).

I feel sorry for the loyal employees

Imagine how the employees feel.  The instruction is basically, “I know you are loyal employees and we want to keep you, but while we are in this interim period, can you deny your existing brand please and not admit to the new one? ”   What sort of communication expert came up with that idea?

I think this is a trend that could develop:

  • Hello is that Virgin Atlantic airways? No this is an airline that flies the Atlantic.
  • Hello is that Nike?  No, this is the running, sports and leisure shoe experts.
  • Hello is that Waterstones?  No, this is a high street book seller with cafes and an on-line presence.

Somehow, I do not think this will catch on as a branding and strategy communication exercise, especially during mergers and acquisitions.

If you want advice on communicating your acquisition strategy, or your communicating your strategy in general, contact us.