Making opposites attract
Britain’s number five brewer (small, tightly run, profitable) was buying number two (huge, unfocused, losing money), creating a new number one.
The brands, distribution maps and regional biases fitted perfectly. But the corporate cultures couldn’t have been further apart.
Something was going to have to give, unless Kevin Murphy and Steve Yelland could de-fuse the situation right from the start (which was a £250,000 launch conference to celebrate the new business and its market leadership).
The first thing they proposed was to drop the ballyhoo and bullshit from the opening session of the event and make everyone laugh instead. At themselves and at their differences.
In a cartoon film, they invented two warring pre-historic tribes and cited a whole raft of spoof anthropological reasons for their antagonism and differences.
The audience (both factions) loved it, laughed at it and began to realise that each group actually needed the other to make a success of the huge new organisation they had created together.
The rest of the conference continued the theme of welcome differences and mutual support and even had the cartoon characters singing a new tribal song.
The finale involved smoke, lasers, subsonic sound and vast quantities of bullshit and ballyhoo.
And it didn’t stop there. Murphy and Yelland built a funfair in a brewery warehouse, complete with ferris wheel, candyfloss and merry-go-rounds, then worked with HR to create more serious video and printed materials that continued the work of the conference, building a new culture and shared vision across the business.