Branding Acquisitions: How to Build and Grow Strong Brands

By Ray Baird

When François-Henri Pinault, CEO of Kering, is scouting for new luxury fashion brands he looks for ones that complement others in the company portfolio. Kering’s bold-faced brands include Gucci, Stella McCartney, and Puma. Once a deal is done, Pinault takes a synergistic approach to position brands for growth: The head of the Paris-based luxury and sports lifestyle group, formerly known as PPR, teams creative designers with business executives to help drive organic growth through product development, logistics, and stores, he writes in the Harvard Business Review.

There is much being written today about creativity and business — in Bloomberg Businessweek’s current Design issue there’s even an entertaining feature on how creative people and more business-minded folks should collaborate and communicate — but Pinault’s HBR piece is especially insightful with some important takeaways for B2B brands:

    • Have a focused acquisition strategy. Does your company aim to grow by acquiring brands that complement or compete with others in your group? Too often, well-known B2B holding companies acquire brands with little relevance to others in their portfolios, few expansion opportunities, or complementary elements. We are frequently called in to unwind bloated, failing brand portfolios that were cobbled together without a synergistic vision. Pinault advocates buying companies that fulfill a clear mission within the larger group and matches a distinct segment of the company’s target market. This is essential advice for B2B and B2C brand buyers and business builders.
    • Create synergistic teams. For companies with multiple brands, management philosophy and team structure is critical to establishing long-term value and growth. For Pinault, giving creative talent control but pairing these right-brain thinkers with executive leadership helps keep the strategic and creative visions aligned. That’s a simple idea, when you think about it, but for traditional companies it’s a disruptive approach. I, personally, love the idea of having creative involved in the strategic process and vice-versa. Often, big ideas are generated from these types of partnerships, as we have found for many years.

The company Pinault heads, Kering — it’s pronounced “caring” — took its name, announced last year, from the Breton word for “home.” Pinault, it seems, certainly has his house in order.